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The Ecological Cost of Artificial Light

Credit: Chris Phutully (CC by 2.0)

Credit: Chris Phutully (CC by 2.0)

By Kyra Xavia

Public lighting must be reimagined so it’s both functional and safe, has less impact on ecological systems and allows visibility of the stars again.

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In 2016 it was estimated that around 80% of humanity and 23% of the land mass is affected by artificial light at night (ALAN). While light pollution is generally not considered as serious as other anthropogenic pollutants, the environmental impacts of ALAN are just as important as air, water and soil contamination.

Comprehensive standards and ordinances for lighting are crucial because ALAN has a negative impact on most living organisms, whose biological rhythms and processes are fundamentally linked to the presence, intensity and spectrum of natural light. “Life has evolved on Earth with light days and dark nights, but now that’s changed there’s concern about the consequences,” says Dr Chris Kyba of the German Research Centre for Geosciences in an interview. The increasing use of energy-efficient, high-intensity white LED lighting technology in the past decade is significantly compounding matters.

One reason white LEDs are problematic is that they emit broad range light. The broader the spectrum of artificial light, the broader the group of organisms that are affected by it. “Because light is never neutral, it impacts organisms in different ways,” explains Dr Sibylle Schroer of the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (https://bit.ly/2RKnFrO). “With a very broad...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.