A new study from the University of Exeter found that light emitting diode (LED) lighting may be causing major impacts on wildlife as more streetlights are converted to the energy-saving technology.
The study found that predatory spiders and beetles were drawn to grassland patches lit by LED lighting at night but that the number of species affected was reduced when the lights were dimmed by 50% and switched off between midnight and 4 a.m.
Forecasts for LED lighting call for the technology to make up 69% of the global lighting market by the year 2020. This has led to concern not only on how the lighting impacts humans but also its effects on plants and animals. Researchers at Exeter believe more study is urgently needed in order to prevent possible ecological impacts.
“We are making fundamental changes to the way we light the night-time environment, with potentially profound consequences for a range of species,” said Dr. Thomas Davies, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter. “Our research shows that local authorities might be able to manage LED lighting in a way that reduces its environmental impacts. We now need to establish whether this is the case for a greater variety of species.”
According to Davies, without management of LED lighting, the potential for massive changes to species in the grassland food-webs might occur as it impacts predatory invertebrates.
The study looked at lighting strategies being used by local authorities to save money and cut CO2 emissions, including changing the spectrum of colors produced by the lights, dimming them and completely switching them off during the early morning hours.
“While these approaches helped to reduce the number of ground dwelling spider and beetle species affected by LED lighting to varying degrees, our study also shows that avoiding these impacts may ultimately require avoiding the use of LEDs and night-time lighting more generally,” Davies said.