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Abstract

Research on urban climates has been an important topic in recent years, given the growing number of city inhabitants and significant influences of climate on health. Nevertheless, far less research has focused on the impacts of light pollution, not only on humans, but also on plants and animals in the landscape. This paper reports a study measuring the intensity of light pollution and its impact on the autumn phenological phases of tree species in the town of Zvolen (Slovakia). The research was carried out at two housing estates and in the central part of the town in the period 2013–2016. The intensity of ambient nocturnal light at 18 measurement points was greater under cloudy weather than in clear weather conditions. Comparison with the ecological standard for Slovakia showed that average night light values in the town centre and in the housing estate with an older type of public lighting, exceeded the threshold value by 5 lux. Two tree species, sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus L.) and staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina L.), demonstrated sensitivity to light pollution. The average onset of the autumn phenophases in the crown parts situated next to the light sources was delayed by 13 to 22 days, and their duration was prolonged by 6 to 9 days. There are three major results: (i) the effects of light pollution on organisms in the urban environment are documented; (ii) the results provide support for a theoretical and practical basis for better urban planning policies to mitigate light pollution effects on organisms; and (iii) some limits of the use of plant phenology as a bioindicator of climate change are presented.

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