Impacts of LED Lighting on Wildlife
Results From Exeter University Three-Year Study
Researchers from the UK-based University of Exeter advise caution when using LED lighting at night. A three-year study that was recently published in the journal Global Change Biology found that LED lighting can have negative impacts on wildlife.
The study observed grassland ecosystems that had previously not had any artificial light exposure. The researchers placed LEDs in those areas and manipulated the color spectrum, dimmed the lights, or switched them off entirely from midnight to 4 a.m.
The areas exposed to standard white LEDs saw an increase in the number of predatory spiders and beetles. When the LEDs were dimmed or their color was changed, the number of species affected was reduced. The biggest impact, however, came from a combination of dimming the lights 50 percent and turning them off completely between midnight and 4 a.m., but even with this reduction, two common species were still impacted.
When predatory insects, such as the spiders and beetles observed in this study, are more prevalent, other species in the food chain are also affected, as the balance between predator and prey is disrupted.
The best course of action to mitigate a potentially negative impact on wildlife may be to just eliminate night lighting in certain areas until further research can be conducted. "These results suggest that while management strategies using LEDs can be an effective means of reducing the number of taxa affected, averting the ecological impacts of nighttime lighting may ultimately require avoiding its use altogether," the study concludes.