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SOFAR is an acronym for Sound Frequency and Ranging Channel. The SOFAR channel is a layer in the ocean that consists of regions of high pressure due to the compression of water near the ocean bed. This occurs at depths of around 1000 meters, where the pressure and temperature differences combine to produce an area where it moves at minimum speed. At this region, the sound moves at its minimum speed because of the low frequency that is generated by the increased pressures and temperatures (SOFAR Channel, 2011). This makes it possible for the sound waves to travel for many miles with minimal reflection and refraction.
Benefits of SOFAR to Marine Life
The unique characteristic of the SOFAR channels makes it possible for some mammals to communicate and ensures that explorers and scientists are able to send and receive the low frequency waves even from far distances. The speed and energy of the sounds that are transmitted in the SOFAR channel are maintained without being altered because of the pressure, which increases with increase in depth (Garrison, 2009, p. 24). Manmade sounds are easily detected by placing hydrophones at strategic positions in the ocean. The hydrophones are meant to capture natural and artificial sounds in the ocean.
Interference with SOFAR Channel
The scientists have also been known to use the channel to detect distress calls and in tracking other projects that are of importance to them. Acoustic thermometry of ocean climate is another study that makes use of the SOFAR channel. This study measures intensity of global warming and the effects associated with it by using the SOFAR channel. When scientists and other researchers use the SOFAR channel, they interfere with marine life.
Dolphins and whales communicate over large distances using the SOFAR channels. The changes that are experienced in the ocean cause animals to migrate from one area to another and this migration may break family ties because of the distance barrier (National Academy of Sciences, 2009). To locate families and mates, the whales and dolphins produce certain unique voice through the SOFAR channel. The sounds can travel over very large distances without losing speed or energy. For this reason, the animals require calm waters and undisturbed frequencies. Interfering with the natural sounds produced by these animals could alter their reproduction or lead to their extinction.
In addition, the use of SOFAR channel by humans may alter the hearing sensitivity of marine life. The frequencies that are produced by other mammals differ from those produced by artificial means. For this reason, the use of sounds at different frequencies from those generated by animals may alter the reception sensitivity and lead to either affected receptors or ignored messages (SOFAR Channel, 2011). The confusion that is generated by the interference of the SOFAR channel by humans makes it hard for the animals to demonstrate natural behaviors and this may also affect their biological processes.
Vocalization and Natural Segregation
Vocalization may also be affected if the animals realize that their sounds are not bearing any fruit. When such a thing changes, the animals may lose communication and lead to disintegration and natural segregation. Fish and other preys might be scared by these artificial sounds. Some of the fish and sea predators use the sounds to detect the source of food. Even at night, the fish and other predators produce certain sounds and listen to the reflections developed. Different reflections are targeted at different preys. If the artificial sounds exceed the frequency of the natural sounds, the prey may detect the sounds and this may interrupt the food chain.
Garrison, T. (2009). Essentials of oceanography. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing. Web.
National Academy of Sciences. (2009). Sounding out the ocean’s secrets. Web.
SOFAR Channel. (2011). Welcome to the SOFAR Channel. Web.