[This article is part of the “Capraia Night Sky Symposium, reloaded” series – check this introduction to learn more]
DARK SKY PLACES OF THE WORLD
Chair, Dark Skies Advisory Group
World Commission on Protected Areas, IUCN
From 1993 to March 2018, 149 dark sky parks and communities in 23 countries have been recognized by various organisations, notably the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) and the Starlight Initiative.
Because light pollution impacts species and their interactions, many natural area organizations implement lighting systems friendly to night sky viewing and night ecology. Parks Canada and the RASC developed guidelines for outdoor lighting in parks, now
recommended by IDA. These guidelines apply in the 27 Canadian dark sky preserves. The Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division of the US National Park Service has guided 22 of its sites to be among USA’s 65 dark sky places, mostly recognized by the IDA.
The Starlight Initiative certifies 16 Starlight Reserves mostly in Spain. Several other places are certified by sub-national levels of government or by astronomy research groups. As well as parks and communities, the IDA certifies “Developments of Distinction” and,
likewise, the Starlight Initiative “Starlight Tourism Destinations.”
Because these programmes use many different naming systems, the IUCN Dark Skies Advisory Group developed a 6 class system, some with sub-classes, to enable world-wide comparisons.
1, Dark Sky Astronomy Site, 14 places around the world.
2, Dark Sky Park, 86 places.
3, Dark Sky Heritage Site, 3 places.
4, Dark Sky Outreach Site 9 places.
5, Dark Sky Reserve, 13 places.
6, Dark Sky Community, 24 places.
Several challenges remain.
1)Light pollution reduction is often overshadowed by other threats to nature, such as climate change.
2) Much work remains to be done to reduce light pollution in urban areas, where protected areas can play a role through outreach, visitor engagement and demonstrating best practices.
3) There still needs to be recognition that protected areas, by default, should be dark sky places.
KEYWORDS: protected areas, nature conservation, parks, communities, best