The sound of restored soil: using ecoacoustics to measure soil biodiversity in a temperate forest restoration context

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Forest restoration requires monitoring to assess above- and belowground communities, which is challenging due to practical
and resource limitations. Ecological acoustic survey methods––also known as “ecoacoustics”––are increasingly available and
provide a rapid, effective, and non-intrusive means of monitoring biodiversity. Aboveground ecoacoustics is widespread, but
soil ecoacoustics has yet to be utilized in restoration despite its demonstrable effectiveness at detecting soniferous soil meso- and
macrofauna. This study applied ecoacoustic tools and indices (AcousticComplexity Index, NormalizedDifference Soundscape Index,
and Bioacoustic Index) to measure belowground (and aboveground as secondary) biodiversity in a forest restoration site spanning
two age classes. We collected n = 198 belowground acoustic samples and n = 180 aboveground samples from three recently deforested
(felled visits in South Yorkshire, U.K. We used a belowground sampling device and sound-attenuation chamber to record soil communities
and passive acoustic monitoring to record aboveground sounds.We found that restored plot acoustic complexity and diversity were
significantly higher than deforested plots in the sound-attenuation chamber, but there were no inter-plot differences in in-situ soil or
aboveground samples.We also found that restored plots had a significantly greater high-frequency to low-frequency ratio (suggesting
higher biophony to anthrophony ratios) for in-situ and sound chamber soil but no association for aboveground samples. Our
results suggest that ecoacoustics has immense potential to monitor belowground biodiversity, adding to the restoration ecologist’s
toolkit and supporting global ecosystem recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13934
Number of pages13
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number5
Early online date22 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • biodiversity monitoring
  • ecoacoustics
  • innovation
  • soil health
  • soil restoration
  • UN decade of ecosystem restoration


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