How Light Pollution is Confusing Our Trees #CitizenScience

I’m definitely one of those people that watches how many devices are turned on around bedtime, since it has been proven lights can affect sleep. So, when I saw this post on Science Alert about the latest on light pollution in the UK, I wasn’t really surprised. Basically urban lights are linked to trees budding, making spring arrive almost a week earlier. This seems rather insignificant, but scientists are expecting a ripple effect on wildlife, adding to the already confusing state of mother nature with climate change.

Data was provided by The Woodland Trust, as part of their Nature’s Calendar initiative, a citizen science project allowing people to record events in nature such as the song of thrush or the first ripe blackberries. It’s a great collaboration allowing for some beautiful wallpapers and calendars, as well as pertinent data. In this case, tree budding was the topic.

In the new study, 13 years’ worth of data was examined, with ‘citizen scientists’ playing an important role by volunteering to make records of when they first spotted leaves on sycamore, oak, ash, and beech trees.

For now they are emphasizing that this is a link to the tree budding, but not necessarily the cause, so there is an opportunity for communities to learn more about the issue.

“This has got to be bad for nature, particularly because of the knock-on effects,”explained one of the leaders of the research team, Richard Ffrench-Constant from the University of Exeter. “A positive from this research is that we found red lighting to be particularly culpable for this effect. We may now have the opportunity to create ‘smart lighting’ that is kinder to nature.”

How we handle future lighting for our planet is a major concern, especially with the development of LEDs. Recently a “New World Atlas of Light Pollution” has been in the news, created by researchers from Italy, Germany, Israel and the USA. These researchers believe that if controls are not set for levels and color temperature that there may be a 2-3 fold increase in sky glow. That would be a shame, because there is nothing cooler than seeing the Milk Way on a clear night. Have you ever had the amazing experience? If not, you should visit a planetarium or build your own mini light show with our Gakken Pinhole Planetarium. With one small light bulb you can create the stars of the Northern Hemisphere on your ceiling and walls. Have fun exploring the night sky!


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