Street lighting 'alters ecosystems'

Street lighting 'alters ecosystems'

Insect ecosystems in urban areas are being altered by street lighting, according to a study.

More invertebrate scavengers and predators are making their homes near artificial lights, according to experts.

Survival rates of various species could be affected by the changes, which means mammals and birds reliant on them for food could see long-term consequences.

The market town of Helston in west Cornwall was the focus of a scientific study.

Street lamps had pitfall traps placed underneath and between them, which were set 35 metres away from each other for several days and nights.

Overall, 1,194 creatures were collected, which covered 60 different species.

A breakdown of the figures revealed that underneath street lamps, the total numbers were higher, and there was an increase in species with predatory and scavenging characteristics.

These included harvestmen and ground beetles. During the day and at night, the same patterns occurred.

The University of Exeter's Dr Tom Davies was lead researcher in the study, which was reported in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Dr Davies said: "Our study shows that light pollution could be having a dramatic effect on wildlife in our towns and cities.

"We need to be aware of how the increase in artificial lighting is impacting on the delicate ecosystems on which we all rely."

Copyright Press Association 2012