Birds attracted by the glow of artificial light at night are drawn into areas where they are exposed to higher concentrations of airborne toxic chemicals, according to researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
What to Know
Migratory birds that spend the winter along the Gulf of Mexico, especially in Texas and Louisiana, are being exposed to higher concentrations of airborne toxic chemicals during the long nonbreeding season, which makes up the largest portion of these species’ annual life cycles.
Birds attracted by the glow of artificial light at night are drawn into areas where they are exposed to higher concentrations of airborne toxic chemicals.
Light pollution increases exposure of birds to toxic chemicals when they stop to rest during spring and fall migration. Long-term exposure to toxic chemicals can interfere with cell and organ function, which can carry over by transfer of chemicals from a nesting female to her eggs.
Pollution has caused some species of night-migrating songbirds to stop migrating, change migration altitude, or alter their course.
Reducing light pollution during the spring and autumn would improve survival and reproductive success of migrating birds, but it would have no effect on the long-term exposure that occurs along the Gulf Coast of the US, a region that could be a significant source of toxic chemical contamination for North American birds.
This is a summary of the article, “Light Pollution Enhances Ground-Level Exposure to Airborne Toxic Chemicals for Nocturnally Migrating Passerines,” published by Global Change Biology on October 25, 2022. The full article can be found on onlinelibrary.wiley.com.
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