Humans are diurnal creatures and we carry light into darkness. In my area of New Mexico, where astronomers can still find dark skies, the fight against badly-designed artificial lights is on-going. But, while artificial light can disturb human sleep cycles, it’s generally a good thing for us. That’s not true for all animals. And now a study shows it affects plants, too.
You may know that artificial lights change the behavior of bats and sea turtles, but trees in cities are leafing out earlier thanks to night-time light. Scientists in the UK collected citizen observations of nearly 42,000 individual trees of four species, and satellite data on light intensity. After controlling for temperature and urban heat-trapping, they found three of the tree species budded earlier when exposed to nighttime lights.
It’s not clear whether this change hurts or helps other creatures, but it’s a fascinating study.
Thanks to researcher Richard ffrench-Constant, an etymologist at the University of Exeter, and livescience.com