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The Dark Side of Light: A Transdisciplinary Research Agenda for Light Pollution Policy

Franz Hölker, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin
Timothy Moss, Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning, Erkner
Barbara Griefahn, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, Dortmund
Werner Kloas, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin
Christian C. Voigt, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin
Dietrich Henckel, Technische Universität Berlin, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Andreas Hänel, Dark Sky Germany, Museum am Schölerberg, Osnabrück
Peter M. Kappeler, Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen
Stephan Völker, Technische Universität Berlin, Department of Energy and Automation Technology, Berlin
Axel Schwope, Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam
Steffen Franke, Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology, Greifswald
Dirk Uhrlandt, Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology, Greifswald
Jürgen Fischer, Freie Universität Berlin, Institute for Space Sciences
Reinhard Klenke, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ, Leipzig
Christian Wolter, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin
Klement Tockner, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin; Freie Universität Berlin, Institute for Biology

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Abstract

Although the invention and widespread use of artificial light is clearly one of the most important human technological advances, the transformation of nightscapes is increasingly recognized as having adverse effects. Night lighting may have serious physiological consequences for humans, ecological and evolutionary implications for animal and plant populations, and may reshape entire ecosystems. However, knowledge on the adverse effects of light pollution is vague. In response to climate change and energy shortages, many countries, regions, and communities are developing new lighting programs and concepts with a strong focus on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. Given the dramatic increase in artificial light at night (0 - 20% per year, depending on geographic region), we see an urgent need for light pollution policies that go beyond energy efficiency to include human well-being, the structure and functioning of ecosystems, and inter-related socioeconomic consequences. Such a policy shift will require a sound transdisciplinary understanding of the significance of the night, and its loss, for humans and the natural systems upon which we depend. Knowledge is also urgently needed on suitable lighting technologies and concepts which are ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable. Unless managing darkness becomes an integral part of future conservation and lighting policies, modern society may run into a global self-experiment with unpredictable outcomes.

Key words

artificial light; energy efficiency; lighting concept; light pollution; nightscape; policy; sustainability; transdisciplinary
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087