Study into the effects of artificial lights on seabirds

Westland petrel, nzbirdsonline, Patrick Shortley cWhile light pollution is a growing concern around the world, a wide ranging three year study funded by the European Union, including a “global review of seabird mortality in relation to land-based artificial lights” has identified ways to minimise the negative effect of artificial lights on penguins and shearwaters.

This information could be the precursor to create dark reserves to retain natural night sky conditions for the benefit of seabirds as well as scientific endeavour and our own enjoyment.

Comparisons were made during the study of the condition of fledgling birds observed over three different areas, one of which was an artificially lit roadway. The report concluded that management and conservation efforts should be directed to reducing light pollution, particularly in areas of shearwater colonies.  The same applies to Westland petrel colonies here on the West Coast, where these precious birds, particularly fledglings, are often disoriented by lights. They can come down on roads and have then been killed by unsuspecting motorists who don’t see these black birds in the darkness.

The findings from this study are useful to WCPT in relation not only to the petrels and shearwaters, but also to penguins, which were found to have larger colonies where light pollution was least.

Effects of lights on seabirds March 2017 (extracts)

[Photo: borrowed from nzbirdsonline, Patrick Shortley]