Scientists are looking at bird songs to develop nature in the city

For many city dwellers, the confinements revealed a lack. That of nature, or at least, of a small green space. The happy owners of balconies have been able to grow geraniums there; the others had to content themselves with opening their windows to listen to the birds. What if, in the end, they had had the strongest contact with nature: that of a soundscape?

A field of study never approached

Marylise Cottet, researcher at the CNRS, has made this poetic postulate a very serious research topic: the Percept’BIRD project. A social geographer, she works at the Environment-City-Society laboratory, attached to the ENS de Lyon. “I am interested in the relationships between societies and ecosystems, through practices, perceptions and representations,” she explains. For several years, she has been interested in the place of nature in the city. “We realize more and more that it is fundamental,” she remarks. “For the services it provides us, already: by refreshing the city, by oxygenating it, by beautifying it…”

Until now, nature in the city had only been studied visually. However, it is also translated by sounds. “Soundscapes also contribute a lot to our living environment! recalls Marylise Cottet, who, in her work, relates “what we perceive, what we feel, with the functioning of ecosystems. And we can do it through sounds, since the structures of the landscape, the way the landscape is laid out, has an impact on the biodiversity found there, including the birds. »

A questionnaire to be completed with headphones on

To support this research, which brings together natural and social sciences, Marylise Cottet needs testimonies from city dwellers. To assist her in this study, Mathieu Lanthelme, a student in biodiversity sciences, has developed an online sound questionnaire. Everyone can answer it, in a few minutes, preferably with a helmet. “The survey is for everyone, whether you live in the city or in the countryside”, assures Mathieu Lanthelme. “The idea is to question our relationship to nature from the angle of sound, here birdsong. And then to see how our sound perception can mobilize us in favor of development policies and environmental protection. »

“It’s this game that interests me: how we manage to improve both ecosystems and the quality of life of city dwellers,” adds Marylise Cottet. “If we decide to set up land with a lawn in the city, it’s not ideal, but if we make the landscape more complex with hedges, trees, plant layers, we will create a more interesting environment for biodiversity, and more complex soundscapes. »

The results of these studies will enrich the research of scientists, but also the urban plans of Greater Lyon. A parallel project is in fact underway to create a sort of charter of best practices, to improve biodiversity in green spaces, both private and public. And to savor the benefits of it from home, with or without a balcony.

Leave a Comment