Light interacts with life in many subtle and complex ways, and as such the ecosystems of the natural world are affected by both the quantity and quality of artificial light.
The natural world has evolved to a fundamental rhythm of light days and dark nights. The quality of natural light affects the physiology of other animals, as well as humans. With increasing amounts of light at night, changes in artificial light have an impact, especially on nocturnal creatures. ‘The environment’ is the cited reason for the ban on incandescent lighting and the roll out of new forms of lighting. But the question is complex and leads to more questions…
- By what criteria are lights assessed for environmental status?
- What environmental issues are involved in extracting materials used to make the lights?
- What toxins do they contain? How will these be disposed of?
- Do we only compare the energy used while the bulb is switched on, or the whole journey of that bulb from components, manufacture, use and disposal?
The aesthetics of light also need to be taken into account – light and its consequences in colour and ambience have a profound affect on mood, psychology and wellbeing. The whole environment, ourselves included, and our quality of life are intricately intertwined with the nature of the light we are exposed to. We need to understand far more about this interaction.
Environment papers and press
LightAware is compiling a selection of scientific papers and media reports on artificial light and the environment
|January 21, 2019 | Ecological benefits of part-night lighting revealed | Science Daily Study shows there is no difference in pollination success between part-night lighting and full darkness, highlighting the ecological benefit of switching off our street lights even for short periods in the night. Read More >|
|January 18, 2019 | Effects of street lighting technologies on the success and quality of pollination in a nocturnally pollinated plant | Ecosphere Artificial light at night (ALAN) is an increasingly important driver of global change. Lighting directly affects plants, but few studies have investigated indirect effects mediated by interacting organisms. Nocturnal Lepidoptera are globally important pollinators, and pollen transport by moths is disrupted by lighting. Read More >|
|November 21, 2018 | Artificial Lighting at Night in Estuaries—Implications from Individuals to Ecosystems | Estuaries and Coasts Artificial lighting at night (ALAN) alters natural patterns of light and darkness by introducing light that varies in intensity and spectral composition during typically dark periods (Gaston et al. 2013). Use of, and technological advances in, electric lighting have rapidly expanded since the incandescent lightbulbs of the early 1900s; ALAN now generates levels of intensity visible in satellite imagery of the Earth’s surface at night. Life has evolved under dynamic environmental conditions, but changes to the daily and seasonal light regimes associated with ALAN present a truly novel ecological stressor. Read More >|
|April 2, 2018 | Nature, extent and ecological implications of night‐time light from road vehicles | Journal of Applied Ecology The erosion of night‐time by the introduction of artificial lighting constitutes a profound pressure on the natural environment. It has altered what had for millennia been reliable signals from natural light cycles used for regulating a host of biological processes, with impacts ranging from changes in gene expression to ecosystem processes. Read More >|
|January 18, 2018 | Making Lighting Healthier | Nature Journal Biologically benign forms of energy efficient lighting are needed. I call on physicists, engineers, medical experts, biologists and designers to develop them. Read More >|
|November 22, 2017 | The Switch to Outdoor LED Lighting Has Completely Backfired | GIZMODO website The use of LEDs has resulted in a “rebound” effect whereby many jurisdictions have opted to use even more light owing to the associated energy savings. Read More >|
|November 22, 2017 | The Lost LED Revolution: Light Pollution Is Increasing | Sky & Telescope The transition from sodium lights to LEDs, the so-called “lighting revolution”, was supposed to reduce energy consumption and bring back starry skies, but new satellite data indicate it’s not working out that way. Read More >|
|February 6, 2017 | LED lighting could have major impact on wildlife | University of Exeter The growth of LED lighting is an issue of global concern, and the number of documented impacts on the environment is growing rapidly. Read More >|
|January 17, 2017 | Darkness design for new motorway | ARUP How to light a road that has been so carefully integrated into the national landscape of the Noardlike Fryske Wâlden? According to NEXT Architects and Arup, the best way to do this is to cherish the darkness. Although the activities for the new highway De Centrale As (N356) are not finalised yet, the lighting design of NEXT Architects and Arup is already showing. By limiting the illumination, the lighting design unites architecture, nature, landscape and culture to strengthen the identity of the road. Read More >|
|October 25, 2016 | The impact of artificial lighting on bats along native coastal vegetation | Australian Mammology Anthropogenic light pollution is increasing rapidly within urban areas around the world, causing a raft of ecological issues, including species loss. Read More >|
|October 25, 2016 | Rising mercury level turns silent killer in Capital | India Today A massive amount of mercury - the toxic element that makes Compact Fluorescent Lamps and bulbs (CFLs) work - may be silently accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to the gross mismanagement of used and broken CFLs. Read More >|
|June 25, 2016 | The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness | Science Advances This atlas shows that more than 80% of the world and more than 99% of the U.S. and European populations live under light-polluted skies. Read More >|
|June 10, 2016 | The new world atlas of artificial night sky brightness | Science Advances Artificial lights raise night sky luminance, creating the most visible effect of light pollution—artificial skyglow. Despite the increasing interest among scientists in fields such as ecology, astronomy, health care, and land-use planning, light pollution lacks a current quantification of its magnitude on a global scale. To overcome this, we present the world atlas of artificial sky luminance, computed with our light pollution propagation software using new high-resolution satellite data and new precision sky brightness measurements. Read More >|
|December 25, 2015 | Dark Matters | Springer International Publishing The Effects of Artificial Lighting on Bats Read More >|
|May 5, 2015 | Barriers and benefits: implications of artificial night-lighting for the distribution of common bats in Britain and Ireland | The Royal Society Artificial lighting is a particular problem for animals active at night. Approximately 69% of mammal species are nocturnal, and one-third of these are bats. Due to their extensive movements—both on a nightly basis to exploit ephemeral food supplies, and during migration between roosts—bats have an unusually high probability of encountering artificial light in the landscape. Read More >|
|January 24, 2013 | Low Energy Light Bulbs Not So “Green” After All? | Oil Price.com Making choices about the kind of light bulbs we should be using, on the simple basis of energy consumption, and hence carbon emissions, may be a little short-sighted. Read More >|
|January 1, 2013 | To Light or not to Light | Professional Lighting Design The studies conducted so far indicate that lighting installations visible after dark negatively impact flora and fauna Read More >|
|October 12, 2010 | Artificial Night Lighting Affects Dawn Song, Extra-Pair Siring Success, and Lay Date in Songbirds | Current Biology Artificial night lighting advances the start of dawn singing in songbirds Read More >|
|May 4, 2010 | Visibility, Environmental, and Astronomical Issues Associated with Blue-Rich White Outdoor Lighting | This paper summarizes atmospheric, visual, health, and environmental research into spectral effects of lighting at night. Read More >|