Ecological Impact of LAN: San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

The San Pedro River in Southeastern Arizona is home to nearly 45% of the 900 total species of birds in the United States; millions of songbirds migrate though this unique flyway every year. As the last undammed river in the Southwest, it has been called one of the “last great places” in the US. Human activity has had striking and highly visible impacts on the San Pedro River. As a result, and to help preserve and conserve the area, much of the region has been designated the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA). Attention has been directed to impacts of population, water depletion, and border fence barriers on the riparian environment. To date, there has been little recognition that light at night (LAN), evolving with the increased local population, could have moderating influences on the area. STEM Laboratory has pioneered techniques of coordinated airborne and ground based measurements of light at night, and has undertaken a program of characterizing LAN in this region. We conducted the first aerial baseline surveys of sky brightness in 2012. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) shapefiles allow comparison and correlation of various biological databases with the LAN data. The goal is to better understand how increased dissemination of night time lighting impacts the distributions, behavior, and life cycles of biota on this ecosystem. We discuss the baseline measurements, current data collection programs, and some of the implications for specific biological systems.

Eric Craine

AUTHORS/INSTITUTIONS: E.R. Craine, B.L. Craine, Western Research Company, Tucson, Arizona, UNITED STATESE.R. Craine, B.L. Craine, STEM Laboratory, Inc., Tucson, Arizona, UNITED STATES


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