Skip Content

Nocturnal Landscapes: Environmental Growth at Night

Sponsored by the CIEEM South West England Section

Thursday 15th March 2018, held at Heartlands, near Redruth, Cornwall

Over 130 delegates, mainly ecologists and planners, attended this excellent conference, which was organised and sponsored by Spalding Associates (Environmental) Ltd (Truro) and Cornwall Council, in association with CIEEM South West, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LNP and University of Exeter. 

Keynote speaker Professor Kevin Gaston (ESI, University of Exeter) set the scene perfectly by outlining the pervasive problems associated with the different effects of light pollution, particularly where these result from shifts in intensity and spectra driven by changing technology (e.g. LED lighting).  Its not just about bats – diurnal and seasonal triggers affect many species – we need to think about how we use lighting within a landscape (and nightscape).

The first main session considered the complex ecology of several nocturnal groups in relation to light and how research suggests that populations have been affected, which often varies with species and gender, usually related to mating behaviour and sometimes foraging.  Presentations covered moths (Adrian Spalding, Spalding Associates), glow worms (Alan Stewart, Uni of Sussex), hedgehogs and bats (Prof Fiona Mathews, Uni of Sussex and Mammal Society).  The highlight was definitely the bird vs. bat karaoke performed by Prof Mathews!

The second session considered nocturnal lighting in a wider context – cultural (Julian Spalding, art historian), health and circadian biology (Prof Derk-Jan Dijk, Uni of Surrey), astronomy and the Dark Skies Project (Wayne Thomas, Caradon Observatory).  If we expect our children to reach for the stars, how do they do this if they can’t see them?  Increasingly distancing night from our lives through lighting makes it more difficult to care for it and treasure it, and has fundamental implications for our circadian rhythms.  Prof Dijk highlighted the phenomenon of ‘social jet-lag’ (our week day vs. weekend sleep cycles and how these may harm us) and that the silent killer in the bedroom is the mobile phone!

The third session comprised two papers on the effects of artificial lighting on landscape character and visual amenity (Karl Jones, Crestwood Environmental) and the process of lighting impact assessment – LIA (Bonnie Brooks, Services Design Solutions), both excellent summaries of how the impacts of lighting can be assessed and quantified, leading to design solutions.  Perhaps the ecological effects on species were secondary to the effects on visual amenity and intrusion from a human perspective, but hopefully research will lead to more sophisticated tools and procedures.

The final session comprised a Nocturnal Environmental Growth Workshop where delegates discussed and tabled ideas for how we could limit the impact of artificial lighting without sacrificing the key benefits. The collated ideas will be summarised and circulated to all participants.


Nick Coppin MCIEEM, Vice Convenor South West England Section Committee