(*This is a cowritten blog wrote by SunShare Solar and Natureworks Garden Care.)
Negative impacts on wildlife, and some of its benefits!
Light pollution is an increasingly common environmental problem that can have detrimental effects on both humans and wildlife. But what exactly is it and how can we reduce these impacts?
Light pollution is less common than other type of pollution such as noise and air pollution. It occurs as a result of the overuse of lights at night, the use of scattered and misdirected lights, and the inefficient use of lights. Also known as “Sky Glow” or “Photopollution” it is defined as ‘The alteration of natural light levels in the outdoor environment owing to artificial light sources’[i]. In other words, anthropogenic light shines into the atmosphere, illuminating dust and debris in the air and creating a cloud effect that blocks out the night sky.
In the past century, the distribution of artificial light and its intensity has increased greatly throughout the world. It interferes with astronomical observatories, disturbs wildlife and even has adverse impact of human health. Studies showed that almost 18.7% of the earth’s surface is exposed to a night sky that is polluted by artificial light.
Some examples of how light pollution can negatively impact wildlife include:
- Artificial light disorientates turtles hatching from eggs on beaches. The newly-hatched turtles would normally head straight towards the water, but with artificial light at beaches they become disorientated, increasing the chance that they will be eaten by other animals.
- In frogs, a quick flash of light at night can blind them for up to a few hours, which affects their ability to feed at night.
- Birds can become disorientated at night. Birds fly in the dark when they migrate to other places. If they enter a lit area, they can become entrapped in the light, colliding with each other and buildings, which can lead to mortality.
Despite the negative impacts of light pollution on wildlife, it can sometimes have benefits!
Although light pollution is generally associated with negative impacts for wildlife, it can also help wildlife in certain ways:
- Increase illumination may increase the time available for feeding of some animals that usually can’t forage at night. For example, many birds and reptiles that are usually active during the day, can also forage under artificial light.
- Light attracts insects, which attracts animals such as bats which eat the insects.
- Crows are more likely to sleep where artificial light is present, presumably because they can avoid being eaten by owls at night.
In some cases, artificial lights can be so useful that they are used as a tool in wildlife conservation:
- Lights are sometimes used to attract fish to “fish ladders” in rivers, which allows them to cross dams and power stations that have been built across rivers.
- Mountain lions avoid lighted areas, and so lights have been suggested to be a good method for deterring the lions from entering human-inhabited areas.
For more information on creating a wildlife friendly garden, speak to a wildlife garden expert from
Natureworks Garden Care today!
In part 2 we are going to discuss how to overcome this increasing plroblem?
[i] Cinzano, P.; Falchi, F.; Elvidge, C. D.; Baugh, K. E. (2000). “The artificial night sky brightness mapped from DMSP Operational Linescan System measurements” (PDF). Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 318 (3): 641–657