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Understanding the Effects of Light Pollution on Wildlife

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  1. Understanding the Effects of Light Pollution on Wildlife Johnny Noles, Biologist Chesapeake Bay mysids@aol.com

  2. INTRODUCTION This presentation was created to provide International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) members and concerned citizens a general information resource for discussion of light pollution problems with emphasis on the effects on wildlife. Feel free to use the whole or parts of the presentation for educational outreach. Beginning with the contents on the following slide, The presentation begins with a pictorial introduction highlighting outdoor lighting and the basic effects of outdoor lighting on wildlife. It further goes on to compare light pollution with chemical pollution. It emphasizes the shortcomings of government regulations governing pollution. It provides an example of how environmental agencies are even responsible for the introduction of light pollution through public environmental regulatory programs. In the absence of light pollution regulations, it identifies public interest actions that have been initiated in the interest of wildlife conservation. The presentation concludes with an appeal to the wildlife conservation community to join forces with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) to promote wildlife habitat enhancement through light pollution reduction. General recommendations for environmental agencies and homeowners are provided for guidance purposes.

  3. CONTENTS I. Introduction Pictorial Identification of Problem Wildlife and Habitat Impact Issues II. Understanding Light Pollution Definition of Pollution Observed Effects of Pollution Comparing Light Pollution with Chemical Pollution Light Pollution Regulation III. Examples of How Environmental Agencies are Impacting the Environment with Light Pollution IV. Public Action Precedents in Wildlife Conservation and Light Pollution V. Help for Wildlife Conservation from a Distant Galaxy VI. Recommendations for Public Agencies and Homeowners

  4. What are the effects of light pollution on wildlife and their habitats? I. Introduction

  5. Virginia’s Light Pollution Signature Mountains Chesapeake Bay watershed Coastal Barrier Islands Dismal Swamp Virginia Wildlife Ecosystems Affected by Light Pollution What About Your State, Providence or Country? I. Introduction

  6. Unshielded Artificial Lighting = Light Pollution I. Introduction

  7. Elements of Light Pollution Impacting Wildlife Light Trespass Sky Glow Glare Clutter I. Introduction

  8. Wildlife Issue Light pollution is trespassing into wildlife habitat Wildlife Concerns From Exposure to Light Pollution Habitat Disturbance Wildlife Behavior Wildlife Survival I. Introduction

  9. Compare Lighting from Natural and Artificial Sources “ what the critters see ” Natural night sky sunrise sunset light pollution I. Introduction

  10. NOCTURNAL WILDLIFE yellow crowned night heron owls gray tree frog spotted sea trout bats • Active at night, roost by day. • Some species species are rare, threatened and endangered species. • Some species provide human and ecological health benefits. • Some species provide economic benefits • What are the effects of light pollution on their habitat and behavior? I. Introduction

  11. DIURNAL WILDLIFE dragonfly frogs squirrels songbirds waterfowl • Active by day, roost at night. • Some species are rare, protected and endangered species. • Some species provide human and ecological health benefits. • Some species provide economic benefits. • What are the effects of light pollution on their habitat and behavior? I. Introduction

  12. Habitat Disturbance Observations • Disruption of natural day-night illumination cycle in natural areas. • Replacement of nocturnal (night) cycle by elevated levels of continuous artificial lighting over broad natural areas. • Greatest exposure of terrestrial habitats is mostly under tree canopy and over ground level areas, which is the preferred zone of most terrestrial wildlife inhabitation. • Aquatic habitats subject to light trespass from upland and shoreline human habitation. Water surface reflections magnify light pollution. • Light pollution in wildlife habitats mimic extended daylight conditions causing wildlife behavior to be unnaturally modified. • Exposure of wildlife circadian rhythms to light pollution. • Wildlife biodiversity at risk in light polluted nocturnal habitats. • Diminished habitat function (e.g., shelter, protection, food). I. Introduction

  13. Understanding Light Pollution • Does it fit the definition of a pollutant? • What are the common effects of pollutants? • What similarities do chemical and light pollutants have in common? II. Understanding Light Pollution

  14. DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF “POLLUTANT” • Pollute - to make unfit for or harmful to living things. • Pollutant - something that pollutes; a waste material that contaminates air, soil, or water. • Pollution - Contamination of air, soil, or water by the discharge of harmful substances. Forms of pollutants and examples Gas – carbon monoxide Liquid - oil Solid - asbestos Light – streetlights Noise – loud machinery II. Understanding Light Pollution

  15. COMMONLY OBSERVED • EFFECTS OF HARMFUL POLLUTANTS • Behavior • Growth • Reproduction • Survival • Death • Habitat Modification • Pollutant Environmental Fate • Population Effects II. Understanding Light Pollution

  16. Similarities between Chemical and Light Pollution • Organism ImpactChemical* Light** LP Examples • Human Exposure yes yes urban/industrial settings • Wildlife Exposure yes yes urban/industrial settings • Abnormal behavior yes yes migrations, attraction/avoidance • Growth yes yes plants, cancer cells • Reproduction yes yes mammals, amphibians • Survival yes yes sea turtles, birds • Death yes yes sea turtles, birds • * Sufficient data generated by studies on numerous chemicals. • ** Insufficient data; repeated observations of incidences and correlation to • presence of artificial lighting. II. Understanding Light Pollution

  17. Similarities between Chemical and Light Pollution ChemicalLight Examples • Habitat Modification yes yes coastal ecosystems* • Population Effects yes yes sea turtles, birds • Pollutant Environmental Fate persistent persistent ubiquitous in urban/ or short-lived industrial environments • Ecological Imbalance yes yes coastal ecosystems * • Environmental Restoration*** expensive$$$ cheap$ Florida coasts** Cedar River, WA**** • Restoration benefits long term immediate Florida coasts** Cedar River, WA**** * = Chesapeake Bay • ** = Sea turtle nesting habitats • *** = See slide #18 for explanations • **** = See slide #27 – sockeye salmon habitat II. Understanding Light Pollution

  18. Environmental Restoration Comparison “Cleaning the Problem Up” Hypothetical scenario – compare 10 acres of land in watershed environment contaminated by either hazardous chemicals or light pollution • Chemical Pollution ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) • Source – residual presence may persist after source is eliminated • Environmental noncompliance fines • Civil/criminal litigation costs • Remediation/clean-up/disposal costs • High Manpower/equipment costs • Chemical Monitoring/recovery costs • Long term recovery usually required • Certain conditions may impede full recovery • Public and wildlife health could potentially continue to be impacted after restoration. • Light Pollution ($) • Source – on/off; no residual presence after source is eliminated • Planning and design costs • Equipment retrofit costs • Disposal/recycle of old equipment • Less manpower/equipment demand • Low/no monitoring requirement • Short term recovery anticipated • Minimum impediment to full recovery • Public and wildlife health could potentially be significantly improved after restoration. II. Understanding Light Pollution

  19. LOOKING AT THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN HUMAN HEALTH IMPACTS A MODEL FOR WILDLIFE EXPOSURE? • Circadian rhythms set to natural cycle of day and night • Light controls body’s internal clock or “circadian rhythm” • Immune System is circadian • Correlation between low melatonin levels and cancer in humans • Wildlife in or near urban areas may have more exposure to light pollution than humans • What are the physiological effects of light pollution on wildlife? • Could possible physiological changes resulting from light pollution exposure result in the decline of wildlife species? II. Understanding Light Pollution

  20. PUBLIC POLLUTION REGULATION • Chemical pollution tightly regulated by public law and multiple agencies • Light pollution is not regulated by environmental agencies. Most agencies and many environmental interest groups are dead asleep on the issue • The States of Florida has set the precedent to regulate outdoor lighting strictly for wildlife conservation purposes. II. Understanding Light Pollution

  21. PUBLIC POLLUTION REGULATION • Agencies put the burden on local governments to control light pollution. WRONG APPROACH!!!!! • Light pollution needs the same attention as chemical pollution • Environmental agencies need to address light pollution as a regional ecosystem and wildlife management approach. • Examples: Chesapeake Bay Program • Florida Everglades Program • Great Lakes Program II. Understanding Light Pollution

  22. USA’s First Outdoor Lighting Ordinance for Wildlife Conservation Endangered Sea turtles in Florida Life cycle consists of birth on land, spending life in ocean, returning to land only to nest • LIGHT POLLUTION IMPACTS • Beach nesting habitats exposed to bright outdoor shoreline lighting • Adults won’t come ashore to nest • Hatchlings emerge from sand nests, normally orientate towards starlit ocean • Artificial lights on beaches, coastal roads, and buildings disorientate hatchlings and adults that crawl away from the beach towards inland light sources. • Migratory disruptions from light pollution leads to death from dehydration, wildlife, domestic animals and human predation, and vehicle collusions II. Understanding Light Pollution

  23. EXAMPLES OF AGENCIES • IMPACTING THE ENVIRONMENT • WITH LIGHT POLLUTION • WETLANDS PERMITTING • Army Corp of Engineers, State Environmental Agencies and local Wetlands Boards • Permits do not address lighting on piers and waterfront structures • Nontarget lighting trespassing into wetlands and upland wildlife habitat • Problem magnified by water surface reflections • Disturbance and modification of wildlife habitat and behavior • Failure to address light pollution through wetlands regulations fosters impacts on wildlife environment, boating safety, public aesthetics and effectiveness of existing wetlands protection efforts. • Examples of How Environmental Agencies are Impacting the Environment with Light Pollution

  24. Light Pollution Impacts on Wildlife Through the Nationwide Wetlands Permitting Process • Example: • Egrets and herons – Classified as Species of Concern • Open nests in trees along urban waterways and marshes • Property owners install unshielded lights on piers and upland property that trespass into nesting habitats. Water surface reflections magnify the lighting. • Nesting species exposed to light pollution, behavior altered and subject to increased predation by nocturnal raptors, other wildlife predators and domestic animals • Nesting parents leave nests for prolonged periods to forage in light polluted areas • Nestlings fall out of nests; survival diminishes • Some species show avoidance of light polluted habitat • Some species are attracted to light sources to feed on other dietary organisms that are similarly attracted to lights • Examples of How Environmental Agencies are Impacting the Environment with Light Pollution

  25. Light Pollution Impacts on Wildlife Through the Nationwide Wetlands Permitting Process Potential for Water Quality Impacts • Unshielded pier and waterfront lighting penetrates the water column. • Artificial lighting promotes algal growth in surface waters • Algae feeding zooplankton uses natural light to migrate to deeper water for food. At night, they migrate to the surface. Artificial lights from piers and shore structures causes zooplankton to stay in deeper water when they should be feeding on the surface at night. • The disruption of zooplankton behavior and feeding cycles leads to algal blooms in the surface water. • Algal blooms associated with declining water quality conditions. • Light pollution-induced water quality effects are high for ponds, lakes, impoundments, and low flushing coastal watershed stream and river environments. • Examples of How Environmental Agencies are Impacting the Environment with Light Pollution

  26. Public Action Precedents in Wildlife Conservation Involving Light Pollution • SEATURTLES - first identified light pollution indicator organism. Led to nation’s first public outdoor lighting ordinance in Florida for wildlife conservation purposes. • BIRDS – FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) Highly successful Canadian public program aimed at reducing birds kills from collusions with lighted city buildings. Program identifies numerous bird species at risk from light pollution. Visit www.flap.org • SW USA ENDANGERED CAT SPECIES - US Border Patrol proposes putting up bright lights along US-Mexico border inhabited by endangered cats. USFWS presses for Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). IV. Public Action Precedents in Wildlife Conservation and Light Pollution

  27. Public Action Precedents in Wildlife Conservation Involving Light Pollution • ENDANGERED CAT SPECIES - zoo breeding program observes Pallas cats’ reproductive difficulties in bright zoos. Pallas relocated to darker areas and reproduction activity returns to normal. • SPORT FISHES - Civil court case involving nocturnal seatrout species in Scotland. Fishermen claim seatrout fishing degraded by light pollution from adjacent property. Court supports sport fishermen with judgment supported by expert testimony on seatrouts’ nocturnal behavior. In State of Washington, light trespassing into fish habitat from unshielded lights on Cedar River trails resulted in interference with sockeye salmon fry migration and an increase in predation pressures. Lights shielding by WA DOT reduced light trespass, enhanced habitat, and improved fish migratory passage. IV. Public Action Precedents in Wildlife Conservation and Light Pollution

  28. Public Action Precedents in Wildlife Conservation Involving Light Pollution • US NATIONAL PARK SERVICE is responding to public concerns about light pollution and loss of night sky aesthetics. National Park Service retrofitting existing lights with full cut off optics (FCO). Public night sky aesthetics restoration seen as a wildlife benefit • MIGRATORY BIRDS - mortalities from collisions with lighted buildings and towers has led to USFWS guidance on lighted towers. IV. Public Action Precedents in Wildlife Conservation and Light Pollution

  29. Innovative Communities with Light Pollution Control That Benefit Wildlife and Public Ocean Reef, Florida - private development in Key Largo, Florida with no street lights. Surrounding mangrove and waterway habitats enhanced. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina - Resort with lighting ordinances requiring light shields, placement and low height requirements. Surrounding beach, maritime forest and marsh habitats enhanced. Palm Beach County and Sanibel Island, Florida - public outdoor lighting ordinances for coastal wildlife conservation and tourism. Beach and shore habitats enhanced. IV. Public Action Precedents in Wildlife Conservation and Light Pollution

  30. Help for Wildlife Conservation from a Distant Galaxy • The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) – a non-profit organization led by astronomers and citizens promoting “to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting”. • IDA actively promotes worldwide light pollution reduction through public education, lighting standards and public outdoor lighting ordinances. • IDA advocates light pollution reduction for wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement purposes. • IDA needs more support from wildlife scientific and conservation communities. V. Help for Wildlife Conservation from a Distant Galaxy

  31. International Dark-Sky Association 3225 N. First Ave., Tucson  AZ 85719  USA(520) 293-3198 (voice)     (520) 293-3192 (fax)E-Mail: ida@darksky.org www.darksky.org/ida/ IDA advocates shielded lighting and better outdoor lighting planning • Help for Wildlife Conservation from a Distant Galaxy

  32. RECOMMENDATIONS • ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCIES • Environmental agencies (EPA, NOAA, USFWS, USACOE) and environmental interest groups (Sierra Club, Audubon Society, etc. ) need to take more concerted action on light pollution as an environmental problem of significant concern. • Define artificial lighting as an environmental contaminant and ecological stressor. • Environmental agencies must provide funding to conduct scientific studies to investigate light pollution impacts on the environment and wildlife. • Environmental agencies must develop strategies and environmental regulations to address light pollution and protection of wildlife habitats. • Develop the Chesapeake Bay, Florida Everglades Restoration and Great Lakes Programs as nationwide models to reduce light pollution impacts on wildlife. • Public and private environmental programs can initiate outreach service to provide local wetlands boards, environmental interests groups and private citizens with education, regulatory guidance and funding on light pollution reduction. • DOD installations could set public example of light pollution reduction as a means of enhancing wildlife habitat, public night sky aesthetics and energy savings through DOD environmental stewardship programs, ecosystem management initiatives, retrofitting needed existing outdoor lights with FCO lighting, and using electronic security technology to replace outdoor lighting as primary means of security. VI. Recommendations for Public Agencies

  33. RECOMMENDATIONS • LOCAL AGENCIES • Wetlands Regulatory - Army Corps of Engineers, State Agencies and Local Wetlands Boards • Issue pier and marina permits with light pollution environmental assessment and shielded lighting requirements. • Ban mercury vapor, sodium vapor and halide lights on residential and public piers, marinas and other waterfront structures. Use properly placed hooded alternate low illumination lamps instead for walkways and safety areas. • No water surface reflections or indirect light trespass into surrounding habitat and adjacent properties. • Use lowly illuminated hazard warning (yellow coded) lights on long piers and bridges to warn boater traffic of potential navigation hazard. • Require all waterfront property owners to comply with the environmental mandate to reduce light pollution in the wetlands and waterways. • Provide waterfront property owners with grants or awards to eliminate or retrofit existing lights to implement light pollution control as a habitat enhancement, wildlife conservation, boating safety enhancement, and public aesthetics enhancement initiative. VI. Recommendations for Public Agencies

  34. Mosquito Control Commissions Light Pollution Considerations • Observation fact: Light pollution sources attract insects. • Does light pollution (LP) foster the activities of mosquitoes? • Does LP hinder mosquito predators (e.g., birds, bats, insects)? • Conduct low cost sampling study of mosquitoes with semi-closed container and CO2 (dry ice). • Select sampling sites; presence/absence of LP. • Quantify and compare sampling counts with and without LP. • If data under LP conditions indicates increased activity, use data to support outdoor lighting ordinances as a public health initiative, pollution prevention and pest control cost saving measures. • Use same data to support ordinances to enhance the habitats of natural mosquito predator species. Nocturnal - bats Diurnal - dragonflies Diurnal - martins VI. Recommendations for Public Agencies

  35. LP Problems for Urban Habitats Homeowners Backyard Habitat and Urban Park Manager’s Habitat Guide • Light pollution increases domestic animal activity at night; increases domestic animal predation on wildlife • Birds venture away from nests at night, may abandoned nests; hatchlings fall out. • Alters behavior of wildlife • Decreases survival of young wildlife • Makes habitat less suitable for good wildlife • Deciduous trees and plants experience delayed winter dormancy that increases susceptibility to stress and diseases on light polluted properties • Homeowners and park patrons cannot enjoy night landscape and wildlife benefits of their own properties or park if there are lights trespassing from other properties. VI: Recommendations for Homeowners

  36. RECOMMENDATIONS for DEVELOPERS, HOMEOWNERS, URBAN PARK MANAGERS • Design lighting with full cut off optics (FCOs), short heights, light shielding, low illumination accent lighting, timers and motion sensors to focus nontarget lighting downwards on target area and away from trees, flowerbeds, shrubs, fields, forests, and wetlands. • Design wildlife friendly landscaping. Consult your local nurseries and landscaping firms for tips and tricks. • Consult local Audubon Society, Sierra Club or other wildlife interest groups for tips on how to develop backyard wildlife habitats. • Use tall rapid growth evergreen trees and shrubs screen out unwanted lighting from adjacent properties. • Turn off all yard lights if possible, especially when not in use. • A light pollution free yard increases wildlife values, night sky access and residential property and urban park values. VI: Recommendations for Homeowners

  37. Wildlife Conservation Restore the Nightsky Enhance Wildlife Habitat Through Light Pollution Control