The fireworks displays that will be presented in cities and towns around the country to mark Israel’s 75th anniversary will be enjoyed by observers – or at least municipalities that spend fortunes on them think so. But in fact, they cause long-term damage to wildlife, as well as trauma to many domestic pets.
A study at Curtin University in Australia that investigated the effects, urge that they be replaced with cleaner drone and laser light shows to avoid the “highly damaging” impact on wildlife, domestic pets and the broader environment.
The new research, published in Pacific Conservation Biology under the title “Not just a flash in the pan: short- and long-term impacts of fireworks on the environment” examined the environmental toll of firework displays by reviewing the ecological effects of Diwali festivities in India, Fourth of July celebrations across the US and other events in New Zealand and parts of Europe.
Examples included fireworks in Spanish festivals impacting the breeding success of House Sparrows, July firework displays being implicated in the decline of Brandt’s Cormorant colonies in California, and South American sea lions changing their behavior during breeding season as a result of New Year’s fireworks in Chile.
Lead author Prof. Bill Bateman at Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences said fireworks remained globally popular despite the overwhelming evidence that they negatively impacted wildlife, domestic animals and the environment.
“Fireworks create short-term noise and light disturbances that cause distress in domestic animals that may be managed before or after a firework event, but the impacts to wildlife can be on a much larger scale,” Bateman said.
“Fireworks create short-term noise and light disturbances that cause distress in domestic animals that may be managed before or after a firework event, but the impacts to wildlife can be on a much larger scale.”Prof. Bill Bateman
“The annual timing of some large-scale firework events coincides with the migratory or reproductive movements of wildlife, and may therefore have adverse long-term population effects on them. Fireworks also produce significant pulses of highly pollutant materials that also contribute significantly to the chemical pollution of soil, water, and air, which has implications for human as well as animal health.”
How can people limit the damage?
He added that firework bans at sensitive periods for wildlife migration or mating periods could limit the impact, as well as drones or other light-based shows. The annual timing of some large-scale fireworks events coincides with the migratory or reproductive behavior of wildlife and thus may have adverse long-term population effects on them. Fireworks residues also contribute significantly to chemical pollution of soil, water, and air, which has implications for human as well as animal health.
“Other than horses, for which there is some evidence that they can be gradually familiarized with flashes of light, there is very little that can be done to address the disturbing impact of noise from fireworks on animals and wildlife,” Bateman stressed.
“The future of firework displays may be in the use of safer and greener alternatives such as drones, eco-friendly fireworks or visible-wavelength lasers for light shows. There is growing evidence that these community events can be managed in a sustainable way and it’s clear that outdated firework displays need to be replaced by cleaner options that are not harmful to wildlife and the environment,” he wrote.
Modern technological alternatives to traditional fireworks – both ‘eco-friendly’ fireworks and reusable drone and laser-based light shows – provide safer, “greener” alternatives that also present a sustainable way forward for maintaining cultural traditions without perpetuating their adverse impacts.