Light pollution is defined as the alteration of naturally occurring light levels during the night environment by artificial lighting: Marine Sciences Dissertation, USM, Malaysia

University Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
Subject Marine Sciences

Light pollution is defined as the alteration of naturally occurring light levels during the night environment by artificial lighting (Cinzano et al., 2001) and is one of the least known pollutions in public perception. We tend to associate light as a positive sign and regard light as our friend. That is why it had received very little attention from the scientific community. During the day, we are covered with bright sunlight; but during the night, we need to use illumination light as our naked eyes can detect photons and wavelengths of ‘visible light’ to navigate around (Sliney, 2002).

Light pollution during the day is largely minimal and overshadowed by the more powerful sunlight, thus it is negligible to most organisms. Light pollution at night is more prominent with the invention and prevalent usage of light-emitting diode (LED) lamps and electric light. 70% of the entire world and 99% of the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) are affected by light pollution (Cinzano et al., 2001).

This lighting technology greatly enhanced our economic viability and general safety at night, but it comes with environmental costs. Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) had serious adverse effects on human, ecological, and evolutionary repercussions for populations of animals and plants and has the potential to change the entire ecosystem (Hölker et al., 2010).

The exact negative impacts of light pollution on marine animals, however, are not well studied and remain vague. There is some exception for it, for instance – Sea Turtle (Tuxbury & Salmon, 2005), Seal (Yurk & Trites, 2000), and White Shark (Neil Hammerschlag et al., 2014).

Previous studies prove that Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) will affect single marine organisms. But so far, the knowledge of how light pollution affects entire benthic ecosystems remains unclear. There is an international student-training program called Globular Approach Modular Experiment (GAME) that is based in Kiel, Germany and is very interested in how exactly benthic ecosystems will respond to Artificial Light at Night (ALAN). In 2021, a group of students from GAME 2021 had already done research on the influence of ALAN on sea urchins. I am a participant in GAME 2022, in which I will explore the effect of ALAN on the filtration and activity pattern of the mussels.

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