Streetlight policies could cast a shadow over wildlife

November 16, 2012
Streetlight policies could cast a shadow over wildlife
Councils want to reduce overnight street lighting to decrease their carbon footprint.

(—Scientists have conducted the first study into the ecological effects of a variety of energy-saving options to reduce overnight street lighting. Among the findings, researchers discovered that introducing "whiter" LED lights would be likely to increase the environmental impact.

They are being considered in some areas as an alternative to traditional lighting methods.

The study was carried out by the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute. The research, carried out in collaboration with Natural England, comes as councils and organisations are seeking cost-effective low-carbon lighting solutions which will change the urban lightscape dramatically over the next few years.

Professor Kevin Gaston, who led the research, said: "This study is designed to help address the considerable challenge of developing lighting strategies for the future. It is a delicate balance to find a solution which meets the need for human comfort and safety, reduces energy consumption and , and minimises ecological impacts, but it is a question which must be tackled. Discovering more about the ecological effects of various options can only help to resolve these conflicts."

The research, funded by the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme, also concluded that maintaining or increasing areas which are not artificially lit was likely to be the most effective option in ecological terms, but could clash with other social and economic objectives.

Decreasing the duration of lighting would reduce energy costs and carbon emissions, but would be unlikely to alleviate many impacts on animals, as peak times of demand for lighting frequently coincide with peaks in the activities of nocturnal species.

Reducing the trespass of lighting would create dark refuges that animals can move into and exploit.

Decreasing the intensity of lighting will reduce and limit both pollution and the area impacted by high-intensity direct light, the researchers concluded.

Professor Gaston said: "This study will help to inform decision-makers of the potential impact of the policies that many are in the process of adopting right now. We are currently carrying out more research to examine the effects of each option in more detail, as these decisions will help shape our night-time ecology."

Explore further: Stop traffic crashes: Switch on the lights

Related Stories

Stop traffic crashes: Switch on the lights

January 21, 2009

Street lighting provides a simple, low cost means of stemming the global epidemic of road traffic death and injury. Low income countries should consider installing more lights, and high income countries should think carefully ...

First global lighting study is released

June 29, 2006

The first global survey of lighting uses and costs suggests the world's electric bill would greatly decrease with a switch to efficient lighting systems.

Canada's new government to ban inefficient light bulbs

April 25, 2007

The Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, joined by the Honourable John Baird, Minister of the Environment, announced today that Canada’s New Government is taking another important step to protect the environment ...

New ballast dimming switch developed

April 20, 2006

U.S. scientists say they've developed a simple, cost-effective, energy-saving device designed to "harvest" daylight automatically.

More light for a better quality of life

August 19, 2010

The importance of artificial light to society has long been recognized with the utilization of fire thought of as the quintessential human invention. Now scientists have found that emerging, more energy efficient lighting ...

Recommended for you

Single-molecule dissection of developmental gene control

October 23, 2017

Scientists at EPFL and Max Plank have made significant discoveries on how developmental genes are controlled by the methyltransferase enzyme PRC2. The study is published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

Crops evolved 10 millennia earlier than thought

October 23, 2017

Ancient hunter-gatherers began to systemically affect the evolution of crops up to thirty thousand years ago – around ten millennia before experts previously thought – according to new research by the University of Warwick.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.