Light Pollution in the Night Sky: Effects of Extraneous Human-created Light on Seabirds
Extraneous unpurposed human-created light is perturbing the basic light-dark cycle in which all life on earth evolved. The consequences for plants, fishes, reptiles, birds and mammals, including humans are profound. This presentation focuses on the influences of anthropogenic light on marine birds. Birds are attracted and disoriented by extraneous lighting along coastlines, from vessels and from offshore hydrocarbon platforms. Among avian taxa, shearwaters and petrels are species at highest risk. Leach’s Storm-Petrels, the smallest and most abundant breeding seabird in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, have experienced massive population declines that are attributed to light-induced strandings and other factors. I will overview experiments that we are running in coastal areas and on fishing vessels to measure light attraction and its associated injury and mortality owing to collisions and predation. The goal of the research is to reduce light pollution which continues to increase exponentially and unsustainably. While the effects of light pollution are reversible, the minimal conservation efforts made to date are far outweighed by the ongoing illumination of the night sky.