Environmental pollution and biodiversity: Light pollution and sea turtles in the Caribbean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Economics, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados
  • Université Paris Ouest, France
  • Economie publique, AgroParisTech, INRA, Université Paris-Saclay, 78850
  • Ecolé Polytechnique


We examine the impact of pollution on biodiversity by studying the effect of coastal light pollution on the sea turtle population in the Caribbean. To this end we assemble a panel data set of sea turtle nesting activity and satellite-derived measures of nighttime light. Controlling for the surveyor effort, the local economic infrastructure, and spatial spillovers, we find that nighttime light significantly reduces the number of sea turtle nests. According to data on replacement costs for sea turtles raised in captivity, our result suggests that the increase in lighting over the last two decades has resulted in the loss of close to 1800 sea turtles in the Caribbean, worth up to $288 million. Incorporating our empirical estimates into a stage-structured population model, we discover that the dynamic effect of nighttime light on future generations of sea turtles is likely to be much larger, with a cost of approximately $2.8 billion for Guadeloupe alone. More generally, our study provides a new approach to valuing the cost of environmental pollution associated with species extinction.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-116
JournalJournal of Environmental Economics and Management
Early online date3 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016