The phenomenon of light pollution, which is the intensification of artificial light in night environments produced by urbanizations and industrial complexes, affects the biological processes of plants, according to studies by the Interdisciplinary Center for Metropolitan Studies (Centromet).
The research professor in charge of the study, Héctor Antonio Solano Lamphar, argued that light pollution manifests itself in diffuse radiation caused by the absorption and dispersion of light by particles suspended in the atmosphere, which alters the biological processes of plants. —Which are very different during the day and at night— and it affects its phenology.
“When we think of light and plants, the first thing that comes to mind is photosynthesis, how plants produce energy and sugar, which is what they need to live, but there are other sensors that are phytochromes, which tell the plants practically when it has to go to sleep to carry out different biological processes that can only be carried out in night environments ”, he warned.
Solano Lamphar, who is a level I member of the National System of Researchers (SNI) of the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), indicated that these effects on the biological processes of plants are manifested mainly in countries with a high degree of contamination light.
“In these cases, the plants begin to drop the leaves sooner, or to bear prematurely and less quality fruit; they have a shorter life cycle than they should and all this causes different types of problems in the food chain, not only in the plant but also in other biological organisms that inhabit that environment ”, he pointed out.
A serious problem
The Centromet researcher stressed the importance of developing more research on the effects of light pollution on the biological processes of plants.
“This is a serious problem that we should analyze in more detail. We are currently working on the first paper —which is under review— that explains how it affects these photosensitive biological processes in plants. It is something that in cities we must consider because it is not only about addressing the issue of light pollution from astronomy, but also how it impacts biodiversity, climate change and the economy, "he said.
Héctor Antonio Solano Lamphar explained that, in order to identify the degree of damage to plants and the environment, a theoretical modeling was developed, together with researcher Miroslav Kocifaj, from the Slovak Academy of Sciences, to recognize which lamps are more are used in Mexico, which are light emitting diode (LED), high pressure sodium vapor, low pressure sodium vapor and metal halides.
“The problem that led lamps generate is that they radiate energy throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, while sodium vapor lamps radiate in a specific spectrum that is more environmentally friendly. When there is an LED, which is emitting energy in all these directions, the interaction with the atmosphere is going to be more efficient and in the end the pollution that is going to be greater. That is the most specific relationship there is ”, he assured.
The Centromet researcher explained that, on the other hand, with low-pressure sodium vapor lamps the interaction with the environment is less efficient and at a specific point on the electromagnetic spectrum, which generates less light pollution.
“With the modeling that was carried out, it is possible to determine what is the light pollution generated by each of these lamps. Here the user will be able to put the type of lamp to be investigated, as well as the city ”, he concluded.