Meaningful Actions against Biodiversity Loss: Lights Out for Bugs and Birds
A Wildlife Article from

FROM Dr. Gala Argent, Animals & Society Institute
September 2021

Remember the summer splats of bugs on our car windshields that prompted vigorous and frequent windshield washing? Today, our windscreens are disturbingly clean. . . . Light pollution has also been shown to disrupt birds’ sleep, singing behavior, and reproductive physiology and molt activity.

Animals & Society

It’s easy to understand how biodiversity loss, like many impacts of anthropogenic change, has sneaked up on many of us in our home environments. Certainly we are aware of news and research about species frailty and ecosystem ruin. Yet compared to these seemingly more-rapid transformations in distant ecosystems, it’s often difficult to notice incremental changes where we live. It often takes casting back to an earlier time to identify the differences between then and now.

For instance, many of us can recall—as does biology professor Dave Goulson in a recent op-ed in the Guardian—the summer splats of bugs on our car windshields that prompted vigorous and frequent windshield washing. “Today, our windscreens are disturbingly clean,” Goulson notes. For me, the gap of decades I spent in California before returning to the Midwest allowed me to notice what seems like a huge decline in lightning bugs (AKA: “fireflies” in other parts of the US), something I might not have noted had I not left.

Last month I made the link between biodiversity loss, pandemics and the climate emergency and provided actions we can do to help in our own home environments. I discussed how the western fixation with turf lawns contributes to the “insect apocalypse,” and how converting monoculture lawns (or portions of them) to native plants for these animals can help with biodiversity loss. Here I expand upon actions we—both individually and collectively—can take that are both personally rewarding and do make a difference.

In addition to reducing the damage caused by diminished habitat through regenerative plant management (or non-management) on the ground, another action we can all take deals with a threat that is far less intangible, dramatically increasing, and largely unrecognized: light pollution. The use of artificial light at night (ALAN) has detrimental impacts on insects. One study evaluated the impact of light intensity and sky quality at night on insect diversity in rural and urban areas of Saudi Arabia, concluding “excessive ALAN and poor sky quality at night disrupt insect biodiversity.” A 2021 UK study found just how much disruption ALAN can cause: street lighting strongly reduced moth caterpillar abundance by 43% in hedgerows and 33% in grass margins.



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