Street lighting is changing insect ecosystems, study claims


John von Radowitz
Wednesday 23 May 2012 08:32

Street lighting is changing insect ecosystems in towns and cities, a study has found.

Groups of invertebrates living near artificial lights include more predators and scavengers, say researchers.

The effect could be impacting the survival rates of different species, with long-term consequences for birds and mammals that rely on them for food.

Scientists conducted the study in the market town of Helston, west Cornwall.

Pitfall traps were placed under and between street lamps that were 35 metres apart for a number of days and nights.

In total, 1,194 animals were collected covering 60 species.

Total numbers were more abundant under street lights, where there were more predatory and scavenging species such as ground beetles and harvestmen.

The same pattern was seen during the day and at night.

Dr Tom Davies, from the University of Exeter, led the research reported in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

He said: "Our study shows that light pollution could be having a dramatic effect on wildlife in our towns and cities. We need to be aware of how the increase in artificial lighting is impacting on the delicate ecosystems on which we all rely.

"Our research shows for the first time the changes that light pollution is making to entire communities of invertebrates. We now need to examine what impact this is having on other communities and how this may be affecting important ecosystem services and whether we should change the way we light urban spaces."


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