Impact of light pollution to local biodiversity

With the continuous urbanization happening all over the world, environmentalists are concerned about the progressing light pollution that sparks problems on health, biodiversity, safety, astronomy and even in the energy economy.

Light pollution remains as one of the most pervasive forms of environmental alteration and a major global issue. Light pollution is caused by inefficient or unnecessary use of anthropogenic and artificial light in the environment, especially during night time, exacerbated by excessive, misdirected or obtrusive use of light which fundamentally alters natural conditions.

UP Diliman Wildlife and Field Biologist Jelaine Gan further explains the negative impacts of light pollution to the local biodiversity. She says that this creates a novel condition in ecosystems, disrupting the activities of local species thriving in these areas.

Gan states that nocturnal animals are the most affected by this environmental alteration, stating moths as an example. “Insects might get confused and can alter their behaviors which will affect their sleep cycles, reproduction, and the ecosystem,” she says. Another negative effect that may happen is frogs getting disoriented with their body clocks which will prevent them from hunting properly and keeping away from danger.

Nocturnal birds like owls and nightjars may also have a hard time hunting because of their visibility, which also means that they can be easily harmed by humans. Additionally, glaring lights in an area may also affect the foraging of bats and mating behaviors of animals like fireflies.

Light pollution affects the marine environment too. Artificial lights can alter the behavior of marine organisms, species interactions, and food webs and can therefore disrupt marine ecosystems. Sea turtles that are naturally guided by moonlight during migration might get confused and lose their ways which will increase their risk of dying due to predation and hunger.

As a concerned biologist, Gan suggests some known alternatives to reduce light pollution. One is to use smarter structural designs in streetlights and other artificial outdoor lights. They can be angled downwards and intensity can be lowered, enough to serve their purpose. “As a large-scale effort, we can designate areas for night wildlife and astronomical observations like urban parks… a dedicated space for nightscapes,” she adds.

It is undeniable that most environmental pollution are caused by humans and our inventions. That is why it should also be our responsibility to restore the environment’s natural state. It is important that policy makers continue to develop and uphold laws that control pollution and administer the creation of alternative technologies that not only save energy but also reduce light pollution.