Light Pollution

Day and night, darkness and light play an integral role in the functioning of living things. An excess of artificial light in developed areas can cause serious problems for wildlife.

Artificial light can negatively affect wildlife in a variety of ways

  • Disruption of reproductive cycles
  • Unnatural attraction or repulsion of light
  • Interference with feeding schedules
  • Fixation caused by disorientation

Animals depend on the balance of day and night to regulate their natural behavior patterns. Many species depend on the dark cover of night to survive.

Sea Turtles

Artificial light is an increasing problem for sea turtles. During nesting season, female Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtles will choose the darkest beach to lay their eggs. The decrease in dark nesting spots on beaches often leads to a concentration of nests on the few that are available, which in turn attracts more natural predators. Artificial light also negatively affects the hatchlings. When they emerge from their shells, baby turtles use the light from the moon and stars to guide their way to the ocean. In many cases, artificial lights from inland will confuse and draw the hatchlings away from the ocean, resulting in many deaths.

Predator/Prey Relationship Disruptions

Moths are famously attracted to light. Large concentrations of moths that flock to sources of artificial light in turn attract increased predation. On the other hand, species that tend to avoid light, like certain bats, find it harder to feed. These bats hunt prey that is often drawn to lighted areas that the bats themselves won’t enter; meanwhile, fewer remain in dark air space, leaving the bats to succumb to starvation.

Birds

Artificial lighting seems to pose the greatest threat to birds. Birds migrating at night are especially vulnerable to deadly collisions with artificially lit structures such as lighthouses, communication towers, and tall buildings. Birds are often confused by the lights and reflective surfaces of glass windows and are unable to avoid colliding with the obstacle at a high rate of speed. Birds are also prone to become victims of “light fixation” and will fly around a lighted structure until they drop from exhaustion.

Click here to read more about the effects on artificial lighting on wildlife.

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