1 Tahrcountry Musings: Human-made light sources acting as 'Ecological Traps'

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Human-made light sources acting as 'Ecological Traps'

Human-made light sources are altering the natural light cycles impacting wildlife. Polarized light has been found to trigger animal behaviors leading to injury and often death. Gabor Horvath, Robertson and colleagues, in the latest issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, have unveiled this disturbing information.
Light pollution can cause increased predation, migrating in the wrong direction, choosing bad nest sites or mates, collisions with artificial structures and reduced time available to spend looking for food. To cite an example baby sea turtles use the direction of star and moonlight reflected off the water surface to help them find the ocean when they emerge from their beach nests. Under the influence of light pollution particularly from urban sources, many turtles turn the wrong way and migrate toward the brighter lights of buildings or streetlamps.

Polarized light reflected from asphalt roads, windows and plastic sheets and oil spills often mimics the surface of the water. Dragonflies laying its eggs on a shiny black highway may become paralyzed by attraction to the pavement after laying its eggs. This could cause populations to decline and even extinction. One of the remedies suggested for asphalt is white hatch mark. White hatch marks on roads can prevent insects from mistaking them for bodies of water. The addition of white curtains to shiny black buildings deters insects, bats and birds.

I found this study very interesting and alarming. Robertson signs off saying. "Aquatic insects are the foundation of the food web, and what's harmful to them is harmful to entire ecosystems and the services they provide."

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