Darkness and nature: each benefits the other

There's nothing I find more relaxing than the round of the dark forest I do on my ATB at the end of a busy day. Smells are stronger, my senses are heightened and I'm so familiar with every pothole and bump in the path ahead that I navigate my way past them elegantly and effortlessly. Bats stand out against the dim light of the sky. It's surprising just how much you can actually see in the dark once your eyes have got used to the gloom. I treasure the dark.

Photo: Marketing Groningen

Photo: marketing Groningen

When the sun goes down, the temperature drops and the humidity increases. This is great for worms, snails, slugs, spiders and insects like moths and grasshoppers. Owls, mice and bats profit as well. Mammals like hedgehogs, foxes, badgers and roe deer often hunt for their food at night for this very reason. More than 50% of animals are active at night, so let's keep the darkness actually dark!

The night is the best time for all kinds of creatures to look for food or a mate, as it's difficult for enemies to see their prey at this time of day. Did you know that a fox's hearing is so good that it can hear a worm burrowing out of the soil? And that an owl can catch its prey based on sound alone?

Photo: Marketing Groningen

Treasure the dark!

Darkness is one of the core qualities that nature has to offer, along with tranquillity and space. Too much artificial light disrupts nature. Although life isn't possible without light, there wouldn't be any peace and quiet without darkness either.

Light can disrupt the biological clock of animals and humans alike. This daily rhythm is dictated in part by the light and darkness in the world around us. Birds mate, build nests and start to migrate earlier or later. This affects the survival chances of the species. Finally, many animals are attracted or repelled by light. This fragments habitats and increases the chance of animals falling prey to predators.

Nature needs darkness to survive, so: treasure the dark!

Because nature and darkness are so important, there are many nature reserves where you can experience both. Most areas have been opened up for the public to visit after sunset.  For example, the Lauwersmeer National Park was officially designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) in 2016. A Dark Sky Park is an area where it is dark, where the darkness is preserved and where visitors are welcome to come along at night to experience the dark and the starry sky in their full glory. This designation is a very special development, as the Netherlands is one of the most light-polluted countries in the world. It is the Netherlands' second Dark Sky Park (the Boschplaat on the island of Terschelling was the first).

Annet de Jong, forester

 

Counting stars in Dark Sky Park Lauwersmeer