Representatives of “starry sky reserves” are meeting until Friday September 29, at the Pic du Midi, in the Hautes-Pyrénées. The objective of this congress is to develop the concept of these reserves, in particular to protect animals from light pollution.
Spaces, where everything is done to make the night darker, can obtain the International Dark Sky Reserves (RICE) label. This expression originated in North America, with initial experience in Canada. Today in France there are five sites thus referenced by theInternational Dark Sky Association, who have successfully protected themselves from light pollution.
If street lights are very useful to us at night, Mélina Roth, director of the Pyrenees National Park, reminds us that they are unfortunately harmful to other species: “We have the example of bats, which can, for certain species, be completely slowed down in their movement and their ability to feed. When there is light pollution, these are habitats which may be be favorable in terms of shelter and food, but which are inaccessible to them due to lighting.”
Immediate effects in one direction or the other
These nighttime light disturbances can also affect birds, insects and certain mammals. But all is not without hope, explains Mélina Roth: “What we know is that when we turn off or reduce light pollution, the effect is immediate. At that moment, the different species concerned will be able to reclaim this habitat which had become inaccessible to them .”
In France, the precursors of these zones are the 250 municipalities around the Pic du Midi. The first site labeled International Starry Sky Reserve was referenced there in 2013. Nicolas Bourgeois, deputy director of the Pic du Midi, says: “The first work was to re-sensitize public opinion, residents and elected officials to the fact that light pollution existed, that it was a real issue. Then it was a technical issue, with large investments, to reduce pollution light on thousands of light points, street lamps, within the perimeter of the starry sky reserve.”
“Rare access for Westerners”
After the Pic du Midi, four other sites have been labeled RICE: the Cévénnes park, those of Millevaches, Mercantour and very recently, last week, the Vercors park: “Today a reserve is truly a setting for the starry sky.”
“It is one of those areas in Europe and in the world, which have become very rare, especially for Westerners, where we have access to the Milky Way and a preserved night.”Nicolas Bourgeois, director of Pic du Midi
He adds that city dwellers, men and animals could also be affected: “The measures taken in dark sky reserves can necessarily be applied in cities.” This is the whole purpose of the congress organized at the Pic du Midi: to allow the number of these reserves to be multiplied.