The costs and benefits of artificial light

Gaston, K.J., Gaston, S., Bennie, J. & Hopkins, J. (2015) Benefits and costs of artificial nighttime lighting of the environment. Environmental Reviews 23, 14-23.

Artificial lighting has transformed the outdoor nighttime environment over large areas, modifying natural cycles of light in terms of timing, wavelength, and distribution. This has had widespread benefits and costs to humankind, impacting on health and wellbeing, vehicle accidents, crime, energy consumption and carbon emissions, aesthetics, and wildlife and ecosystems. Here, we review these effects, particularly in the context of ongoing developments in the extent of artificial lighting and in the prevalent technologies being employed. The key issue that emerges is how best to maximize the benefits of artificial nighttime lighting whilst limiting the costs. To do so, three main strategies are required. First, important knowledge gaps need to be filled. Second, there is an urgent need to connect the research being conducted in different disciplines, which to date has been very disjointed. Third, it is imperative that much firmer and well-developed links are made between research, policy, and practice.

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