This month the tiny Pacific island of Niue became the world’s first “dark sky nation.”The International Dark-Sky Association made the designation to recognize the visibility and clarity of Niue’s starry nights, and the country’s commitment to protecting its nocturnal environment by mitigating artificial light pollution.The move provides additional protection to the country’s unique biodiversity, including nocturnal species like flying foxes and coconut crabs. The Pacific island of Niue, one of the least-populated countries in the world, was designated the world’s first “dark sky nation” by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) on March 7. The title recognizes the visibility and clarity of Niue’s starry nights, and the country’s commitment to protecting its nocturnal environment by mitigating artificial light pollution. The move provides additional protection to the country’s unique biodiversity. For more than 80% of the world’s population, our nighttime light levels have been so altered by artificial light that they’re considered polluted, according to a 2016 study. One-third of us can’t see the Milky Way from where we live. And light pollution is growing: a 2017 study showed an increase in artificially lit areas of more than 2% per year between 2012 and 2016. Beyond spoiling our views of the heavens, the impacts of artificial light on the planet’s ecosystems are wide-ranging. Animals’ migration patterns, eating habits and reproductive strategies can all be thrown off-kilter, as can plants’ growth patterns and resource allocation. Coastal marine environments may be particularly vulnerable, as more than a fifth of the world’s coastlines are exposed to artificial light at night, Mariana Mayer Pinto, a marine scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told Mongabay. “In areas brightly lit at night, turtles can’t find the ocean, birds become disoriented while flying, and clownfish don’t hatch,” she said. “It can also affect the mass-spawning event of many reef-building corals.” For Niue, an island that’s made of coral and harbors numerous endemic species, keeping light pollution under control could be particularly important, according to Niuean native Felicity Bollen, the CEO of state-owned enterprise Niue Tourism. She said some of the native species that would be particularly affected by increases in light pollution are the peka or Pacific flying fox (Pteropus tonganus tonganus) and the uga or coconut crab (Birgus latro), both of which are nocturnal. Peka play an important role in seed dispersal on the island, and uga are a highly valued food source for Niueans.