Light and Noise Pollution
Light and Noise Pollution
Almost everything we do has an impact on the world around us. When we think about pollution, we will often think about vehicle exhaust fumes or plastics contaminating beaches. You may not realise that noise and light can also be a form a pollution if they become harmful to wildlife.
Why are they harmful to wildlife?
Artificial lighting at night has a range of negative impacts on different species. As an example, it can attract some insects, which causes them to continuously fly until they become exhausted. This can be fatal, and is suspected to have caused declines in numbers (1). Declines in some species can have knock-on effects down the food chain. Reduced availability of prey could decrease some predator populations, such as spiders (2). On the other hand, lighting may deter other species. Some species of bats are less likely to have colonies in artificially lit areas (3).
Noise produced by construction and transport vehicles can also have negative impacts on wildlife: most noticeably on animal behaviour. Like lit areas, some animals also avoid noisy areas (4). Another example is owls: who rely on sound to capture prey but road traffic noise can make detection harder for them (5). Excess noise can also mask animal communication calls. Some birds have to sing louder or earlier to compensate for aircraft noise (6).
What can I do to help?
Light and noise pollution appears to be everywhere which makes it difficult to know where to start! However, everyone can play a role and take action to reduce the harmful consequences on wildlife as much as possible. We have a few suggestions you could start with:
- Turn off outdoor lighting at night if it is not necessary.
- Close your curtains at night to stop light inside your house being visible to animals outside.
- Close your windows when using noisy machinery or playing loud music. Consider soundproofing your home if this happens on a regular basis (e.g. by adding insulation or sound absorbers).
- Walk or cycle instead of drive. If this is not possible, try switching to a quieter electric vehicle or use public transport.
- Consider the impact of outdoor lighting when planning building work.
Where can I find more information?
The dark sky https://www.darksky.org/
Owens, A.C., Cochard, P., Durrant, J., Farnworth, B., Perkin, E.K. and Seymoure, B., 2020. Light pollution is a driver of insect declines. Biological Conservation, 241, p.108259.
Meyer, L.A. and Sullivan, S.M.P., 2013. Bright lights, big city: influences of ecological light pollution on reciprocal stream–riparian invertebrate fluxes. Ecological applications, 23(6), pp.1322-1330.
Rydell, J., Eklöf, J. and Sánchez-Navarro, S., 2017. Age of enlightenment: long-term effects of outdoor aesthetic lights on bats in churches. Royal Society open science, 4(8), p.161077.
Francis, C.D., Ortega, C.P. and Cruz, A., 2011. Noise pollution filters bird communities based on vocal frequency. PLoS one, 6(11), p.e27052.
Senzaki, M., Yamaura, Y., Francis, C.D. and Nakamura, F., 2016. Traffic noise reduces foraging efficiency in wild owls. Scientific reports, 6, p.30602.
Klett-Mingo JI, Pavón I, Gil D. Great tits, Parus major, increase vigilance time and reduce feeding effort during peaks of aircraft noise. Animal Behaviour. 2016 115:29–34.