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      Human alteration of natural light cycles: causes and ecological consequences

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          Abstract

          Artificial light at night is profoundly altering natural light cycles, particularly as perceived by many organisms, over extensive areas of the globe. This alteration comprises the introduction of light at night at places and times at which it has not previously occurred, and with different spectral signatures. Given the long geological periods for which light cycles have previously been consistent, this constitutes a novel environmental pressure, and one for which there is evidence for biological effects that span from molecular to community level. Here we provide a synthesis of understanding of the form and extent of this alteration, some of the key consequences for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, interactions and synergies with other anthropogenic pressures on the environment, major uncertainties, and future prospects and management options. This constitutes a compelling example of the need for a thoroughly interdisciplinary approach to understanding and managing the impact of one particular anthropogenic pressure. The former requires insights that span molecular biology to ecosystem ecology, and the latter contributions of biologists, policy makers and engineers.

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          Most cited references 163

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          Ecological light pollution

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            Domesticated nature: shaping landscapes and ecosystems for human welfare.

            Like all species, humans have exercised their impulse to perpetuate and propagate themselves. In doing so, we have domesticated landscapes and ecosystems in ways that enhance our food supplies, reduce exposure to predators and natural dangers, and promote commerce. On average, the net benefits to humankind of domesticated nature have been positive. We have, of course, made mistakes, causing unforeseen changes in ecosystem attributes, while leaving few, if any, truly wild places on Earth. Going into the future, scientists can help humanity to domesticate nature more wisely by quantifying the tradeoffs among ecosystem services, such as how increasing the provision of one service may decrease ecosystem resilience and the provision of other services.
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              The ecological impacts of nighttime light pollution: a mechanistic appraisal.

              The ecological impacts of nighttime light pollution have been a longstanding source of concern, accentuated by realized and projected growth in electrical lighting. As human communities and lighting technologies develop, artificial light increasingly modifies natural light regimes by encroaching on dark refuges in space, in time, and across wavelengths. A wide variety of ecological implications of artificial light have been identified. However, the primary research to date is largely focused on the disruptive influence of nighttime light on higher vertebrates, and while comprehensive reviews have been compiled along taxonomic lines and within specific research domains, the subject is in need of synthesis within a common mechanistic framework. Here we propose such a framework that focuses on the cross-factoring of the ways in which artificial lighting alters natural light regimes (spatially, temporally, and spectrally), and the ways in which light influences biological systems, particularly the distinction between light as a resource and light as an information source. We review the evidence for each of the combinations of this cross-factoring. As artificial lighting alters natural patterns of light in space, time and across wavelengths, natural patterns of resource use and information flows may be disrupted, with downstream effects to the structure and function of ecosystems. This review highlights: (i) the potential influence of nighttime lighting at all levels of biological organisation (from cell to ecosystem); (ii) the significant impact that even low levels of nighttime light pollution can have; and (iii) the existence of major research gaps, particularly in terms of the impacts of light at population and ecosystem levels, identification of intensity thresholds, and the spatial extent of impacts in the vicinity of artificial lights. © 2013 The Authors. Biological Reviews © 2013 Cambridge Philosophical Society.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                k.j.gaston@exeter.ac.uk
                Journal
                Oecologia
                Oecologia
                Oecologia
                Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                0029-8549
                1432-1939
                20 September 2014
                20 September 2014
                2014
                : 176
                : 4
                : 917-931
                Affiliations
                Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE UK
                Author notes

                Communicated by Nina Farwig.

                Article
                3088
                10.1007/s00442-014-3088-2
                4226844
                25239105
                © The Author(s) 2014

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.

                Categories
                Concepts, Reviews and Syntheses
                Custom metadata
                © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

                Ecology

                skyglow, day, diurnal, night, nocturnal

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