Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

False light: Reflection from human structures leads creatures into peril

09.01.2009
Insects, others mistake dark smooth surfaces for water surface

Smooth, dark buildings, vehicles and even roads can be mistaken by insects and other creatures for water, according to a Michigan State University researcher, creating "ecological traps" that jeopardize animal populations and fragile ecosystems.

It's the polarized light reflected from asphalt roads, windows -- even plastic sheets and oil spills -- that to some species mimics the surface of the water they use to breed and feed. The resulting confusion could drastically disrupt mating and feeding routines and lead insects and animals into contact with vehicles and other dangers, Bruce Robertson said.

An ecologist studying at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners, north of Kalamazoo, Robertson said polarized light reflected from man-made structures can overwhelm natural cues to animal behavior. Dragonflies can be prompted to lay eggs on roads or parking lots instead of water, for example, and such aquatic insects are at the center of the food web. Insect population crashes can impact higher levels of the food chain.

"Any kind of shiny, black object -- oil, solar cells, asphalt -- the closer they are to wetlands, the bigger the problem," he said.

Predators following misdirected insect prey then also can find themselves in danger.

The importance of natural light to creatures' ability to navigate -- and the impacts of visible light pollution from man-made sources -- are well understood. Those include the tendency of newly hatched sea turtles to move from their beach nests toward landward light sources instead of following moonlight to the safety of open water. Horizontally polarized light has been found to be a reliable cue for creatures to locate water, Robertson said, and now he and fellow researchers are discovering the effects of light reflected from man-made structures.

Robertson worked with Gabor Horvath from the biooptics laboratory at Lorand Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary, and other researchers. Their findings were reported in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Jan. 7. That journal is published by the Ecological Society of America (www.esa.org).

Although the research highlights new concerns about human impact on native species and ecological communities, it suggests the importance of building with alternative materials and, when necessary, employing mitigation strategies. Those might include adding white curtains to dark windows or adding white hatching marks to asphalt.

There also might be potential for turning it to an advantage, Robertson said. In locations where trees are being destroyed by insect infestations, for example, "you may be able to create massive polarized light traps to crash bark beetle populations," if such species are found to be responsive to polarized light cues.

Bruce Robertson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.msu.edu
http://www.esa.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>