Evaluation of Light Pollution in Global Protected Areas from 1992 to 2018

Image credit: [Haowei]


Light pollution, a phenomenon in which artificial nighttime light (NTL) changes the form of brightness and darkness in natural areas such as protected areas (PAs), has become a global concern due to its threat to global biodiversity. With ongoing global urbanization and climate change, the light pollution status in global PAs deserves attention for mitigation and adaptation. In this study, we developed a framework to evaluate the light pollution status in global PAs, using the global NTL time series data. First, we classified global PAs (30,624) into three pollution categories: non-polluted (5974), continuously polluted (8,141), and discontinuously polluted (16,509), according to the time of occurrence of lit pixels in/around PAs from 1992 to 2018. Then, we explored the NTL intensity (e.g., digital numbers) and its trend in those polluted PAs and identified those hotspots of PAs at the global scale with consideration of global urbanization. Our study shows that global light pollution is mainly distributed within the range of 30°N and 60°N, including Europe, north America, and East Asia. Although the temporal trend of NTL intensity in global PAs is increasing, Japan and the United States of America (USA) have opposite trends due to the implementation of well-planned ecological conservation policies and declining population growth. For most polluted PAs, the lit pixels are close to their boundaries (i.e., less than 10 km), and the NTL in/around these lit areas has become stronger over the past decades. The identified hotspots of PAs (e.g., Europe, the USA, and East Asia) help support decisions on global biodiversity conservation, particularly with global urbanization and climate change.

Remote sensing
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