Combining mobility and dark-sky preserve: a challenge for local authorities06 February 2024
Table of content
What is dark sky preserve?
The dark sky network is a set of specially designated and protected geographical areas designed to minimize light pollution and protect the natural darkness of the night sky. The project involves the creation of regions where lighting standards are rigorously controlled by a state in order to limit excessive artificial luminance emissions at nighttime.
These zones are generally chosen according to criteria such as the quality of the night sky, the presence of astronomical observatories, low population density and the desire to protect innate darkening. They are often located in a state with suburban area to minimize luminescent contamination from large urban areas.
Internationally, we can take the examples of Cévennes national park in France, Murray protected river in Australia, Greater Big Bend wild prairie in Mexico or Bon Accord mountain area in Canada.
Various initiatives and certifications, such as that of the International Dark-Sky Association, are working to create and promote dark network preserves around the world. These zones serve as a model for responsible lighting management and for raising awareness among the general public of the importance of preserving the presence of darkness on the national territory into a national park, near to protected river or wild prairie.
The challenges of the dark-sky places
The main aim of these places is to preserve an environment of the state where observation of the dark skies and star surroundings is optimal, benefiting not only people and human health, but also flora and fauna. By reducing illumination contamination, darkening networks help maintain the natural rhythms of the night, minimize disturbance to nocturnal fauna and save energy by limiting the unnecessary use of outdoor luminescent signage.
The main challenges of the Dark-sky network include :
- Preservation of spontaneous darkness: By maintaining places of low luminescence, a network of obscurities helps preserve the nocturnal conditions that are essential for many species in a park or reserve and for human health.
- Preserving wildlife: nocturnal and migratory species benefit from innate development by avoiding disorientation caused by the artificial brightness into a park or reserve, maintaining their natural behavioural cycles around lake and river and reducing the risk of predation.
Promoting astronomical observation and astronomy: Astronomy enthusiasts and scientists also benefit from dark sky places, as they offer locations where observation of the dark firmament and stars is optimal, without interference from luminous contamination. By limiting artificial brightness sources, we can continue to observe celestial objects and stars from an observatory.
- Energy savings: Reducing nighttime brightness in a designated area saves energy, reducing the costs and greenhouse gas emissions associated with excessive use of lights. It could help a municipality to reduce public spending in a State or a county area.
IDA, the international organization designated in preserving Dark Sky Places
The International Dark-Sky Association, often referred to as Dark Sky International, is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the nighttime environment and combating light pollution worldwide. Founded in 1988, IDA has been at the forefront of the global movement to promote dark skies and raise awareness about the adverse effects of this contamination on human health, biodiversity, and the environment.
The mission of the International Dark-Sky Association is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark sky through environmentally responsible outdoor street lights.
Goals and Objectives:
- Raise Awareness: The association works to educate individuals, communities, and governments about the importance of preserving dark skies and reducing luminescent contamination in the United States and all around the world.
- Advocacy: The organization advocates for the adoption of responsible outdoor street lamps policies and practices at the local, national, and international levels.
- Research: IDA supports scientific research on the impacts of artificial brightness in the dark and promotes the development of solutions to mitigate brightness emission.
Initiatives and Programs:
- Dark Sky Places: IDA designates Dark Sky Places, including Dark Sky Parks, Reserves, and Communities, to recognize and promote locations with exceptional or exemplary efforts to preserve dark environment. We can find these kinds of concepts in different countries of the world : United-States, Canada, Mexico and also in Europe with France and Spain.
- Fixture Seal of Approval: IDA’s Fixture Seal of Approval program certifies outdoor lighting fixtures that are dark-sky friendly, helping consumers make informed choices to reduce light pollution.
- Advocacy and Outreach: Through campaigns, events, and partnerships, IDA advocates for policy changes and engages with stakeholders to promote dark sky conservation globally.
How do you set up a dark-sky reserve?
The implementation of dark sky places in our communities can be achieved through intelligent lighting policies, local regulations, public education and raising awareness of the importance of preserving the presence of darkness. It is particularly relevant in an urban and suburban area where luminance presence is a concern. In short, dark sky preserves aim to create a balance between the need for urban brightness and the preservation of the innate darkness for the well-being of wildlife, the environment and science.
The protection of nature and environment began with the heritage preservation such as monument, bridges or buildings, but around these structures it’s important to take care of national park and forest, wild prairie and filed where animals and insects live in their native state.
Steps to follow for a smooth operation
The creation of a dark sky preserve, or night-time darkness protection zone, generally involves a series of coordinated actions and measures to reduce light pollution and preserve the dark into a park, a canyon or a national reserve. Here are a few steps to consider when developing this kind of project:
- Identify suitable spots: Identify the regions or locations that are most suitable for the creation of a preserved zone on our territories. This may include rural areas, nature reserves, national parks, astronomical observatories, or other places where darkening is particularly valuable. Generally, the tactical place is near to a river, a national lake or natural canyon. It could include also a national park, a wild reserve or an institutional monument of heritage.
- Legislation and regulations: Develop specific regulations and local, regional or national guidelines that limit the emission of excessive street lamps into dark screen spaces. These regulations can include specific standards for public lights, hours of operation for lights and incentives for the use of more efficient technologies. The aim is to reduce luminance dispersion and direct it more effectively to designated places such as national park, preserved lake or wild prairie.
- Education and awareness: Raise awareness among the public, local authorities, businesses and communities of the benefits of the dark screen, including wildlife protection, astronomical preservation of stars, reduced energy consumption and human health. Organize workshops, conferences and information campaigns to promote responsible use of outdoor street lamps. Visits into an observatory could be at the center of strategy to educate about star environment.
- Responsible lights: Encourage the use of energy-saving and appropriately directed technologies. This can include the adoption of low-emission blue-light lamps, sensors, and dimming where possible. Alternative choices could be at the center of the policy of urban planning.
- Ongoing assessment: Regularly monitor compliance with luminance regulations and assess progress in implementing national dark-sky policies in government territories. Adjust measures as necessary to maintain effectiveness locally.
Examples of concrete actions to be implemented
There are a number of ways and means of protecting biodiversity in national parks, wild territories of prairie and green spaces.
Reduce street lights
Reducing the use of outdoor street lamps is one of the most important measures for creating and developing dark-sky strategy. Reducing the number of street lights is crucial to preserving the natural darkness and creating an effective ecological territory into a state.
This excessive use is one of the main sources of luminous pollution, which consists in the emission of excessive artificial radiation into the atmosphere in the evening. Reducing the luminescence intensity of street and public lights reduces the amount of unnecessary lights emitted towards the sky and the horizon, thereby helping to contamination.
The natural darkness of night is essential for many species of flora and fauna into a park or next to a long river, as well as for human health. Limiting street lamps helps to maintain this darkness, which is essential for the creation of a black network. These locations serve as dark sanctuaries where luminance levels are minimal or non-existent.
Opt for alternative, eco-sustainable luminous sources
There are several alternative lighting methods that can be adopted to reduce this nuisance in a national park or wild canyon, save energy and preserve absolute darkness.
LED lamps can be designed to emit a narrower spectrum of luminance, reducing the proportion of blue light. This reduces disturbance to nocturnal wildlife and minimizes luminescent sources. Spectrum-adjusted LED lamps are often used in dark-sky preserve and light-sensitive spaces.
Directional and adaptive street lamps can also be a solution. Street lamps can be designed to direct brightness downwards, towards the area to be lit, rather than scattering the glow in all directions. They can also be fitted with motion sensors, or the brightness can be adjusted to suit actual needs.
Choosing electricity-free lighting
Another alternative for switching off street lamps in a city is photoluminescent paint. The use of photoluminescent paint can offer a number of advantages when it comes to creating a black sky network or compensating for the cut-off of public lights in the evenings.
This is because photoluminescent paint absorbs natural brightness during the day (or artificial lighting indoors) and releases it as a soft glow at night. This means it can provide visible brightness without the need for external power sources, which is particularly advantageous in places where the elimination of public lights is desired such as a preserved city center with monument or protected parks.
This soft, diffused glow does not add too much brightness into the surrounding environment. The markings illuminate themselves to create a luminous guide and do not direct any radiation towards the ground or sky, thus limiting the dispersion of light in the atmosphere and preserving darkness in the evening.
The creation of a black sky requires the ongoing commitment of various agglomerations and municipalities, but it can have a significant impact on reducing nuisance elements and preserving the black, thus benefiting wildlife, human health and the preservation of astronomy.
Today, many local authorities have chosen to deploy our LuminoKrom® phosphorescent marking to create dark-sky preserves in some departments of France and state around the world like Canada, Malaysia or Brasil. It takes over when public street lamps are switched off. In France and worldwide, our photoluminescent beaconing thus accompanies night-time mobility in cities without artificial lighting.
Please note that not all photoluminescent markings are equivalent, nor do they offer the same luminescent performance. Be careful when making your choice: demand a certified class G marking, capable of illuminating up all night long, for more than 10 hours on its own.