'We can sometimes sense infrasound as a throbbing in the chest or a trouble feeling of unease'

IS the noise generated by shipping and industrial activity polluting our seas to the serious detriment of much, if not all, marine life?

Almost certainly yes according to Karen Bakker (pictured below) who has combined her own research with that of many other academics to produce a book, The Sounds of Life, whose should set alarm bell jangling - especially since marine noise is reckoned to have doubled every decade since the 1950s.

Oil and gas exploration and extraction are notoriously loud, but other human activities - for instance, installing wind turbines, also contribute to the acoustic 'clamour', creating peril for many creatures.

The reproduction capacities of these marine species become reduced, their growth is stunted, their sleep is disturbed and, in the worst cases, they are killed outright.

Specifically, the stress hormone levels of whales are increased, octopuses hold their breath and oysters shut their shells.

New research cited by the author, who is Canadian, indicates that even marine plants, such as seagrass, can be harmed by noise.

But Prof Bakker is essentially a scientist, not a politician - her role is to ensure transparency of evidence in order to allow others to make what we all hope will be informed and wise decisions.

This is a fascinating book which also explores how digital technology is enabling us to learn more about the planet's 'infrasonic chorus' which is inaudible to human hearing which, typically is confined to a relatively narrow band of frequencies between 20Hz and 20kHz - a range that narrows as we grow older.

In an interesting aside, she notes: "At best we can sometimes sense infrasound as a throbbing in the chest or a trouble feeling of unease."

That observation, in itself, would be worth a whole chapter, but the author decides not  to pursue it - this, after all, is a book about zoology, not medicine.  

The author explains that new frontiers of 'phyto-acoustic' research are revealing how plantlife communicates both with itself and with other creatures, including insects.

Even larvae have their own language - they are vigorous communicators when together but fall silent when isolated in containers.

It seems, that unknown to us, there is a whole subterranean world of sound - a sort of non-stop Twitter within and underneath the soil.

Much of the data is complex, but, with her easy writing style, Prof Bakker does an excellent job in making the material readily understandable.

On an upbeat note, she writes: "Our physiologies - and perhaps our psyches - limit our capacity to listen to our non-human kin.

"But humanity is beginning to expand its hearing ability.

"Digital technologies, so often associated with our alienation from nature, are offering us an opportunity to listen to non-humans in powerful ways, reviving our connection to the natural world."

The Sounds of Life - How Digital Technology Is Bringing Us Closer to The Worlds of Animals and Plants is published in hardback at £28 by Princeton University Press.