Animals make our lives so rich, but it’s not always easy living alongside them. It seems that no matter our best intentions, inevitably, our actions cause them harm, and it is up to those of us who care about the future of the planet to try and make amends.
Sometimes, our activities can impact their natural behaviors – it might be beneficial, such as teaching wild birds to make use of the feeders in our garden that naturally they wouldn’t come across, for example – but often it can be damaging, and it is important we recognize that even if we have good intentions we may need to make some changes. One prime example of how our actions impact wildlife comes in the form of light pollution.
Our Bright Lights and Busy Lifestyle Mess With Birds
Most of us lead pretty hectic lifestyles, and as a result, it’s not uncommon in some of the larger towns and cities to have streetlights on all hours of the day and night. Bright neon signs draw customers in, even if it’s the middle of the night and not many of us are about; shop lights are left on overnight so late night shoppers can see what’s in store the next day. The obvious downside to this is that using all this electricity is pretty expensive and unnecessary, but there is one problem that not many people consider. The bright lights alter the internal biological clocks of birds and other daytime animals, as night effectively becomes day again.
This wreaks havoc with animals – they stop nesting and begin to forage, or they sing all through the night, and sometimes it even prevents them from mating. Nocturnal animals stay asleep all through the night, unable to fly or feed in the harsh lights, and scared away by the confused birdsong of their daytime cousins.
By daytime, the songbirds are so exhausted from defending their territory all night (by singing), that they lack the energy needed to forage, tend to their young, mate, or defend their patch all over again, which is a serious problem for their survival. One experiment showed that male blackbirds did not develop reproductive organs when they were exposed for two years to light at night.
Other animals are affected by light pollution too – frogs stop mating when bright lights from stadiums and other sources switch on; salmon are found to be swimming far too early into the sea which can affect their survival rate, and monarch butterflies become disorientated by the bulbs and their migration patterns are disrupted.
Toning Down the Blinding Impact
We can help our struggling wildlife by urging our local councils to consider the effects of light pollution next time they wish to leave the lights on. For those instances where we are unable to do much about lights left on, we can help protect wildlife by urging for shaded streetlamps to be used – this stops the light flooding the street and thus allows the pavement to be well-lit but not overly bright.
We can educate ourselves and each other about the negative impact lights have on the animals, and pledge to switch them off when we are not using them, as well as to remove nocturnal lamps we may have in our garden for decoration; motion-sensing lights can be used as a crime preventative instead. Installing reflectors instead of lights along our driveways or other parts of our property can allow extra visibility without the harmful light pollution.
We Can All Make a Difference
These are only two examples of how or daily activities can impact wild animals, but each has a profound impact on the animals we share the planet with. By understanding how our daily actions take a toll on wildlife populations, we can begin to foster more harmonious relationships with them – for all of our benefit!
Image source: Barbar141/Flickr