More bright light at night not a delight for Aotearoa’s plants and animals

Artificial light at night is on the increase in Aotearoa, and it has negative impacts on our native flora and fauna. By studying satellite data, researchers found that although most of New Zealand (95.2%) has no direct artificial light, the lit surface area increased by 37.4% (from 3.0% to 4.2%) between 2012 and 2021. Too much light at night can disrupt the daily routines and behaviour patterns of animals such as bats, wētā, and seabirds, and affect the growth and seasonal cycles of trees. The good news is the authors say that small changes to wavelength, timing, or lighting intensity could lessen the impact of this night-time light pollution.

Journal/conference: New Zealand Journal of Ecology

Link to research (DOI): 10.20417/nzjecol.47

Organisation/s: Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology

Funder: BF was supported by a Rutherford Postdoctoral Fellowship (RFT-22-NMI-001-PD).

Media release

From: Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology

Is light pollution in Aotearoa New Zealand affecting our native wildlife?

Artificial light at night is considered the fastest-growing pollutant worldwide.

New research from NMIT Te Pūkenga indicates light at night is growing rapidly in New Zealand. With the country in danger of losing its cloak of darkness, awareness of the environmental impact needs to be brought to light.

According to the latest study by NMIT researchers Dr. Ellen Cieraad and Dr. Bridgette Farnworth, lit surface area increased by 37 per cent in the last decade, and brightness increased by 87 per cent.

“The rate at which New Zealand is brightening is faster than the global average,” says Ellen.

Extra illumination after-hours allows us to extend our activities into the evening, but the addition of light at night is not good news for nocturnal wildlife that rely on dark places to survive – a concern highlighted by research co-author Dr Bridgette Farnworth.

“We have very little information on how light pollution affects our native animals,” Bridgette says.

A recent publication in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology by Ellen and Bridgette lists bats, wētā and seabirds as species that could be harmed by excessive lighting but emphasizes there are minor changes that could reduce the impact.

“Small changes to wavelength, timing or lighting intensity could play a key role in mitigating the impacts on our dusk-dwelling animals,” says Bridgette.

Helping to halt the loss of New Zealand’s dark sky cloak could therefore be just a flick of a switch away.


Leave a Comment