Most of the world has been cooped up indoors for months, and for many city dwellers who already have more limited access to green, quiet, remote spaces, this forced hiatus from nature has been challenging. But now a UK-based arts organisation has created a new interactive map where users around the world can submit sounds of nearby forests and upload them for all to hear.

The arts organisation that created the map, called Wild Rumpus, collaborates with the National Forest in the UK for the annual Timber Festival in July, which was called off this year because of coronavirus.

‘Once we realized that we wouldn’t be able to meet in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we set about trying to come up with a sensory project that was as democratic and open to as many people as possible, something that could create visceral, emotional connections for people to nature’, Sarah Bird, the co-director of Wild Rumpus, told Lonely Planet.

500px Photo ID: 105661113 - The forests of Nordmarka in Norway.
A forest in Nordmarka, Oslo, Norway. ©Cole Nyquist/500px

So far, more than 600 sounds from over 60 countries across six continents have been submitted to the audio library, and more recordings continue to pour in. Bird said that more than 30,000 people a day are logging on to listen to the forest sounds, which range from the slow breathing of a three-toed sloth crawling through the rainforest in Honduras to a grove of redwoods in California that was recorded in May but has since been badly damaged from the summer’s wildfires.

‘The map also serves as an archive of ecosystems being rapidly transformed by climate change’, Bird said. ‘It’s well documented that time spent in nature can help to lower heart rate and improve wellbeing. If we can’t be in the woods, this feels like the next best thing.’

The next Timber Festival is already on the calendar for July 2021, and as part of the festival, artists will be drawing inspiration from the forest recordings for their work. The festival has asked musicians Erland Cooper, Hinako Omori and Jason Singh to use the soundmap as a muse for their live performances in 2021.

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