The prevalence of artificial light negatively affects both human and animal natural cycles. However, a new study from the UK also shows how light pollution disrupts plants’ senses.
Just as with most organisms, plants also have a circadian rhythm or the natural sleep-wake cycle primarily affected by the light and darkness of the surroundings. In animals, the prolonged exposure to light stresses them out and causes disruption to their natural sleeping cycles. This stress has been evident in moths and bees, who are observed to pollinate less when exposed to light pollution.
Plants have at least 13 photoreceptors detecting varying types of light in order to determine when to conduct photosynthesis or other activities. Exposure to prolonged artificial light can trigger the photoreceptors enough to make the plant believe it is still daytime and continue doing daytime activities until it gets stressed out and eventually weakens.
In countries located in the upper latitudes, seasonal plant rhythms are also affected by light pollution. The presence of an artificial light often masks the natural day-night ratio between meteorological seasons, making plants bloom early or later than normal.
Though the effects could be considered minimal right now, prolonged stress to plants can also devastate other organisms dependent on them, like bees. The lack of pollination because of light pollution’s effects to both insects and plants may eventually throw the ecosystem off-balance.