US News: In the city, light pollution accelerates the arrival of spring

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An American researcher found that, combined with high temperatures, light pollution modifies the flowering period of trees in cities. His work has been rewarded for the new lighting they bring about how artificial light affects urban ecosystems.

In large cities, spring occurs earlier than in rural areas. The reason ? Temperatures are higher because of pollution, but also artificial light. This discovery was made by the American researcher Lin Meng, Science & ScilifeLab 2021 Prize winner for young scientists.

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published in the science journal, its work has been carried out in major cities in the United States and make it possible to evaluate the impact of the change of temperature and light on the regular day-night cycle on which the plants depend. The researcher focused particularly on artificial light, whose impact on urban vegetation is often overlooked when developing outdoor lighting strategies (floor lamps, building lights, commercials, etc.).

"As ecologists, we know a lot about the impact of warming and the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide on plants, as these are the two most significant aspects of climate change" (. ..) "The effect of light pollution on the seasonal pace of vegetation is a dead angle," says Lin Meng, Researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in Berkeley, California.

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It has long been known that air pollution helps to warm cities, sometimes with a 3 ° C gap between urban areas and rural areas. Known as the urban heat island, this phenomenon helps to change the seasonal cycles of plants. In the spring, trees would go on average six days earlier than in campaigns.

and light pollution could therefore contribute more. According to the Lin Meng study, the artificial light would have advanced the arrival of the nine-day spring in the parts of the cities where the artificial light is particularly intense.

The researcher hopes to continue his research to determine the specific effect of artificial light sources (LEDs, sodium lamp, etc.) on the different plant species, as well as the identification of a critical period to which the trees would be particularly sensitive to these lighting.

"The answers to these questions will make decisions about the types of light we need for different places to minimize the ecological consequences," says Lin Meng.

"understand how the temperature and light induced by the city influence the vegetation increases our knowledge of these fundamental ecological interactions and will help us to design more resilient urban landscapes," comments on its side Sacha Vignieri, Deputy Editor for Research of the journal science.

Léa Drouelle

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