World Migratory Bird Day illuminates the dark side of light pollution — Global Issues

The theme is the focus of World Migratory Bird Day, celebrated this Saturday, April 14, under the theme “Dim the lights of birds at night”.

Light pollution is on the rise, with artificially lit outdoor areas increasing by 2.2% a year from 2012 to 2016, according to a study cited by the Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), a UN environmental treaty.

Currently, it is estimated that more than 80% of the world’s population lives under an “illuminated sky”, and the figure is close to 99% in Europe and North America.

Changing natural patterns

“Natural darkness has a conservation value in the same way as clean water, air and soil.. One of the main goals of World Migratory Bird Day 2022 is to raise awareness of the issue of light pollution and its negative impacts on migratory birds,” said Amy Fraenkel, CMS Executive Secretary.

Artificial light alters the natural patterns of light and dark in ecosystems and contributes to the death of millions of birds each year.

Light pollution can cause birds to change their migration patterns, foraging behaviors and vocal communication, resulting in disorientation and collisions.

disorientation and death

Migratory birds are attracted to artificial light at night – particularly when there are low cloud conditions, fog, rain or when flying at lower altitudes – attracting them to dangers in cities.

Birds become disoriented and, as a result, may end up circling in brightly lit areas. With their energy reserves depleted, they risk exhaustion, or worse.

“Many nocturnal migratory birds such as ducks, geese, plovers, sandpipers and songbirds are affected by light pollution, causing disorientation and collisions with fatal consequences,” said Jacques Trouviliez, executive secretary of the Afro-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) , another UN treaty. .

“Seabirds such as petrels and shearwaters are attracted to artificial lights on land and become prey for mice and cats.”

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safer skies

Two years ago, CMS countries endorsed guidelines on light pollution that cover sea turtles, seabirds and migratory shorebirds.

The recommendations call for Environmental Impact Assessments to be carried out for projects that could result in light pollution.

Projects must consider the main sources of light pollution at a given location, the wild species likely to be affected, and facts about proximity to important habitats and migratory routes.

New guidelines focused on migratory land birds and bats are being developed and will be presented for adoption at a CMS conference next year.

Solutions to light pollution are readily available, said Ms. Frankel. More and more cities around the world are taking steps to dim buildings during the spring and autumn migration phases, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

call to action

World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated twice a year, on the second Saturday in May and October, in recognition of the cyclical nature of bird migration and the different peak migration periods in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

It is organized by a collaborative partnership between the two UN wildlife treaties and the non-profit Environment for the Americas (EFTA).

“World Migratory Bird Day is a call to action for the conservation of international migratory birds,” said Susan Bonfield, Director of EFTA.

“As the migratory birds journey across borders, inspiring and connecting people along the way, it is our goal to use the two days in 2022 to raise awareness of the threat of light pollution and the importance of dark skies for migration of birds. birds.”

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