When Fountain Hills was designated as the world’s 17th Dark Sky Community in January 2018, the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association committed to educating residents about the importance of protecting our night sky.
Many people don’t realize how much light pollution radically alters the nighttime environment in a way that harms the local wildlife. Prey species use the darkness as cover to protect them from predators. Light pollution upsets the delicate balance between predator and prey and disrupts nocturnal activity, interfering with reproduction and reducing populations.
One example of how devastating light pollution can be on a species is the sea turtle population. Sea turtles hatch on the beach at night and the hatchlings find the ocean by detecting the bright, moonlit horizon. Artificial lights confuse them, drawing them away from the water. Millions die this way every year in Florida alone.
Migrating birds navigate by moonlight. Artificial light causes them to wander off course and fly into lit buildings and other structures, ending their lives in an instant. The lights also cause them to miss important seasonal cues, which results in migrating too early or too late, setting off a fatal chain reaction.
Declining insect populations are due in part to the fatal attraction to artificial light. Since everything is connected in an ecosystem, the loss of insects affects all species that rely on them for food.
When Fountain Hills updated its lighting code to maintain Dark Sky-friendly lighting, it provided for better protection for our local species.
The good news is that we don’t have to get rid of all artificial lighting to make a big difference in the health of our local wildlife. There are three easy things you can do on the exterior of your home to further protect the desert critters and plants.
- Fully shield your exterior lights so they point down to the exact spots that need to be lit. This prevents light from spilling over your entire yard and keeps light from shining upward where it is wasted and harms nocturnal and migrating birds.
- Use a warmer colored light, such as amber or red. These produce longer light wavelengths which are gentler on human, plant, and animal health.
- Turn off lights after you turn in for the evening. Instead, use timers and/or motion-sensing lights. Studies continue to show that bright light does not reduce crime, but rather aids the criminal in being able to commit their crime faster.
For more information, visit https://www.darksky.org/light-pollution/wildlife/.