Using smart technology, designed and supplied by SCS Schrѐder (SCS), Bundaberg Regional Council are helping to conserve the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the east coast of Australia.
Here, at SCS, we are passionate about achieving sustainable development goals, and the Bundaberg Smart Lighting Project directly supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water. This project gave us an opportunity to leverage technology to conserve protected areas of marine biodiversity.
Urban glow presents a significant challenge to turtle nesting, and Bundaberg Regional Council required a smart lighting solution to protect the community and turtles along the Bargara esplanade. The main intent behind this project was to ensure artificial lighting balances environmental conservation with community safety.
IMPACTS OF ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING ON SEA TURTLES
Today, sea turtles’ nests are often damaged by local communities and human interventions. From beach erosion caused by coastal armouring to artificial lighting, how communities alter the natural environment has a direct impact on sea turtles’ longevity. Urban glow, caused by artificial lighting, has had a significant impact on the nesting habits of sea turtles and the survival of hatchlings. This is why mitigating the negative effects of light pollution has been a significant area of concern for sea turtles’ conservation.
While scientists are uncertain about why sea turtles choose to nest on certain beaches over others, they have identified that changes to these habits are a direct result of human activity. Scientists fear that these alterations may have long-term effects on sea turtles’ future survival and may be difficult to prevent unless action is taken now.
A sea turtle is unlikely to abandon their nests when they are laying eggs. However, instead of placing themselves in danger, they will either not lay their eggs at all or choose the ocean or other dangerous places, threatening the survival of young sea turtles. Therefore communities need to create solutions that help sea turtles lay their eggs in their usual habitats.
Once young sea turtles hatch, their surrounding communities pose additional challenges. Young sea turtles orient themselves by identifying the brightest horizon, which often will be the moonlight reflecting off the ocean. However, artificial lighting has made this process extremely difficult. Today, baby sea turtles often mistake artificial light, such as excess lighting from buildings or streetlights, for the ocean, leaving them to die of dehydration from the sun or they are caught by predators such as birds and crabs.
The obstacles that sea turtles face, man-made and otherwise, are so great that only around 1 in 1000 survive to adulthood. Therefore local communities must balance their interests with the needs of the surrounding wildlife.
WAYS TO MITIGATE URBAN GLOW FOR SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION
Reducing the amount of artificial light that is visible from nesting beaches is the first step to reducing light pollution that affects sea turtles. Coastal communities around the world have passed ordinances that require residents to turn-off beachfront lights during turtle nesting season. Unfortunately, these ordinances are not always enforced and don’t address the larger problem of sky glow that occurs near cities.
Other than alerting authorities to hatchlings that have wandered from the beach, there are a variety of different smart lighting solutions that could benefit sea turtle nesting safety. Some of the key solutions SCS have identified that could mitigate the harmful effects of urban glow include:
- turning off lights visible on nesting beaches or use special fixtures to shield the lights from the beach
- reducing lighting levels when no one is around
- using lights that have a yellow or orange glow
- using turtle safe lighting – these red lights emit a very narrow portion of the visible light spectrum, which is less intrusive to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings
- tinting windows that face the beach.
SMART CITY SOLUTIONS
When approached about this project, SCS recognised the complexity of balancing sea turtle protection with ensuring community safety and needs were met in the Bundaberg Regional Council area. This task required end-to-end project execution – SCS was involved in the initial design, installation, commission, and ongoing software services.
SCS found an innovative and flexible solution that addressed both community needs and environmental needs. Utilising smart lighting design, we formulated a lamppost solution that reduced light at night but could also increase the amount of light when necessary through synchronised sensors. For example, when cars or pedestrians cross the Bargara esplanade at night, the lampposts illuminate and then reduce this light when required. These sensors are also utilised throughout the Bundaberg Regional Council area because they capture vital light pollution data, which can then guide environmental and community choices.
In addition, SCS supplied turtle-friendly luminaires specifically designed to minimise the impact that traditional lighting can have on turtles and wildlife. Utilising long wavelength light, it is internally louvred, shielded, and low to the ground to reduce the light spillage towards the ocean. The light used near the coastal fringe also has a yellow-orange glow, rather than a bright white. This is important as baby sea turtles are less attracted to these warmer tones and therefore it helps to mitigate their disorientation.
While devising this solution, Bundaberg Regional Council engaged with the community about different aspects of this project. By involving the community, we could promote eco-tourism and encourage a sustained community effort in protecting the sea turtles.
MEETING ENVIRONMENTAL AND COMMUNITY NEEDS
At SCS, we are proud of our solution because it helps protect sea turtles and empowers the Bundaberg Regional Council to become excellent environmental stewards. Through smart, flexible and innovative lighting solutions, we have successfully balanced the needs of the community and those of the environment.
From the design to the installation to the ongoing maintenance, SCS has overseen and formulated all aspects of this smart lighting design. We are extremely proud of this effective and innovative solution that protects the environment and strengthens the conservation of sea turtles.
Coastal light pollution and marine turtles: assessing the magnitude of the problem Ruth L. Kamrowski1,*, Col Limpus2, James Moloney1, Mark Hamann1 – https://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/28232/1/n019p085.pdf