Nordic Soundscapes Research Network (NSRN)

Monitoring of soundscapes.

The Nordic Soundscapes Network 

The Nordic Soundscapes Research Network (NSRN) addresses the foundational acoustic elements of conservation, experience of natural environments and sustainability.

Why focus on soundscapes?

Sound is an important environmental signal that contributes to our sense of place and the way humans and other species live and thrive. This weaving of sounds and perception of sounds within place is called the soundscape. Natural soundscapes are where individuals are able to perceive sounds uninhibited from (human) noise and have been shown to be vital components of biodiversity and sense of place in outdoor life (friluftsliv). However, development and noise pollution in Nordic natural areas threaten their existence and consequently contribute to deteriorated ecosystem functioning and benefits derived from outdoor recreation . People feel less connected to nature when noise is present. Less connection to nature, in turn, undermines pro-environmental behavior which is paramount to achieving sustainability. Through the investigation of natural sounds, we can also develop theories of human and natural entanglement – the socio-natural experience of our time and the starting point for re-framing a human commitment to nature and community.

NSRN's primary goal is streamlining current soundscapes research and practice in the Nordic context to develop acoustic tools that help conservation efforts and environmental planning. We mobilize sounds-related research in the Nordic countries to address key knowledge gaps regarding the aural aspects of the interweave of Nordic nature and culture.

NSRN's mission is to facilitate relevant research about natural sounds and noise pollution in rural and urban natural and semi-natural areas in order to develop management tools to preserve biodiversity and the myriad cultural relationships to Nordic places.

Noise pollution

 Within the last decade acoustics research has exploded worldwide which provides evidence that conservation acoustics has had a sharp uptake in academic debate and in executing environmental governance. In the Nordic countries sound governance chiefly concerns ‘noise’ . One example is the Norwegian government led to the approval of a nationwide goal to reduce the noise nuisance by 10% compared with levels in 1999 by 2020, but this goal has not been met. More recent studies estimate that noise has increased since 2016 and linked to the expanding rate of infringement of infrastructure free (INON) areas (ibid). In 2002, the European Commission issued Directive 49/EC Relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise which includes the need to protect natural quiet areas. The WHO followed with a guiding principle for the European region to reduce exposure to noise and conserve quiet areas (2018). The extent of noise pollution and associated human wellbeing and species’ decline in natural areas remains largely unknown. Consequences from noise are also a question of environmental justice, displacement and power. Our network links work that explores the how acoustic monitoring contributes to more or less inclusive nature governance.

Outdoor life and nature based tourism

Broadly speaking, policy makers understand that people derive benefits from experiencing nature, but not necessarily the important interconnections and features that underpin a fulfilling nature experience. At the same time, national direction encourages the growth of recreation-based markets connected to natural areas, with little understanding of tourism growth is impacting visitors’ experience and the important soundscapes of local communities and nature. Tourism research shows that hearing natural sounds and quiet are connected to their propensity to return whereas noise is a commonly cited deterrent (Jiang et al. 2018), and are willing to pay for noise reduction in protected areas (Merchan et al. 2014). However, reducing the sound levels from particular sources may not necessarily result in an acoustic environment of high quality, because the character of the sound is equally important (e.g. Cerwen 2016). Environmental sounds, like the sound of aircraft or people (anthrophony) and nature (biophony, geophony), are meaningful in different ways. Some sounds have a positive impact, whereas others have a negative meaning or character, regardless of their sound levels. For example, anthrophony of any form is considered noise by individuals who hold high environmental or recreational values (Miller et al. 2019), but is strongly dependent on trip motivations and expectations (Taff et al. 2015). These questions must be further explored in order to know how large a role noise plays in sustainable Nordic nature based tourism and recreation.


Bioacoustics, a subfield developed primarily by ecologists, has grown in sophistication and application over the past decade. This line of work supports biodiversity in the development of real-time monitoring of species’ population, as well as developing ‘early warning systems’ of invasive species or unwanted anthropogenic activities within conservation areas. Transdisciplinary soundscapes research in biodiversity concerns the cascading effects of anthropogenic noise on species’ flourishing where noise has been shown to dramatically reduce fecundity, foraging behavior, and contribute to negative cascading effects that include adequate seed dispersal of key tree species and other flora. Scholars have also shown how natural soundscapes improve human perception of biodiversity and consequently, their support for conservation policy including societal changes to address the climate crisis.