When we think of habitat destruction, the first things that come to mind are probably bulldozers in the rain forest and oil spills over tropical reefs. However, studies show light pollution may be destroying the habitats of animals in our own backyards.
Humans, animals, and plants all rely on the 24-hour cycle of light and dark, day and night, to regulate sleep, predation, migration, and mating behavior. When electric lights boggle those patterns, the whole ecosystem can get messed up.
Species Hurt By Unnatural Light Patterns
- Fireflies, which use distinctive flashing patterns to attract mates, have a more difficult time doing so around streetlights. Researchers have seen their populations decrease around areas with generous outdoor lighting.
- Mayflies, which only have hours (maybe days) to reproduce, get distracted by electric lights and die before mating. This has reduced their population, along with those of their predators dramatically.
- Migratory birds often fly at night to avoid predators and forage in the daylight. However, when they encounter a city’s skyglow, they can no longer use celestial cues to navigate, and may end up stuck and disoriented, circling the artificial light until they’re exhausted.
- Nocturnal predators like owls, bats, raccoons, and coyotes lose the ability to hunt in the cover of night, and their prey cannot hide as easily.
- Baby sea turtles, of course, are practically the spokesanimal for light pollution. Many of those little guys don’t make it into the ocean because they’re distracted by the lights on land.