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Switching Street Lights Off At Midnight May Help Nocturnal Insect Pollinators

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Switching off the street lights does not just help save money and energy. Findings of a new research showed this could also boost pollination at night.

Moths

In the research published in the journal Ecosphere, researchers found that turning off the lights even for just part of the night can effectively restore the natural behavior of moths.

Moths help in pollinating plants, which include key food crops such as soybean, peas, and rapeseed. Studies have also shown that these nocturnal insects supplement the work done by bees and other pollinating insects during the day.

Night light pollution, however, disrupts nocturnal pollination of these insects.

Lights attract moths away from the fields, leaving them with less time for feeding and pollinating. Simply switching off the light at midnight, however, appears to help boost pollination at night.

In their new study, study researcher Callum Macgregor, from the University of York, and colleagues, looked at the impact of different scenarios on the pollination of moth-pollinated flowers placed underneath street lights.

The researchers compared pollination when light runs all night, switched off at midnight, or in natural darkness.

They found that full-night light caused the most ecological disruption regardless of the type of light used. They also noticed that in part-night scenarios, the disruption to pollination of the plants was minimal relative to full darkness.

"Our study suggests that turning off street lights in the middle of the night is a win-win scenario, saving energy and money for local authorities whilst simultaneously helping our nocturnal wildlife," Macgregor said.

Other Effects Of Artificial Light At Night

Earlier studies have already shown the unwanted effects of light pollution. In a 2018 study, researchers found a link between high levels of nighttime light and steep decline in the population of flying insects.

Even humans are at risk of the ill effects of light pollution. A 2016 study found that people living in urban areas where there is strong outdoor lighting are more likely to have less than six hours of sleep at night compared with their peers who live in areas with less intense night lights.

The new study shows light pollution may even indirectly impact our food supply.

"Street lighting could affect plant reproduction through indirect effects mediated by nocturnal insects, and further highlight the possibility for novel lighting technologies to mitigate the effects of [artificial light at night] on ecosystems," the researchers wrote in their study.

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