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"Starry Starry Night" Our Norfolk Skies.

Why dark skies matter

It is becoming increasingly clear that artifical light in rural areas is harmful to wildlife.  One simple thing we can do to help struggling wildlife is ensure that we don't light up the sky unnecessarily.  Of course, people are security conscious and for peace of mind will want their property to be clearly lit if ever an anxious moment arises.  However,  MOVEMENT-sensitive lights will throw light when it is needed, but then switch off automatically, thus saving your bills and minimising the light we emit.

2023.04.Night sky.Photo C SharpNight sky, Forncett. Photo: Carol Sharp

Many creatures are nocturnal and the invasion of their world by night lighting has consequences which are harmful.  Living things have evolved over millions of years within a day/night cycle.  The damage, to mating rituals, reproduction, feeding, shelter, hibernation and so on, affects birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and amphibians. 

Many songbirds have evolved to migrate during the hours of darkness when there are fewer predators about.  They can be woken too early and will sing before dawn, disrupting their entire day. Shorter periods of darkness means less time for hunting.  Bats can no longer use the roosts their ancestors used. We are privileged in Forncett to be home to the rare Barbastelle bat and this gives us a particular responsibility.

Wildlife corridors can be disrupted by even a single light.  This means creatures are unable to travel across landscapes in search of food.  Similarly, natural habitats are adversely affected by just one light at the margin.  Scientists are discovering now that plant growth is compromised by light pollution. (Journal of Ecology) Insects, which are declining at an alarming rate are harmed too; artificial light will present a barrier to flight.  Many moths navigate at night and become disorientated by artificial light, wasting energy and increasing their risks of predation.

Only 15% of Great Britain's skies retain their starry beauty, unpolluted by the growing tide of 'skyglow'.  This loss of one of the world's greatest natural beauties is sad for us and for our children:  shockingly, many children have never seen The Milky Way!  

Here are some things  that we can do at home:

The RIGHT light, directed downwards where needed and enclosed. Hoods can be fitted.

Use white energy efficient LED lights.  They give less glare than orange or pink sodium lights.

Turn off lights wherever possible.

KEEP lights away from wildlife habitats

Be eco-aware and share your knowledge

It is worth noting that we, mankind, are among the creatures affected by loss of night light.  Because all life on earth is regulated by circadian rhythms of light and dark, loss of deep darkness during the night means our sleep will be poorer and this will lead to lack of alertness and creativity and  poor cognitive health.  So, dark skies really do matter.

Refs:

'Nature Needs the Night'  by Catherine Reich and Travis Longcore

'The Effect of Artificial Light on Birds and Wildlife'  Monique  Cousineau

 

April 2023

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