Preserving the nighttime environment for future generations in Puerto Rico
The importance of preserving dark skies and the nighttime environment has recently become a focal point of researchers studying the impacts of light pollution in Puerto Rico. It is estimated that Puerto Rico spends over $3,700 million annually on electricity for its 4 million residents. The excessive sky glow resulting from artificial illumination is the main cause of light pollution for the island. Not only does light pollution makes it more difficult to see the stars, it also adversely impacts sensitive nocturnal species and increases energy costs and carbon emissions Expansion of the San Juan Metro Area and other urban corridors is encroaching on upland and protected areas, causing a marked decrease in night sky quality. Currently, Forest Service scientists are helping to monitor the state and extent of artificial light pollution in Puerto Rico. We are customizing nighttime remote sensing imagery and map products for local use and directly monitoring nighttime lightscape conditions in the field for research, policy and mitigation. In the periphery of El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest system, light pollution is obvious at uphill locations at night. Numerous community outreach presentations have been offered to kids and adults to educate about ecological and astronomical impacts of light pollution in Puerto Rico, especially in the vicinity of El Yunque National Forest. In addition, sky glow in the vicinity of the island has three bioluminescent bays where high concentrations of bioluminescent microbes make the ocean glow. Light pollution greatly diminishes the ability to see the bays glow. Since 2006, the Forest Service has been working with the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico (CTPR) Light Pollution Task Force to implement a light pollution management strategic plan for the Bioluminescent Lagoon Demo Project at Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The task force and management plan aim to protect local economic revenues derived from tourists visiting these globally unique locations.