Streetlights changing ecology on the ground

Updated 26 May 2012
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Streetlights changing ecology on the ground

Streetlights have an unexpectedly strong effect on insect populations, favoring some species while punishing others, according to a study released Wednesday that raises new questions about human impact on wildlife.
Researchers led by Thomas Davies at the University of Exeter, southwestern England, spent three days in August 2011 placing insect traps around Helston, a small town in Cornwall.
They picked up 1,194 insects from 60 different species.
Proximity to streetlights was a big factor in the number of insects and the prevailing species, they found.
Five species, including ants, ground beetles and woodlice, were far more abundant in patches under streetlights compared with patches between streetlights. And streetlights also drew more predatory and scavenging insects.
Tiny changes among insect populations reverberate up the food chain, boosting some species but imperiling others, the biologists note.
“Street lighting changes the environment at higher levels of biological organization than previously recognized, raising the potential that it can alter the structure and function of ecosystems,” says the study.
Street lighting is advancing at the average rate of six percent worldwide each year, but its impact on wildlife is poorly understood.
Anecdotal evidence suggests streetlights affect the body clock of urban birds, tricking them into feeding longer, and on the feeding habits of mammals such as foxes, rats, mice and bats.
The paper, published in the British journal Biology Letters, voices concern about the introduction of next-generation street lighting that uses metal halide or light-emitting diodes.
These technologies emit light over a broader range of wavelengths to which organisms are sensitive, it says.
“The paucity of information available on the environmental impacts of artificial light pollution does not currently reflect the potential scale of this problem.”


French priest suspended after slapping baby during baptism

Video shows priest slapping crying baby.
Updated 23 June 2018
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French priest suspended after slapping baby during baptism

  • The baby’s parents, visibly shocked, eventually manage to extricate the child from the priest’s grip
  • The child was bawling and I needed to turn his head so I could pour the water

PARIS: A French Catholic priest was suspended Friday after a video of him smacking a crying baby during a baptism ceremony went viral, drawing widespread condemnation on social media.
In footage posted on Twitter on Thursday, gasps can be heard when the 89-year-old priest, after ordering the infant he is holding to “be quiet,” sharply slaps his cheek.
A few seconds later he smacks him again.
The baby’s parents, visibly shocked, eventually manage to extricate the child from the priest’s grip during the ceremony in Champeaux, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Paris.
“This loss of self-control can be attributed to the fatigue of an elderly priest, but that doesn’t excuse it,” the diocese of Meaux, which includes the town, said in a statement.
It said the priest would no longer be leading baptisms and weddings nor holding mass until further notice.
“The child was bawling and I needed to turn his head so I could pour the water. I was saying ‘be quiet’ but he wouldn’t calm down,” the priest told France Info radio on Friday.
“It was something between a caress and a little slap,” he said. “I was trying to calm him down, I didn’t really know what to do.”