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Concept: Light pollution


A central aim of the “lighting revolution” (the transition to solid-state lighting technology) is decreased energy consumption. This could be undermined by a rebound effect of increased use in response to lowered cost of light. We use the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed for night lights to show that from 2012 to 2016, Earth’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2.2% per year, with a total radiance growth of 1.8% per year. Continuously lit areas brightened at a rate of 2.2% per year. Large differences in national growth rates were observed, with lighting remaining stable or decreasing in only a few countries. These data are not consistent with global scale energy reductions but rather indicate increased light pollution, with corresponding negative consequences for flora, fauna, and human well-being.

Concepts: Light, Sun, Mass, Probability theory, Lighting, Light pollution, Order theory, Energy conservation


Ecological photopollution created by artificial night lighting can alter animal behavior and lead to population declines and biodiversity loss. Polarized light pollution is a second type of photopollution that triggers water-seeking insects to ovisposit on smooth and dark man-made objects, because they simulate the polarization signatures of natural water bodies. We document a case study of the interaction of these two forms of photopollution by conducting observations and experiments near a lamp-lit bridge over the river Danube that attracts mass swarms of the mayfly Ephoron virgo away from the river to oviposit on the asphalt road of the bridge. Millions of mayflies swarmed near bridge-lights for two weeks. We found these swarms to be composed of 99% adult females performing their upstream compensatory flight and were attracted upward toward unpolarized bridge-lamp light, and away from the horizontally polarized light trail of the river. Imaging polarimetry confirmed that the asphalt surface of the bridge was strongly and horizontally polarized, providing a supernormal ovipositional cue to Ephoron virgo, while other parts of the bridge were poor polarizers of lamplight. Collectively, we confirm that Ephoron virgo is independently attracted to both unpolarized and polarized light sources, that both types of photopollution are being produced at the bridge, and that spatial patterns of swarming and oviposition are consistent with evolved behaviors being triggered maladaptively by these two types of light pollution. We suggest solutions to bridge and lighting design that should prevent or mitigate the impacts of such scenarios in the future. The detrimental impacts of such scenarios may extend beyond Ephoron virgo.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Light, Lighting, Polarization, Light pollution, Birefringence, Polarizer


Prior research has reported disparities in environmental exposures in the United States, but, to our knowledge, no nationwide studies have assessed inequality in noise pollution.

Concepts: United States, United Kingdom, Poverty in the United States, U.S. state, Pollution, Light pollution, Economic inequality, Noise pollution


1. Moths (Lepidoptera) are the major nocturnal pollinators of flowers. However, their importance and contribution to the provision of pollination ecosystem services may have been under-appreciated. Evidence was identified that moths are important pollinators of a diverse range of plant species in diverse ecosystems across the world. 2. Moth populations are known to be undergoing significant declines in several European countries. Among the potential drivers of this decline is increasing light pollution. The known and possible effects of artificial night lighting upon moths were reviewed, and suggest how artificial night lighting might in turn affect the provision of pollination by moths. The need for studies of the effects of artificial night lighting upon whole communities of moths was highlighted. 3. An ecological network approach is one valuable method to consider the effects of artificial night lighting upon the provision of pollination by moths, as it provides useful insights into ecosystem functioning and stability, and may help elucidate the indirect effects of artificial light upon communities of moths and the plants they pollinate. 4. It was concluded that nocturnal pollination is an ecosystem process that may potentially be disrupted by increasing light pollution, although the nature of this disruption remains to be tested.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Insect, Ecology, Ecosystem, Pollination, Lighting, Light pollution, Lepidoptera


PURPOSE: To investigate the in vitro effect of pH, osmolarity, solvent, and light interaction on currently used and novel dyes to minimize dye-related retinal toxicity. DESIGN: Laboratory investigation. METHODS: Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) human cells (ARPE-19) were exposed for 10 minutes to different pH solutions (4, 5, 6, 7, 7.5, 8, and 9) and glucose solutions (2.5%, 5.0%, 10%, 20%, 40%, and 50%) with osmolarity from 142 to 2530 mOsm, with and without 0.5 mg/mL trypan blue. R28 cells were also incubated with glucose (150, 310, and 1000 mOsm) and mannitol used as an osmotic control agent in both experiments. Dye-light interaction was assessed by incubating ARPE-19 for 10 minutes with trypan blue, brilliant blue, bromophenol blue, fast green, light green, or indigo carmine (0.05 mg/mL diluted in balanced saline solution) in the presence of high-brightness xenon and mercury vapor light sources. RESULTS: Solutions with nonphysiologic pH, below 7 and above 7.5, proved to be remarkably toxic to RPE cells with or without trypan blue. Also, all glucose solutions were deleterious to RPE (P < .001) even in iso-osmolar range. No harmful effect was found with mannitol solutions. Among the dyes tested, only light green and fast green were toxic to ARPE-19 (P < .001). Light exposure did not increase RPE toxicity either with xenon light or mercury vapor lamp. CONCLUSIONS: Solutions containing glucose as a dye solvent or nonphysiologic pH should be used with care in surgical situations where the RPE is exposed. Light exposure under present assay conditions did not increase the RPE toxicity.

Concepts: Light, Retina, Mercury, Fluorescent lamp, Light pollution, Retinal pigment epithelium, Mercury-vapor lamp, Metal halide lamp


Excessive or misdirected artificial light at night (ALAN) produces light pollution that influences several aspects of the biology and ecology of birds, including disruption of circadian rhythms and disorientation during flight. Many migrating birds traverse large expanses of land twice every year at night when ALAN illuminates the sky. Considering the extensive and increasing encroachment of light pollution around the world, we evaluated the association of the annual mean ALAN intensity over land within the geographic ranges of 298 nocturnally migrating bird species with five factors: phase of annual cycle, mean distance between breeding and non-breeding ranges, range size, global hemisphere of range, and IUCN category of conservation concern. Light pollution within geographic ranges was relatively greater during the migration season, for shorter-distance migrants, for species with smaller ranges, and for species in the western hemisphere. Our results suggest that migratory birds may be subject to the effects of light pollution particularly during migration, the most critical stage in their annual cycle. We hope these results will spur further research on how light pollution affects not only migrating birds, but also other highly mobile animals throughout their annual cycle.

Concepts: Bird, Cuckoo, Albatross, Seabird, Lighting, Light pollution, Bird migration, Bird flight


Financial and carbon reduction incentives have prompted many local authorities to reduce street lighting at night. Debate on the public health implications has centred on road accidents, fear of crime and putative health gains from reduced exposure to artificial light. However, little is known about public views of the relationship between reduced street lighting and health. We undertook a rapid appraisal in eight areas of England and Wales using ethnographic data, a household survey and documentary sources. Public concern focused on road safety, fear of crime, mobility and seeing the night sky but, for the majority in areas with interventions, reductions went unnoticed. However, more private concerns tapped into deep-seated anxieties about darkness, modernity ‘going backwards’, and local governance. Pathways linking lighting reductions and health are mediated by place, expectations of how localities should be lit, and trust in local authorities to act in the best interests of local communities.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Light, United Kingdom, New Zealand, England, Lighting, Light pollution, Local government


The skyglow produced by artificial lights at night is one of the most dramatic anthropogenic modifications of Earth’s biosphere. The GLOBE at Night citizen science project allows individual observers to quantify skyglow using star maps showing different levels of light pollution. We show that aggregated GLOBE at Night data depend strongly on artificial skyglow, and could be used to track lighting changes worldwide. Naked eye time series can be expected to be very stable, due to the slow pace of human eye evolution. The standard deviation of an individual GLOBE at Night observation is found to be 1.2 stellar magnitudes. Zenith skyglow estimates from the “First World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness” are tested using a subset of the GLOBE at Night data. Although we find the World Atlas overestimates sky brightness in the very center of large cities, its predictions for Milky Way visibility are accurate.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Geography, Eye, Lighting, Light pollution, Milky Way, Observational astronomy


Since the 1970s nighttime satellite images of the Earth from space have provided a striking illustration of the extent of artificial light. Meanwhile, growing awareness of adverse impacts of artificial light at night on scientific astronomy, human health, ecological processes and aesthetic enjoyment of the night sky has led to recognition of light pollution as a significant global environmental issue. Links between economic activity, population growth and artificial light are well documented in rapidly developing regions. Applying a novel method to analysis of satellite images of European nighttime lights over 15 years, we show that while the continental trend is towards increasing brightness, some economically developed regions show more complex patterns with large areas decreasing in observed brightness over this period. This highlights that opportunities exist to constrain and even reduce the environmental impact of artificial light pollution while delivering cost and energy-saving benefits.

Concepts: Scientific method, Light, Economics, Lighting, Light pollution, Night, Economy, Night sky


Artificial skyglow is constantly growing on a global scale, with potential ecological consequences ranging up to affecting biodiversity. To understand these consequences, worldwide mapping of skyglow for all weather conditions is urgently required. In particular, the amplification of skyglow by clouds needs to be studied, as clouds can extend the reach of skyglow into remote areas not affected by light pollution on clear nights. Here we use commercial digital single lens reflex cameras with fisheye lenses for all-sky photometry. We track the reach of skyglow from a peri-urban into a remote area on a clear and a partly cloudy night by performing transects from the Spanish town of Balaguer towards Montsec Astronomical Park. From one single all-sky image, we extract zenith luminance, horizontal and scalar illuminance. While zenith luminance reaches near-natural levels at 5 km distance from the town on the clear night, similar levels are only reached at 27 km on the partly cloudy night. Our results show the dramatic increase of the reach of skyglow even for moderate cloud coverage at this site. The powerful and easy-to-use method promises to be widely applicable for studies of ecological light pollution on a global scale also by non-specialists in photometry.

Concepts: Light pollution, Reach, Camera, Digital single-lens reflex camera, Single-lens reflex camera, Cloud, Twin-lens reflex camera