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Disruption of ecosystems

When artificial light affects organisms and ecosystems it is called ecological light pollution. While light at night can be beneficial, neutral, or damaging for individual species, its presence invariably disturbs ecosystems. For example, some species of spiders avoid lit areas, while other species are happy to build their spider web directly on a lamp post. Since lamp posts attract many flying insects, the spiders that don't mind light gain an advantage over the spiders that avoid it. This is a simple example of the way in which species frequencies and food webs can be disturbed by the introduction of light at night. Light pollution poses a serious threat in particular to nocturnal wildlife, having negative impacts on plant and animal physiology. It can confuse animal navigation, alter competitive interactions, change predator-prey relations, and cause physiological harm.[46] The rhythm of life is orchestrated by the natural diurnal patterns of light and dark, so disruption to these patterns impacts the ecological dynamics.[47] Studies suggest that light pollution around lakes prevents zooplankton, such as Daphnia, from eating surface algae, helping cause algal blooms that can kill off the lakes' plants and lower water quality.[48] Light pollution may also affect ecosystems in other ways. For example, lepidopterists and entomologists have documented that nighttime light may interfere with the ability of moths and other nocturnal insects to navigate.[49] Night-blooming flowers that depend on moths for pollination may be affected by night lighting, as there is no replacement pollinator that would not be affected by the artificial light. This can lead to species decline of plants that are unable to reproduce, and change an area's longterm ecology. A 2009 study[50] also suggests deleterious impacts on animals and ecosystems because of perturbation of polarized light or artificial polarisation of light (even during the day, because direction of natural polarization of sun light and its reflexion is a source of information for a lot of animals). This form of pollution is named polarized light pollution (PLP). Unnatural polarized light sources can trigger maladaptive behaviors in polarization-sensitive taxa and alter ecological interactions.[50] Lights on tall structures can disorient migrating birds. Estimates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the number of birds killed after being attracted to tall towers range from 4 to 5 million per year to an order of magnitude higher.[51] The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) works with building owners in Toronto, Canada and other cities to reduce mortality of birds by turning out lights during migration periods. Similar disorientation has also been noted for bird species migrating close to offshore production and drilling facilities. Studies carried out by Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij b.v. (NAM) and Shell have led to development and trial of new lighting technologies in the North Sea. In early 2007, the lights were installed on the Shell production platform L15. The experiment proved a great success since the number of birds circling the platform declined by 50 to 90%.[52] Sea turtle hatchlings emerging from nests on beaches are another casualty of light pollution. It is a common misconception that hatchling sea turtles are attracted to the moon. Rather, they find the ocean by moving away from the dark silhouette of dunes and their vegetation, a behavior with which artificial lights interfere.[53] The breeding activity and reproductive phenology of toads, however, are cued by moonlight.[54] Juvenile seabirds may also be disoriented by lights as they leave their nests and fly out to sea.[55] Amphibians and reptiles are also affected by light pollution. Introduced light sources during normally dark periods can disrupt levels of melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates photoperiodic physiology and behaviour. Some species of frogs and salamanders utilize a light-dependent "compass" to orient their migratory behaviour to breeding sites. Introduced light can also cause developmental irregularities, such as retinal damage, reduced sperm production, and genetic mutation.[46][56][57][58][59][60] In September 2009, the 9th European Dark-Sky Symposium in Armagh, Northern Ireland had a session on the environmental effects of light at night (LAN). It dealt with bats, turtles, the "hidden" harms of LAN, and many other topics.[61] The environmental effects of LAN were mentioned as early as 1897, in a Los Angeles Times article—the text of which can be obtained from Dr. Travis Longcore of the Urban Wildlands Trust, California. The following is an excerpt from that article, called "Electricity and English songbirds": An English journal has become alarmed at the relation of electricity to songbirds, which it maintains is closer than that of cats and fodder crops. How many of us, it asks, foresee that electricity may extirpate the songbird?...With the exception of the finches, all the English songbirds may be said to be insectivorous, and their diet consists chiefly of vast numbers of very small insects which they collect from the grass and herbs before the dew is dry. As the electric light is finding its way for street illumination into the country parts of England, these poor winged atoms are slain by thousands at each light every warm summer evening....The fear is expressed, that when England is lighted from one end to the other with electricity the song birds will die out from the failure of their food supply