Christmas lights in Mechelen, Belgium

The season of darkness – and tons of artificial little lights to compensate for that – is finally coming to an end again. Here in Belgium, we are again gaining two minutes of daylight every day, on our steady road to spring and summer.

Did you know that the increased competition for light is one of the main reasons biodiversity goes down when a vegetation gets more nutrients? A famous paper in Science (Hautier et al. 2009) once showed this elegantly: they added artificial light sources underneath the vegetation in a grassland and showed how this extra light counteracted the loss of biodiversity through the addition of nutrients.

Normally: more nutrients, more competition for light as competitive plants get bigger, and thus less biodiversity.

Now: more nutrients, light artificially kept high, biodiversity didn’t go down.

Hautier et al. (2009). Competition for light causes plant biodiversity loss after eutrophication. Science. 324, 636-638.

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