Impacts of Light Pollution on Intraand Inter-specific Competition

Light-induced changes in circadian activity patterns can alter competition both within species (e.g. for mates) and between species (e.g. interference and exploitation competition). These are best documented for birds. For instance, early singing may be a signal of male quality in songbirds and increases the rate of extra-pair copulations, which are usually higher in older males. In territories affected by artificial light, males of several songbird species start singing earlier at dawn and thereby gain access to about twice as many extra-pair mates (Kempenaers et al. 2010; Nordt and Klenke 2013; Dominoni et al. 2014). The effect of artificial light on paternity gain is even stronger in yearlings than in adults, and so street lights might result in maladaptive mate choice of females by artificially increasing the extra-pair success of yearlings (Kempenaers et al. 2010). Whether similar maladaptive effects occur with nocturnal species is less clear.

Artificial light can affect niche partitioning by extending the activity of diurnal species, bringing them into inter-specific competition with nocturnal species (Longcore and Rich 2004; Rich and Longcore 2006). The scissor-tailed flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus, for example, will catch insects at street lights until at least 3 h after sunset (Frey 1993); this may increase exploitation and interference competition with insectivorous bats. Light pollution may also cause inter-specific competition between bats, with light-sensitive bat species excluded from illuminated resources exploited by light-tolerant species (Arlettaz et al. 2000).

Effects of Artificial Light on Physiological Homeostasis

Light-induced changes in circadian rhythms may induce physiological aberrations. For instance, exposure of captive mice to light at night disrupts metabolic signals, leading to increased body mass and decreased glucose tolerance (Fonken et al. 2010). Dim night-time light can also impair learning and memory, affect stress hormone levels, compromise immune function and cause depressive-like behaviour in rodents (Bedrosian et al. 2011, 2013; Fonken et al. 2012). In humans, depression, obesity and cancer risk relate to light pollution and associated disruptions of the circadian system (Fonken and Nelson 2011; Kronfeld-Schor and Einat 2012; Haim and Portnov 2013).

Light pollution can also result in a decoupling of seasonal behaviours and physiological adaptations from the optimal time of year. So, for instance, reproduction might be desynchronised from peak food availability; even very low light levels at night advance avian reproduction (Dominoni et al. 2013) so that birds breed earlier close to street lights than in darker territories (Kempenaers et al. 2010). Light-induced decoupling can even reverse an animal's seasonal phenotype, so that it exhibits a long-day phenotype in winter and vice versa. In sheep, 1 h of light during the dark phase is enough to mimic a long-day during short-day conditions (Chemineau et al. 1992). Also in primates, artificial light at night can induce a long-day phenotype; these animals had higher core body temperatures, showed less locomotor activity during the nocturnal activity period and had fainter torpor bouts compared with short-day photoperiod acclimated animals (Le Tallec et al. 2013). Voles that experienced light interference at night showed reduced winter acclimatisation of their thermoregulatory system to such a degree that they reduced heat production and died under winter field conditions (Haim et al. 2004, 2005). Thus, light pollution may have deleterious impacts on survival when animals expend too much energy during winter (Haim et al. 2004): this may be relevant for hibernating bats.

 
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >