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The study is launching alongside Forest 404, a pioneering drama series from BBC Radio 4.

Nature soundscape experiment relaunched

An exciting national experiment reopens today, aiming to shed light on how listening to nature could impact wellbeing.

The study is one of the biggest investigations ever conducted into the therapeutic effects of sound and is launching alongside Forest 404, a pioneering drama series from BBC Radio 4.

The experiment is part of wider research led by the University of Exeter exploring how immersion in ‘digital nature’ could be used to improve health and wellbeing.

With a focus on different environments, the project hopes to develop a unique insight into how the British public respond to nature-based sounds and poetry. It comes at a time when many people’s experiences of the natural world are changing; whilst some might be unable to access their usual havens, others may be seeing and hearing new wildlife around them.

Alex Smalley, lead researcher on the study, said: “A large body of evidence shows that spending time in natural environments can have positive effects on people’s wellbeing. But we know very little about the importance of sound in this relationship. How might listening to birdsong or waves lapping on the beach impact people who are stressed or tired? The effects won’t be the same for everyone and it’ll be useful to find out whether current lockdown measures have any impact, so we want as many people as possible to take part and help us uncover what might work and why.”

Anyone over the age of 18 can take part in the experiment, which is available online at Participants will be asked to listen to several different sounds and will need to have headphones or speakers at the ready.

Forest 404 is a sci-fi thriller set in the 24th century following a data crash called The Cataclysm. It follows Pan (Pearl Mackie), a sound archivist who uncovers some recordings from the early 21st century that haunt her. They are the sounds of rainforests, places which no longer exist, and Pan feels compelled to hunt down the truth about how the forests of the old world died. Each episode of the thriller is also accompanied by a factual talk which guides listeners through different themes of the drama.

The reopening of the experiment follows a successful launch in 2019, when nearly 7,600 people took part. The team hope the study’s findings will form the basis for bringing the benefits of nature to people who might not be able to access them, such as patients in hospital, older people in long term care, or those who work in stressful situations.

Forest 404 launches on BBC Radio 4 at 11pm on Monday 27th April and is available on the BBC Sounds app. You can take part in the experiment at


The project is a research partnership between BBC Radio 4, BBC Natural History Unit, University of Bristol, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The Open University, and University of Exeter.

Date: 27 April 2020

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