Street Lights Can Cause Long-Term Ecological Changes, Study Says

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The presence of artificial street lights can alter the behavior of ground-dwelling invertebrates and insects and ultimately change the structure and function of some ecosystems, according to a new study.

In a series of tests in Cornwall in western England, researchers from the University of Exeter used 28 traps to capture 1,200 animals on the ground beneath street lights and in darker areas between the lights.

According to their findings, published in the journal Biology Letters, invertebrate predators and scavengers were more common underneath the lights, even during the daylight hours.

Thomas Davies, a researcher at the University of Exeter and lead author of the study, said these findings suggest that nocturnal behavior is affecting habitat preference overall, and could have implications for critical ecosystem services, including pollination and the breakdown of organic matter.

“It’s amazing how long we’ve been using street lighting and artificial lighting, and how little research has been done on the impact of those lights on the environment,” he told BBC News.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

  • sheckyvegas

    something tells me that where you have massive use of street lights, you’re not gonna have a “critical ecosystem”.

    looks somebody needed to use up their grant money…