Lighting invertebrates

Lockett, M.T., Jones, T.M., Elgar, M.A., Gaston, K.J., Visser, M.E. & Hopkins, G.R. 2021. Urban street lighting differentially affects community attributes of airborne and ground-dwelling invertebrate assemblages. Journal of Applied Ecology, in press.

1. The introduction of artificial light at night (ALAN) into natural and urbanised landscapes is a known and highly pervasive disruptor of invertebrate communities. However, the effect of variation in intensity and spectra of ALAN on invertebrate communities inhabiting different spatial niches is little understood. Further, the remarkable ability of ALAN to continue to disrupt biodiversity even in chronically illuminated urban landscapes is not often acknowledged.

2. Here, we simultaneously sampled airborne and ground-dwelling invertebrate assemblages under and between urban street lights to explore the effects on community composition and abundance of (a) proximity to decadal (i.e. long-illuminated) nocturnal street lighting and (b) variation in the spectral output of light.

3. The two assemblages responded differently. For airborne invertebrates, night-time abundance doubled, and night-time assemblage composition was significantly different for traps under, compared with between, street lights. These differences in abundance were not affected by street light intensity, and were absent in day samples, suggesting that even weak ALAN may be causing short-term redistribution of nocturnal invertebrates. Further, the abundance (but not composition) effects of ALAN on airborne invertebrates increased when the street lights emitted a higher proportion of short-wavelength light.

4. In contrast, for ground-dwelling invertebrates, we found only marginal effects of proximity and spectrum of lighting on abundance and no effect on assemblage composition. However, more intense street lighting reduced abundance and altered composition at traps both under and between lights.

5. Synthesis and Applications. Public lighting managers must consider ALAN impacts on invertebrate communities not only when introducing ALAN to naïve environments, but also when changing lighting in areas that are highly urbanised and exposed to decades of ALAN. Further, lighting proposals and environmental monitoring of invertebrate communities must take into account the effects on both ground-dwelling and airborne assemblages, as these may respond very differently to the presence, intensity and spectrum of ALAN.