The unlikely effects of Labor Day traffic

It’s Labor Day weekend and you’re on the road. Your bags are packed. You’ve got a tank full of gas. You’re feeling relaxed – even a little bit excited. You cross over a bridge…and crush the dreams of a small fish.

Thanks to heavy traffic, the fish's weekend will be a lonesome one:

Researchers have found that bridge-crossings drown out the courtship calls of the Blacktail Shiner, a common fish of the Southeastern United States. So in other words, traffic noise blocks fish sex. (Read more here).

You drive a bit further. You pass a frog. He gets frightened and stops jumping:

Three Bulgarian researchers observed the locomotion activity of 25 Marsh Frogs when exposed to traffic noise. They found the frogs jumped less due to their level of fear, despite the fact jumping is known to increase their chances of survival. (Read more here).

Ever heard of Stephen’s kangaroo rat? No? That’s because there aren’t many left:

Researchers found traffic noise serves as “an ecological trap” to this endangered rodent. Stephen’s kangaroo rats interact with their rat friends and foes using low frequency seismic and air-borne signals. Traffic noise, sadly, masks these signals, confuses the rats, and heightens their chance of extinction. (Read more here). 

You drive further still, blissfully unaware of the havoc surrounding you:

Prairie dogs have been shown to reduce their aboveground activity due to heavy traffic. Instead, researchers have found the ground squirrels lay low and increase their vigilance – at the cost of their diversity, behavior and fitness. (Read more here).

I found this photo to help you imagine their beady eyes of suspicion...

Prairie dogs

You’ve been driving a while now. You get tired, hungry. You stop at a busy intersection and reach for your sandwich. You look out the window. Why does everyone here look…festively plump?

Traffic noise can increase the chances of obesity. Researchers analyzed exposure to road, rail and air traffic noise on more than 5000 Swedish men and women. Their results related road noise to waist circumference due to general annoyance, lack of sleep, and stress. (Read more here).  

It’s Labor Day weekend and you’ve arrived at your destination. You turn off the engine. It’s idyllically quiet outside. That is, until Monday.

This story was also reported in the Washington Post.

Featured image by Eric Demarcq; Prairie dog photo by Airwolfhound.