All these benefits can only be achieved using the right light source with the right quality. Poor quality lighting, both traditional and LED, can have various negative consequences on the well-being and comfort of both nature and people. Among these drawbacks are increased light pollution and sky glow, discomfort of residents in cities caused by glare, harsh and uncontrolled lighting, and the negative impact on biodiversity.
This article explores the latter topic: the consequences of artificial lighting on biodiversity; in particular on birds and bats. It describes measures that need to be put in place to ensure that these animals are not disturbed by artificial lighting during feeding, migration and general behavior.
The impact of artificial light on birds
In recent years, ecologists have conducted extensive research to show that bright lights attract and disorient birds, disrupting their flight paths. One aspect they have been able to show is that bird migration is disturbed near to high-intensity urban light installations and offshore sites, among other places. As a result, birds spend extra time flying around the light source, using up valuable energy resources instead of making progress on their migration routes. Consequently, many birds may not survive their arduous journey, or have less chance of breeding successfully at their destination.
To gather more knowledge about the phenomenon and potentially find a solution, Philips Lighting conducted their own research. To study the autumnal bird migration, a 9-month field study on coastal areas was followed up by research on an offshore platform in the North Sea. As part of this research, light sources on an offshore gas production platform were replaced by a specially developed light spectrum.
During the study, different species of birds were observed under different weather conditions. Birds were also counted at the ringing stations on nearby islands. The results, compared with historical data, clearly showed that when the conventional lamp source was replaced with a dedicated light spectrum, the number of birds circulating around the light source reduced significantly. Click here to download the white paper to read more about the methodology used and the primary results obtained.
Based on the outcome of this research, Philips Lighting designed a new light spectrum which does not distract birds during migration. It is designed to be placed on large lighted objects in dark surroundings, such as offshore installations, remote harbor or port installations, and certain city skyscrapers. While significantly reducing the nocturnal activities of birds, the light still provides sufficient light for people’s safety and comfort.
Putting a light recipe into practice on Ameland
Ameland is an island off the north coast of the Netherlands. It is located in the Wadden Sea, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ameland is the breeding ground and wintering area for 10-12 million birds per year. The island has a clear vision towards sustainability and intends to become CO2 neutral in the near future. This vision includes creating a livable space for citizens and wildlife. Realizing the importance of minimizing the effect of artificial lighting on nature, the municipality requested Philips Lighting to find the most sustainable lighting solution for the island. This proved to be a special light recipe to reduce the negative impact of lighting on birds and ensure smooth bird migration. Click here to read the case study.