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Study: Light pollution disorients nocturnal animals

Many species of nocturnal fauna use the light of the moon and stars for orientation in space. Scientists from Bangor and Plymouth Universities presented a study that demonstrates that light pollution prevents animals from moving in search of food, shelter or partners.

Currently, 80% of the world's population lives in places where the sky is polluted by artificial light. 33% of earthlings do not have the opportunity to observe the Milky Way. Light pollution contributes to the development of sleep disorders, depression, obesity, as well as breast and prostate cancer in people.

The researchers report that even a slight change in light levels at night leads to adjustments in the behavior of animals whose lifestyle is caused by the dark time of day. For example, dung beetles become disoriented while moving across the landscape due to light pollution, as they navigate by the stars.

This factor also affects the interaction of species with each other. Some insects, such as moths, become vulnerable to predators due to their reduced ability to evade attacks.

Clownfish have breeding problems, as darkness is required for the eggs to hatch. Due to light pollution, some other fish remain active at night, they leave their hiding places and become prey to predators. This effect was manifested as a result of light entering, which is produced by coastal houses, boats, harbors. A quarter of the world's coastline is subject to artificial skyglow that extends hundreds of kilometers into the ocean.

For human vision, the effect of light pollution is negligible, but for marine and coastal organisms, it changes the perception of the night sky and corrects the behavior of fauna.

The researchers cited the example of the crustacean Talitrus saltator, which uses the moon to navigate its foraging trips. During the day, they spend time burrowing into the sand, and during the dark period of the day, arthropods go to feed on rotting algae thrown ashore. Previously, scientists managed to recreate the artificial glow of the moon in the range of Talitrus saltator for 19 days, the researchers found that their experiment led to a change in the behavior of crustaceans. Arthropods began to make the decision to get food randomly, and sometimes they completely missed the opportunity to eat.

The use of the moon and stars as landmarks is traditional for a wide range of marine and terrestrial animals, including seals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other organisms. Scientists note that every year the nights on Earth are only getting brighter due to an increase in the number of artificially lit open spaces.

Last spring, astronomers from the Canary Institute of Astrophysics recorded the lowest level of light pollution in the Canary Islands. The background lighting there is about 2% of the light produced by the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in Garafia.

Study: Light pollution disorients nocturnal animals