Anthropogenic Light Disrupts Natural Light Cycles in Critical Conservation Areas
27 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2019 Last revised: 9 Mar 2021
Date Written: August 19, 2019
Anthropogenic lighting drastically alters nocturnal environments, threatening a wide range of species by disrupting light regimes that regulate fundamental biological processes such as reproduction, foraging, and predator defense. We translate satellite measures of anthropogenic light radiating from the earth to a biologically relevant measurement – the amount of light scattered back to the earth (horizontal illuminance). Anthropogenic light exceeding the natural level produced by stars, galactic light, and airglow on a clear moonless night (i.e., new moon conditions) affects 22.9% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, as well as 51.0% of Key Biodiversity Area units, 77.1% of Global Protected Area units, and approximately 20% of the most biodiverse areas for mammals, birds, and amphibians. Thus, due to anthropogenic sources, these environments experience at least double the levels of natural illuminance during half of the night hours in a year. To facilitate biological interpretation of these levels of anthropogenic illuminance observed globally, we undertook a systematic literature review of animal responses to changing nocturnal light levels. Known biological effects from the current anthropogenic illuminance levels range from behavioral and physiological alterations to increased mortality, which have been documented in 117 species from 23 orders and 8 classes. These findings provide a biological perspective on global light pollution, and they identify regions where reductions in anthropogenic illuminance would yield the greatest benefits for conserving biodiversity.
Keywords: light pollution, biodiversity, lunar cycle, animals, anthropogenic light, circadian rhythms, conservation, illuminance, global protected areas, key biodiversity areas, global
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