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Artificial light at night negatively impacts thousands of species: beetles, moths, wasps and other insects that have evolved to use light levels as cues for courtship, foraging and navigation.
Writing in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, Brett Seymoure, the Grossman Family Postdoctoral Fellow of the Living Earth Collaborative at Washington University in St. Louis, and his collaborators reviewed 229 studies to document the myriad ways that light alters the living environment such that insects are unable to carry out crucial biological functions.
Light - Night - Streetlights - Gas - Flares
"Artificial light at night is human-caused lighting—ranging from streetlights to gas flares from oil extraction," Seymoure said. "It can affect insects in pretty much every imaginable part of their lives."
Insects and spiders have experienced global declines in abundance over the past few decades—and it's only going to get worse. Some researchers have even coined a term for it: the insect apocalypse.
Crops—and - Crops - Animals - Pollinators - Insects
"Most of our crops—and crops that feed the animals that we eat—need to be pollinated, and most pollinators are insects," Seymoure said. "So as insects continue to decline, this should be a huge red flag. As a society of over 7 billion people, we are in trouble for our food supply."
Unlike other drivers of insect declines, artificial light at night is relatively straightforward to reverse. To address this problem, here are four things that Seymoure recommends:
The evidence on this one is clear.
"Light pollution is relatively easy to solve, as once you turn off a light, it is gone. You don't have to go and clean up light like you do with most pollutants," Seymoure said.
Lights - Night - Lighting - Practices - Lighting
"Obviously, we aren't going to turn off all lights at night," he said. "However, we can and must have better lighting practices. Right now, our lighting policy is not managed in a way to reduce energy use and have minimal impacts on ecosystem and human health....
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