Scientists say that light pollution in Britain is causing among other things an early spring season that arrives a week before its due date of onset.
A recent study has shown that light pollution from artificial and man-made luminescence is causing an early spring in the UK. This study revealed that buds burst open in the trees about a week earlier in regions that were all lit up.
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Those flora that bud later on were the most deeply affected by this phenomenon. Light pollution also has an impact on animal behavior. Yet this is the first time that the effect of light pollution on plant dynamics is being studied.
This study is a result of a long term collaboration with independent environmental consultants Spalding Associates, in Truro. These consultants use the data that was collected by citizen scientists from across the UK. Actually Woodland Trust asked them to collect this data. So the citizen scientists note down when they first saw sycamore, oak, ash and beech trees in leaf as part of the charity's Nature's Calendar initiative.
The research team analysed this, information, correlated with satellite images of artificial lighting. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that buds were bursting by up to 7.5 days earlier in brighter areas and that the effect was larger in later budding trees.
The early bud bursting has inadvertent effects on the lives of insects and birds living in close conjunction with these trees that sprout in spring. The lead scientist who spearheaded the study spoke of how greater awareness needed to be generated regarding night-time light pollution and the havoc it wreaks on plant phenology.
Since all species are dependent upon each other in the food webs that Nature has constructed in all its infinite wisdom, the impact of light pollution is not something to be taken lightly.
Each type of man-made light has its own wavelength and they all have different consequences for plants and animals. The study examined the interaction of these natural and man-made phenomena over a period of time spanning more than a dozen years. The trees that got examined included: the sycamore, oak, ash and beech tree.
"Our finding that the timing of bud burst of woodland tree species may be affected by light pollution suggests that smaller plants growing below the height of street lights are even more likely to be affected," said Professor Richard ffrench-Constant of the department of the department of Biosciences based at the University's Penryn campus.
"Such results highlight the need to carry out experimental investigation into the impact of artificial night-time lighting on phenology and species interactions."
Behavioural ecologist Peter McGregor, of the Centre for Applied Zoology at Cornwall College Newquay, said: "This study also shows that we can use citizen science in a meaningful way and that it has a real role to play in research that can have a meaningful impact."
Adrian Spalding of Spalding Associates in Truro is one of the leading experts on moths in Britain. He said, "This study shows the importance of collaborative research between business and academia to address our real concerns of the effect of lighting on plants and animals and the importance of managing light levels in our urban environment in a sustainable way."
The surge in urbanization has put a hex on Nature’s pristine ways. We all know that Nature is never wrong. Some of these consequences have been unintended yet they are very real in the marks they leave behind on the delicate and fragile environment.
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Seasonal changes are going haywire. The weather is becoming more and more unpredictable as climate change comes of age. The natural wildlife can only take this assault upto a certain extent before it finally gives in. So it is left to human beings as conscious denizens of a small planet to act as stewards for the plants and animals that cannot assert their point of view. It is we who have to see that the natural is left intact and in as normal a manner as possible. It is the context in which we human beings are firmly imbedded too. When we harm Nature, we harm ourselves as well.