In the European Union, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive emphasizes the severity of noise pollution in the marine environment and the need to understand and mitigate its impact on the ecosystem. The legislation covering the technical guidelines for underwater noise is rapidly evolving and is characterized by great variability at the national levels. There is an urgent need to identify tools which are validated scientifically and recognized by the authorities that allow the planning and execution of offshore prospecting and research activities respecting the environment in a sustainable and economic way.
Besides the increasing literature on the behavioral, physiological and pathological response to acoustic over-exposure, there are still relevant gaps and a lack of a multidisciplinary approach in investigations aimed to assess acute and long-term exposures considering both the single animals and populations. The difficulty of conducting analyzes on living organisms in the marine environment and the great diversification of sources of noise pollution lead to uncertainty about the extent and type of effects noise pollution has on marine fauna.
The main goal of DIAPHONIA is to fill existing gaps in the current knowledge regarding the impact of underwater noise on marine organisms of the food web, including invertebrates and commercial species, in different European basins. DIAPHONIA will develop a possible diagnostic fingerprinting approach composed of several tissue markers incorporating molecular, metabolomic and microscopic techniques in order to identify functional and morphological changes in the acoustic pathways of invertebrates, fishes and marine mammals. Additionally, the foreseen activities will explore the relationship between behavioural and cellular/molecular/organ effects of both long-term noise exposure of two commercial fish species in different European ocean basins, and short-term noise exposure in invertebrates and fishes, from micro- to macroscale. The project will gain insight into the morpho- functionality of the peripheral hearing apparatus in marine mammals and its role in defining the animal’s acoustic sensitivity, by developing a standardised workflow for wave propagations in the associated tissues, to be extrapolated to other marine organisms. Finally, DIAPHONIA will develop an in-vitro system to support future studies on acoustic over-exposure by developing Induced Pluripotent Stem cells-derived organoids from stranded cetaceans and fish fibroblasts to recreate the auditory sensory organ leading to elucidate mechanisms of sound damages.
In summary, DIAPHONIA has the ambition to make substantial progress in various fields of expertise. The development of organoids, the implementation of new biomarkers and the development of a diagnostic approach to underwater noise impact will be brought from basic principles observed in the lab to validation in the field via different experiments. Linking behavioural with physiological responses will contribute a huge step forward for further understanding the underlying effects of noise on fish. Also, the development of 3D models helping to predict the impact of sounds in odontocetes species will lead to future application in the field, opening the way to predictive models.
Sandro Mazzariol, University of Padua (Italy)
The Technical University of Catalonia, Spain
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Germany