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Light pollution offers new global measure of coral reef health
Date:11/24/2008

s are a stress in terms of changing the ecology in the environments around them," Longcore explained.

In 2002, Longcore and his colleague Catherine Rich of The Urban Wildlands Group organized a conference for scientists studying light. In 2006, Rich and Longcore co-edited a book on the subject called "Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting."

Since then, Longcore has been at the forefront of widening interest in light pollution and its effects on human and environmental health. (For example, National Geographic's cover story this month is on light pollution.)

"It used to be you couldn't find light pollution and wildlife together, except in a few white papers," Longcore said.

Increasingly, concerns about artificial lighting extend beyond star enthusiasts to environmental and human health issues, he added.

In terms of coral reefs, more research is needed on light's direct effects, but lab studies show that light can disrupt coral reproduction, which is timed to moonlight.

"Light at levels that would seem insignificant to humans can be incredibly significant to marine organisms and even terrestrial organisms," Longcore said.

As a rule of thumb, artificial light tends to benefit predators, which is why many organisms rely on darkness to maximize their odds of survival.

Light can also disrupt migration patterns of birds. In fact, Shell and Philips recently teamed up to change the lighting schemes on North Sea oilrigs for this reason.

In addition, communications towers, mainly because of their flashing lights, attract and kill about 4-5 million birds a year in North America, Longcore noted.

Yet despite its significance, light pollution is only one of many stresses facing coral reefs, which act synergistically to threaten their survival.

More on the study

The researchers used data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), which w
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Contact: Terah DeJong
tdejong@usc.edu
213-740-8606
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert  

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