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Is light pollution driving moth population declines? A review of causal mechanisms across the life cycle

Lookup NU author(s): Douglas Boyes, Professor Darren Evans



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 The Authors. Insect Conservation and Diversity published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Entomological Society.The night-time environment is increasingly being lit, often by broad-spectrum lighting, and there is growing evidence that artificial light at night (ALAN) has consequences for ecosystems, potentially contributing to declines in insect populations. Moths are species-rich, sensitive to ALAN, and have undergone declines in Europe, making them the ideal group for investigating the impacts of light pollution on nocturnal insects more broadly. Here, we take a life cycle approach to review the impacts of ALAN on moths, drawing on a range of disciplines including ecology, physiology, and applied entomology. We find evidence of diverse impacts across most life stages and key behaviours. Many studies have examined flight-to-light behaviour in adults and our meta-analysis found that mercury vapour, metal halide, and compact fluorescent bulbs induce this more than LED and sodium lamps. However, we found that ALAN can also disrupt reproduction, larval development, and pupal diapause, with likely negative impacts on individual fitness, and that moths can be indirectly affected via hostplants and predators. These findings indicate that ALAN could also affect day-flying insects through impacts on earlier life stages. Overall, we found strong evidence for effects of artificial light on moth behaviour and physiology, but little rigorous, direct evidence that this scales up to impacts on populations. Crucially, there is a need to determine the potential contribution of ALAN to insect declines, relative to other drivers of change. In the meantime, we recommend precautionary strategies to mitigate possible negative effects of ALAN on insect populations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Boyes DH, Evans DM, Fox R, Parsons MS, Pocock MJO

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Insect Conservation and Diversity

Year: 2021

Volume: 14

Issue: 2

Pages: 167-187

Print publication date: 01/03/2021

Online publication date: 13/09/2020

Acceptance date: 25/08/2020

ISSN (print): 1752-458X

ISSN (electronic): 1752-4598

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1111/icad.12447