Scientists now believe we are in a place in time where humans and the environment interact more than ever. More than just interaction the current epoch is believed to be the Anthropocene, because humans actually act as a driving force of nature and are able to impact the environment (Steffen, Broadgate, Deutsch, Gaffney, & Ludwig, 2015). The post-industrial era came with the advent of new and more powerful technologies, that required lots of energy to maintain (Steffen et al., 2015). The invention of all these new technologies helped greatly improve the quality of life for humans, but the potential impact on the environment was greatly overlooked.
A perfect example of an unexpected outcome of technology is the effect of light pollution on the phenology of tree bud blooming. According to a 13 year study from the researchers of Exeter University in the UK places that have a lot of night time pollution cause the trees in area to bloom a week earlier than trees under dark night conditions.
Although, that might not sound like a huge deal, changes in phenology and timing of blooming for plants affects their health and affects the ecosystems food chain that they are a part of. Buds that burst too early in the season are at risk of losing their leaves to quickly, frost damage and optimal temperature for sunlight absorption. Interestingly, although the effects of light pollution are clearly seen in high density urban areas, the effects of light pollution are even seen in rural areas as well.
Night lights by NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center, USAF Weather Agency
Thus, even the simple use of artificial light has the ability to change the environment that we live in and the way it functions! This is a great example to show the synergy between people and their environment, and provides a reminder for us that the actions we take affect the world we live in today and for the future.
Picture link: http://www.blue-marble.de/nightlights/2010
Steffen, W., Broadgate, W., Deutsch, L., Gaffney, O., & Ludwig, C. (2015). The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration. The Anthropocene Review, 2(1), 81–98. http://doi.org/10.1177/2053019614564785