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

The theme is the central theme of World Migratory Bird Day, which is celebrated this Saturday, April 14, under the slogan “Turn off the lights for the birds at night.”

Light pollution is on the rise, with artificially lit outdoor areas rising 2.2 percent per year between 2012 and 2016, according to a study cited by the Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an environmental treaty. from the ONU.

Currently, it is estimated that more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives under a “lit sky,” with the figure approaching 99 percent in Europe and North America.

Alteration of natural patterns

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

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

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

disorientation and death

Migratory birds are attracted to artificial light at night, especially when there are low clouds, fog, rain or when they are flying at lower altitudes, drawing them towards the dangers of cities.

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

“Many nocturnal migratory birds, such as ducks, geese, plovers, sandpipers and songbirds, are affected by light pollution, leading to disorientation and fatal collisions,” said Jacques Trouvilliez, executive secretary of the African Waterfowl Agreement. and Eurasia (AEWA), another UN treaty. .

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

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safer skies

Two years ago, countries that are part of CMS approved light pollution guidelines covering 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 site, wildlife species likely to be affected, and data on proximity to important habitats and migration routes.

New guidelines focusing on migratory landbirds and bats are currently being developed and will be presented for adoption at a CMS conference next year.

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

call to action

World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated twice a year, on the second Saturday of 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 organization 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 migratory birds journey across borders, inspiring and connecting people along the way, we aim to use the two days of 2022 to raise awareness of the threat of light pollution and the importance of dark skies.” for bird migrations.

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