Lighting up food webs

Sanders, S., Baker, D.J., Cruse, D., Bell, F., van Veen, F.J.F. & Gaston, K.J. 2022. Spectrum of artificial light at night drives impact of a diurnal species in insect food web. Science of the Total Environment 831, 154893.

Artificial light at night (ALAN) has become a profound form of global anthropogenic environmental change differing in from natural light regimes in intensity, duration, distribution and spectra. It is clear that ALAN impacts individual organisms, however, population level effects, particularly of spectral changes, remain poorly understood. Here we exposed experimental multigenerational aphid-parasitoid communities in the field to seven different light spectra at night ranging from 385 to 630 nm and compared responses to a natural day-night light regime. We found that while aphid population growth was initially unaffected by ALAN, parasitoid efficiency declined under most ALAN spectra, leading to reduced top-down control and higher aphid densities. These results differ from those previously found for white light, showing a strong impact on species’ daytime performance. This highlights the importance of ALAN spectra when considering their environmental impact. ALAN can have large impacts on the wider ecological community by influencing diurnal species.