Artificial light at night affects organism flux across ecosystem boundaries and drives community structure in the recipient ecosystem

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Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a widespread alteration of the natural environment that can affect the functioning of ecosystems. ALAN can change the movement patterns of freshwater animals that move into the adjacent riparian and terrestrial ecosystems, but the implications for local riparian consumers that rely on these subsidies are still unexplored. We conducted a 2-year field experiment to quantify changes of freshwater-terrestrial linkages by installing streetlights in a previously light-naïve riparian area adjacent to an agricultural drainage ditch. We compared the abundance and community composition of emerging aquatic insects, flying insects, and ground-dwelling arthropods with an unlit control site. Comparisons were made within and between years using two-way generalized least squares (GLS) model and a BACI design (Before-After Control-Impact). Aquatic insect emergence, the proportion of flying insects that were aquatic in origin, and the total abundance of flying insects all increased in the ALAN-illuminated area. The abundance of several night-active ground-dwelling predators (Pachygnatha clercki, Trochosa sp., Opiliones) increased under ALAN and their activity was extended into the day. Conversely, the abundance of nocturnal ground beetles (Carabidae) decreased under ALAN. The changes in composition of riparian predator and scavenger communities suggest that the increase in aquatic-to-terrestrial subsidy flux may cascade through the riparian food web. The work is among the first studies to experimentally manipulate ALAN using a large-scale field experiment, and provides evidence that ALAN can affect processes that link adjacent ecosystems. Given the large number of streetlights that are installed along shorelines of freshwater bodies throughout the globe, the effects could be widespread and represent an underestimated source of impairment for both aquatic and riparian systems.




Manfrin, A., Singer, G., Larsen, S., Weiß, N., van Grunsven, R. H. A., Weiß, N. S., … Hölker, F. (2017). Artificial light at night affects organism flux across ecosystem boundaries and drives community structure in the recipient ecosystem. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 5(OCT).

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