Light pollution adversely impacting wildlife and human health: Newcastle University experts


New Delhi: Researchers from Newcastle University revealed that the light pollution, or excessive artificial light at night, is now recognised as a major driver of environmental change, adversely impacting wildlife and even human health.

The report published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B with a titled ‘light pollution in complex ecological systems’ that draws together 17 papers from experts in the field.

“Predicting how entire communities of plants and animals respond to light pollution is difficult” the report said.

Professor Darren Evans from the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, author of three of the published papers, said: “Street lights, vehicles, commercial buildings and domestic sources are all contributing to night-time light pollution, and it is
becoming increasingly clear that it affects a range of plants and animals, including humans.

“But most studies to date have tended to look at the responses of individual species, rather than looking at the responses of whole communities at the ecosystem scale. This theme issue goes some way to addressing that gap” he added.

The collection of studies in the theme issue aims to dive deeper into how light pollution affects the natural environment.

Drawing on a decade of research on the topic, Professor Evans said“We were the first to show that street lighting disrupts pollinating moths, revealing shifts in moth activity in street-lit areas from vegetation level to lamp-post height and the impact this is having on their ability to pollinate flowers”.

“We then found direct evidence that street lights impact local insect populations, cutting numbers by 50%. We found eco-friendly’ light-emitting diode (LED) streetlights are even more harmful for insect populations than the traditional sodium bulbs they are replacing” he suggested.

Street lights are not only a major source of direct light pollution emissions, but stock has been transitioning to LED technology in many parts of the world, resulting in increases in the blue part of the visible spectrum that is more harmful to biodiversity and human health.

He said“LEDs can be modified more easily than conventional sodium lamps by adjusting their intensity, spectral output and other features of street light systems’ but added ‘research in this area has been slow.”

Ongoing research conducted by Newcastle University students using experimental lighting rigs at NU Farms (Cockle Park) has shown the potential for mitigation experiments, as invertebrate communities respond very quickly and measurably to LED lights.

Professor Evans said: “We are now at a stage where we would like to work with industry in designing both street and domestic lamps that filter out the blue part of the spectrum that is harmful to wildlife and people.”

He added; “We would also like to develop bulbs that are less attractive to disease carrying insects in malaria hotspots.”


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