How is Light Pollution Affecting the Ecosystem?


Over the last 25 years, light pollution has increased by 49%, damaging ecosystems and disrupting the patterns of natural wildlife. National Geographic states, “Studies show that light pollution is also affecting animal behaviours, such as migration patterns, wake-sleep habits, and habitat formation.”

Light pollution is unnecessary artificial light and causes celestial objects to be less visible and is usually more prominent in urban areas. As stated in Environmental Health Perspectives, many environmentalists and researchers claim that light pollution “can have lasting adverse effects on both human and wildlife health”.  According to Futurism, light exposure at night can be “linked to obesity, sleeping disorders, cancer and others”.

Birds are one of the many animals that are disrupted by light pollution. For example, birds use stars as an orientation for migration. According to Tree Hugger, bright lights can disorient birds during migration, causing them to crash and has led to hundreds of deaths in songbirds. 

Tree Hugger states that the US and Canada alone experienced a decrease of about 2.9 billion birds since 1970. Losing large amounts of birds will take a toll on our planet, as birds play a role in controlling pests and pollination. 

How can it be done to reduce light pollution, and what are other communities doing to reduce light pollution? Consider turning off the lights and opening the blinds during the daytime, and keep all unnecessary lighting off. A porch light at night may cause harm to the animals around the neighbourhood. 

Many experts say to point lights down and think about using light-emitting diodes (LED) instead of a normal light bulb. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) shows that LEDs with “…their improved quality and falling prices, LEDs are now replacing conventional high-intensity discharge (HID) lamp types for outdoor lighting in communities around the world”.

  According to Axios, “Pittsburgh is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to retrofit the city’s streetlights with LED lights that mimic natural light.” In the same article, Ohio made a plan to “convert 2,000 streetlight heads to LED, which will save the city $359,000 in energy and maintenance costs each year”. Eventually, energy bills will decrease because of the cause of converting regular lights to LEDs. 

Changing light bulbs to LEDs will also take a part in slowing down climate change. IDA states that “LEDs help lower carbon emissions by reducing the demand for electricity, which is still largely generated by burning fossil fuels” Burning fossil fuels release nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere which pollutes the air and water.