Mapping Artificial Lightscapes: high resolution solutions to artificial light pollution in cities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences

Abstract

The proposal is a first attempt to secure high-resolution maps showing the intensity and spectral quality of artificial lighting for multiple urban areas anywhere in the world. We argue that they are an essential first step for understanding and addressing the engineering, social and biological impacts of artificial lighting and their related policy dimensions, which has hitherto been undermined by a lack of quality data at an appropriate spatial scale. Artificial lighting (AL) and urbanisation are linked, so much so that remotely sensed measures of AL are used as proxies for urban area, population, electric power consumption, density of built infrastructure and economic activity. Increases in AL have not only led to a wide range of benefits for society, but also an equally wide range of costs (e.g. changes in energy consumption and supply, infrastructure, human health, quality of life and ecological function and ecosystem services). The central platform for this research is quantification of the spatial variability in lighting at a city scale, both in terms of its intensity (illuminance and radiance) and spectral quality. This is needed because although accurate and comprehensive ground-based measures of artificial lighting and its impacts (e.g. safety) are available, they are not scalable. Conversely, larger scale satellite-based measures are typically of coarser resolution (1km), have poor sensitivity to low radiances, and lack multiple spectral bands. The demand for datasets at a spatial extent, resolution and quality relevant for managing urban landscapes has therefore not yet been met. Our research team's recent focus on urban futures (SUE 2 grant) identified AL as a local condition critical to the success of many of today's sustainability investments. We identified that changes in spectral range and intensity of lighting will either support or undermine initiatives aiming to improve road safety, energy efficiency and urban biodiversity. Further investigation revealed the lack of datasets to support a more quantitative sensitivity analysis and associated future proofing. We created a pilot project with Birmingham City Council, who were in the process of commissioning unrelated aerial surveys and were keen to support our research. The stunning results led to the first ever high-resolution quantification of the luminance and spectral quality of lighting within a City. It is likely data of this type have not been produced before due to technical, financial and logistical barriers, which we have demonstrated no longer exist. The aim of this project is to collect, process and analyse data from remotely sensed digital images to provide the first set of geo-referenced, radiance-calibrated, high-resolution city lightscape maps, for multiple cities in the UK. Data calibration, processing and analysis will follow an initial phase of collection. Throughout these phases the team will work across disciplines and sectors, with an international partner, lighting industry representatives and data collectors to ensure the outputs are targeted to end users. The deliverables from this project are (i) the first fully quantitative high resolution mapping of artificial lighting at a city scale for multiple urban centres in the UK, (ii) the first model of the relationship between urban structure and artificial lighting, and (iii) the first multi-city comparison of artificially lit landscapes. These have broad utility and are expected to generate considerable public interest. The AL issue is significant, as it impacts a very wide range of issues associated with the built environment that have become core topics of debate within academic and practitioner communities as well as within wider society. The deliverables from this project will provide an essential and timely dataset from which to better consider lighting issues at appropriates scales, depending upon the subject of interest (energy, health, ecology, etc.).

Planned Impact

A broad range of groups will benefit from the development and analysis of these unique datasets, many of whom are associated with our past, current or proposed future project partners. These include: - Consultants contracted to produce spatial lighting strategies and to undertake PFI lighting projects, or impact assessments for development proposals. The most obvious beneficiary is Amey, who recently began a 25yr (2.5 billion) PFI project with Birmingham City Council to replace 50% of all existing streetlights over the next 5 years. Amey is already aware of our work through the Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) and we will use this practitioner network to identify impact opportunities elsewhere. - City Councils, who manage the existing lighting infrastructure and implement policies on lighting trespass, energy efficiency, access, crime and biodiversity. Our datasets will be of value to staff tasked with targeting and justifying maintenance and investment into lighting infrastructure. We already have strong links with planning and policy officers within the West Midlands local authorities, where flights are scheduled for winter 2010. - The Highways Agency, which recently downgraded its estimates of the benefits of lighting in reducing traffic accidents and is trialling lights off on motorways. Opportunities for dissemination through the ILP are already being explored. - Civil engineers who supply and maintain the utility services infrastructure to urban areas, enabling them to streamline current infrastructures and design efficiently new additions. - Architects and urban designers wishing to understand the lighting context of a particular site. Our pathway here will professional bodies seeking to disseminate best practice on sustainability and the built environment (e.g. RIBA, BRE). - Those involved in remote sensing, who are aware of the potential applications and emerging markets for these data. Initially this collaboration would directly benefit the EA Geomatics Group, supporting the development of their survey methodology. However, we expect that other remote sensing groups within the private sector will subsequently adopt and develop this approach. - Regional and national agencies who will be better informed of the magnitude of costs and benefits associated with artificial lighting at a city scale. Interest here relates to major policy drivers such as the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990. However, the relevance of artificial lighting to the broader sustainability agenda will be highlighted in briefing notes targeted at this audience (via the BRE). - The PDRFs, and their future employers, who will gain invaluable experience of this truly cross-disciplinary field. - The international academic community, which will gain insight into the variety of potential applications of such datasets and the opportunity to explore and exploit them. - EPSRC, EU and other research councils are likely to benefit, as baseline datasets of lighting intensity and quality over large areas provide the opportunity to support thematic programmes (e.g. SUE) that include a wide range of disciplines. - Members of the public, who enjoy the benefits of artificial lighting (safety, flexible working hours), but are also subject to many of the negative impacts. - Amateur and professional astronomers, seeking locations to gain clear views of the night sky. For the first time both higher-level strategies and decisions on specific lighting proposals can be informed and shaped by the same comprehensive light intensity and spectra maps. Our datasets will be available to the academic, private and public sectors through journal publications, conference papers and ultimately KTNs. However, our major pathways to impact will be via our collaboration with the ILP and a workshop with organisations tasked with disseminating research and best practice to public and private sector audiences.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description We have created four digital datasets that quantify the levels of artificial light in UK cities. Thee academic papers have resulted from this grant.
One paper has been published (see below) and one is in review and another is being finalised for submission:

The results of the first (open source) paper show that artificial lighting is strongly associated with urbanisation and is increasing in its extent, brightness and spectral range. Changes in urban lighting have both positive and negative effects on city performance, yet little is known about how its character and magnitude vary across the urban landscape. A major barrier to related research, planning and governance has been the lack of lighting data at the city extent, particularly at a fine spatial resolution. Our aims were therefore to capture such data using aerial night photography and to undertake a case study of urban lighting. We presented the finest scale multi-spectral lighting dataset available for an entire city and explore how lighting metrics vary with built density and land-use. We found positive relationships between artificial lighting indicators and built density at coarse spatial scales, whilst at a local level lighting varied with land-use. Manufacturing and housing are the primary land-use zones responsible for the city's brightly lit areas, yet manufacturing sites are relatively rare within the city. Our data suggests that efforts to address light pollution should broaden their focus from residential street lighting to include security lighting within manufacturing areas.

Open access paper:
Hale JD, Davies G, Fairbrass AJ, Matthews TJ, Rogers CDF, et al. (2013) Mapping Lightscapes: Spatial Patterning of Artificial Lighting in an Urban Landscape. PLoS ONE 8(5): e61460. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061460
Exploitation Route The digital datasets are available via the PI. There are some copyright issues that need resolving with the Environmental Agency who supplied the raw data.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport
 
Description LoNNE (loss of night EU COST action) 
Organisation Leibniz Association
Department Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
Country Germany, Federal Republic of 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution UK lead for the COST action
Collaborator Contribution Polling of initiatives and ideas concerning the societal and ecosystem impacts of differential artificial light at night. Joint collaboration on data capture, study designs, creation of European wide light impact international conference
Impact Creation of a European network focused on understanding the pervasive impacts of artificial light pollution.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Conference / workshop presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation at the the first Artificial Light at Night conference entitled Hale JD, Sadler JP. 'A comparison of city lightscapes using nighttime aerial photography', 2013. 1st Artificial Light at Night conference. Berlin.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.google.ch/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCQQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ver...
 
Description Conference Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Conference presentation entitled: 'Research applications of night-time aerial photography, from local to global scales'. American Geophysical Union 2012 Fall Meeting. USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://abstractsearch.agu.org/meetings/2012/FM/sections/GC/sessions/GC21E/abstracts/GC21E-1026.html
 
Description Conference paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Conference presentation entitled: 'Ecological research applications of aerial night photography'. 43rd Annual Meeting Meeting of the Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Potsdam 2013.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.google.ch/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CCwQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cfb...
 
Description Conference poster 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact ALAN 2016 4th International Conference on Artificial Light at Night
September 26-28, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Title: Baseline lighting data for landscape biodiversity conservation
Presenter : Hale
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference presentation entitled: 'Bats, lighting and urban futures - The effect of street lighting scenarios on functional connectivity for Pipistrelles pipistrellus'. INTECOL 18-23 Aug 2013, London as part of the centary celebrations of the British Ecological Society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/events/past-bes-meetings/intecol-2013
 
Description Conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference presentation entitled: Hale JD, Rosenfeld E, Sadler JP. Mapping urban Lighting - options for supporting sustainable lighting management in cities. European Symposium on Artificial Light and Wildlife: Determining Solutions for Practitioners 20-21 Mar 2014, hosted by ARUP & BCT.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/artificial_light_and_wildlife_symposium_determining_solutions_for_pract...
 
Description Talk at conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact ALAN 2016 4th International Conference on Artificial Light at Night
September 26-28, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Does increasing road lighting increase road injuries
Presenter: Paul R Marchant
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016