Effects of Light Pollution on Ecosystem Services Provided by Bats

The impacts of lighting go far beyond changing the physiology, behaviour and/ or distribution of individual species. Since congeners interact with each other as well as their prey and predators, light pollution is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the entire biome and the ecosystem services that bats provide. Insectivorous bats, for instance, significantly reduce the number of insects that cause damage to flora and fauna (Ghanem and Voigt 2012). The value of insectivorous bats to the US agricultural industry by reducing insect populations was estimated to be $23 billion/year (Boyles et al. 2011).

Most studies to date have been on temperate-zone insectivorous bats. However, many tropical bats feed on nectar and fruits, thereby pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds of several hundred species of plants (Ghanem and Voigt 2012). Consequently, frugivorous bats are key for succession and maintaining plant diversity, especially in fragmented Neotropical landscapes (Medellin and Gaona 1999; Muscarella and Fleming 2007). However, very little is known about the impact of light pollution on this feeding guild. Southern long-nosed bats Leptonycteris yerbabuenae, a nectarand fruit-eating species, used areas of relatively low light intensity when commuting (Lowery et al. 2009) and Oprea et al. (2009) rarely captured frugivorous bats along roads, although some were present in municipal parks. However, neither study could disentangle the influence of lighting from other factors related to urbanisation, such as altered vegetation cover or increased noise levels. Lewanzik and Voigt (2014) provided the first experimental evidence for light avoidance by frugivorous bats. They found that Sowell's short-tailed bat Carollia sowelli, a specialist on fruits of the genus Piper, harvested only about half as many fruits in a flight cage compartment lit by a sodium vapour street light than in a dark compartment, and free-ranging bats neglected ripe fruits that were experimentally illuminated (Fig. 7.6). Lewanzik and Voigt (2014) concluded that artificial light might reduce nocturnal dispersal of pioneer plant seeds. Since

Fig. 7.6 Artificial lighting reduces and delays feeding behaviour on pepper plants by a frugivorous bat. a Percentage of harvested infructescences of Piper sancti-felices among 14 marked plants harvested by Sowell's short-tailed bats Carollia sowelli in nonilluminated conditions (black) and under conditions where plants were illuminated by

a street lamp (grey) in the field, b time after sunset when infructescences were harvested. From Lewanzik and Voigt (2014)

bat-mediated seed intake is particularly important during the early stages of succession (Medellin and Gaona 1999; Muscarella and Fleming 2007), light pollution might slow down the reforestation of cleared rainforests (Lewanzik and Voigt 2014).

 
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