Helping Nocturnal Lives to Deal with Light Pollution

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From Thomas Alva Edison’s first light bulb in 1878 till now, electric lights have revolutionized our lives. But as the glow increases, the toll on the ecosystem is becoming harder to ignore.

Night lights surely make our lives better but they also cause light pollution disturbing the nocturnal birds and animals.

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Studies show that light pollution affects animal behaviors like migration patterns, sleep routine, and habitat formation. For instance, city lights misguide sea turtles and birds away from their habitat. If a house near the seashore has a white light in their outdoors, the turtle hatchlings may head toward it instead of the ocean. They get lost, confused, dehydrated, and often die.

A few birds and bats are shy of lights and avoid hunting due to bright lights. As a result, they end up starving.

A study by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute shows that sea turtle populations have suffered declines. Whether for sea turtles or others, light pollution is one of the easiest problems to solve.

So, how can we help The Light Shy Bats, birds, the disoriented sea turtles, and migrating flocks?

Simple solutions like switching off the lights and using opaque screens would help. But in a few areas, outdoor night lights are inevitable.

The study also explains effective wildlife lighting: “Keep it long, keep it low, and keep it shielded.”

Keep it Long- Use Longer wavelength lights:

Use longer-wavelength[amber, yellow…] LEDs rather than bright-white lights. Turtle hatchlings, for instance, are not attracted to bulbs that throw a warm amber glow.

Similar lighting systems in the Netherlands have successfully helped to preserve bat species and other nocturnal wildlife.

Longer wavelength lights are also better for humans compared to the blue-white light as in mobiles and laptops.

Keep the lights low to the ground:

When lights are kept high they tend to scatter lots of light. Placing them low will help avoid light scattering. Example: A 20feet tall light post can be replaced with 10 feet tall ones in parking areas.

For walkways, footlights along the ground would be perfect and decorative.

Keep The Lights Shielded:

Light pollution experts suggest shielding light fixtures. This results in direct illumination of the target. Shielding also helps to avoid light scattering in every direction.

Swapping to solar-powered low-height walkway lights could also help us achieve renewable energy goals.

Apart from alternative lighting solutions, conscious communities have adopted light-out programs and ways.

In 2017, passerine birds were caught in the floodlights of a 32-story Texas skyscraper and killed via window collisions. Within a week time, almost 400 birds collided with the building and died.

To avoid such a loss, many cities have adopted a “Lights Out” program to turn off building lights during the migration period. This would provide the flocks’ to have a safe passage between their nesting and wintering grounds.

Currently, numerous cities like Toronto, Washington, D.C., and New York participate in lights-out campaigns during peak migration seasons.

In some cities, reducing night light has helped to increases tourism revenue. For example the town of Jasper, Alberta. Since 2010, the city has been hosting the Dark Sky Festival in the fall. This festival attracts thousands of people and connects them closer to the sky. The city is set to replace some of its light fixtures with shielded Lumican dark sky LEDs. These lights efficiently cast an amber glow while limiting more harmful blue wavelengths.

In many cities across North America and Europe, dark sky parks are increasing. Festivals like Jasper’s are flourishing and motivating more communities to limit night lights. 

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