Light pollution has been of increasing concern as it relates to protected areas. As such, natural resource managers need information on the distribution, intensity, and dynamics of nighttime lights in protected areas. We examine the extent of nighttime light brightness from 1992 to 2012 in the Mediterranean Coast Network (Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Channel Islands National Park, and Cabrillo National Monument) using the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System, which has provided global annual nighttime light imagery at 0.9 km pixel resolution. Nighttime lights appeared stable in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, decreased in Cabrillo National Monument, and are extremely low in Channel Islands National Park. However, the mean brightness values in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Cabrillo National Monument were very high compared to all other National Parks. Indeed, both were comparable to the two National Parks in the USA with the highest mean brightness values (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Hot Springs National Park). Monitoring night light extent, intensity, time series, and change detection using remote sensing should be a standard practice for all protected areas managed by the National Park Service due to the no-cost nature of the data and ease at which analyses can be undertaken. The DMSP data and calibrated products can be used to monitor long-term changes in light distribution and intensity while the higher-resolution Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite data can be used to show changes in light distribution and density throughout the year and can be used to test how policy or ordinance changes impact light pollution.
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