Street lighting changes communities

Davies, T.W., Bennie, J. & Gaston, K.J. 2012. Street lighting changes the composition of invertebrate communities. Biology Letters 8, 764-767.

Artificial lighting has been used to illuminate the nocturnal environment for centuries and continues to expand with urbanization and economic development. Yet, the potential ecological impact of the resultant light pollution has only recently emerged as a major cause for concern. While investigations have demonstrated that artificial lighting can influence organism behaviour, reproductive success and survivorship, none have addressed whether it is altering the composition of communities. We show, for the first time, that invertebrate community composition is affected by proximity to street lighting independently of the time of day. Five major invertebrate groups contributed to compositional differences, resulting in an increase in the number of predatory and scavenging individuals in brightly lit communities. Our results indicate that street lighting changes the environment at higher levels of biological organization than previously recognized, raising the potential that it can alter the structure and function of ecosystems.

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