Using acoustic indices in ecology: guidance on study design, analyses and interpretation

Tom Bradfer-Lawrence*, Camille Desjonqueres, Alice Eldridge, Alison Johnston, Oliver Metcalf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rise of passive acoustic monitoring and the rapid growth in large audio datasets is driving the development of analysis methods that allow ecological inferences to be drawn from acoustic data. Acoustic indices are currently one of the most widely applied tools in ecoacoustics. These numerical summaries of the sound energy contained in digital audio recordings are relatively straightforward and fast to calculate but can be challenging to interpret. Misapplication and misinterpretation have produced conflicting results and led some to question their value. To encourage better use of acoustic indices, we provide nine points of guidance to support good study design, analysis and interpretation. We offer practical recommendations for the use of acoustic indices in the study of both whole soundscapes and individual taxa and species, and point to emerging trends in ecoacoustic analysis. In particular, we highlight the critical importance of understanding the links between soundscape patterns and acoustic indices. Acoustic indices can offer insights into the state of organisms, populations, and ecosystems, complementing other ecological research techniques. Judicious selection, appropriate application and thorough interpretation of existing indices is vital to bolster robust developments in ecoacoustics for biodiversity monitoring, conservation and future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2192-2204
Number of pages13
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number9
Early online date10 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Acoustics
  • Biodiversity indices
  • Ecoacoustics
  • Index
  • Monitoring
  • Passive acoustic monitoring
  • Soundscape


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