The health of our ecosystems is being harmed by growing levels of light pollution. Wasted light burning energy when not needed increases greenhouse gas emissions, adding to climate change threats to key habitats, but also directly affecting many species’ sleeping/roosting, foraging and breeding behaviours.

Around 60% of insects are nocturnal and an estimated third of these are dying because of light pollution, attracted to artificial lights fluttering around until they die exhausted or being easier prey for predators. A growing body of research is showing that in combination with habitat loss, chemical pollution, invasive species and climate change, light pollution is a key driver behind the huge loss of insect populations.(1)

Did you know that when we’re tucked up in bed our nocturnal pollinators are busy at work?! Nocturnal insects such as moths play a vital role in the pollination of the 87% of all plant species.(2)

Researchers at the University of Bern, Switzerland, erected street lights in remote Swiss meadows to mimic the effects of artificial light pollution. In fields lit during the night, flowers had 62% fewer nocturnal insect visits than flowers in dark meadows. Consequently, the night-lit plants produced 13% fewer seeds overall. The researchers said that night lights could affect the entire network of plants and pollinators.(3)

Unlike some of the more complex causes of insect decline, we can take immediate steps to reduce the impacts from artificial lighting. For example, recent research published in 2019 by Newcastle and York Universities assessing the impact of part-time switch off of street lights, showed that the same levels of successful pollination occurred as in full darkness.(4) We’re not doing this in Cumbria yet, but some counties such as Hampshire are trailing part-night switch offs for wider energy and budget saving reasons. Many road lights in Cumbria are 50% dimmed overnight to save energy and this reduced light intensity also helps lessen wildlife impacts. More broadly we need to look to create dark refuges and dark corridors for habitat connectivity for wildlife overall, but to foster vital pollination in particular.

We need to be asking: How much insect life are we losing each year due to light pollution in Cumbria? Where are the most vulnerable habitats and species being affected?

If you have any evidence or know of any research please do send it through to Jack via: [email protected]

(1). https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180619122456.htm https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190121103411.htm and http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/50282

(2). https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2019.0877

(3). https://www.nature.com/articles/nature23288

(4). https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190121103411.htm