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Sonifying social-ecological change: A wetland laments agricultural transformation

David G Angeler, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Uppsala, Sweden; University of Nebraska - Lincoln, School of Natural Resources, Lincoln, NE, USA
Miguel Alvarez-Cobelas, National Museum of Natural Sciences, MNCN-CSIC, Department of Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology, Madrid, Spain
Salvador Sánchez-Carrillo, National Museum of Natural Sciences, MNCN-CSIC, Department of Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology, Madrid, Spain


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Art–science approaches are mounting to increase public literacy about sustainability challenges as planet Earth swiftly moves to an uncertain future. We use data sonification, an approach that allows converting scientific data into music, to document the large-scale transformation of the agricultural sector in central Spain during the 1970s. We converted 71-year time series of inundation area and rainfall data from the freshwater marsh Las Tablas de Daimiel into a soprano and bass voice, respectively. We composed “The Lament of Las Tablas de Daimiel,” which sings the biophysical disruption of the wetland due to the agricultural transformation. More generally, the song testifies to the demise of the natural aquatic environment due to unsustainable use of limited water resources in dryland countries and elsewhere. Making the mute voices of ecosystem heard may have potential to increase awareness about the unsustainable use of short water supplies and other social-ecological challenges. In the age of big data in science, data sonification may be a useful tool to represent and communicate such challenges.

Key words

agriculture; climate; composition; data sonification; ecology; music; social-ecological change; time series; transformation; wetland

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087