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How artificial light at night may rewire ecological networks: concepts and models

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Darren Evans



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


Artificial light at night (ALAN) is eroding natural light cycles and thereby changing species distributions and activity patterns. Yet little is known about how ecological interaction networks respond to this global change driver. Here, we assess the scientific basis of the current understanding of community-wide ALAN impacts. Based on current knowledge, we conceptualize and review four major pathways by which ALAN may affect ecological interaction networks by (i) impacting primary production, (ii) acting as an environmental filter affecting species survival, (iii) driving the movement and distribution of species, and (iv) changing functional roles and niches by affecting activity patterns. Using an allometric-trophic network model, we then test how a shift in temporal activity patterns for diurnal, nocturnal and crepuscular species impacts food web stability. The results indicate that diel niche shifts can severely impact community persistence by altering the temporal overlap between species, which leads to changes in interaction strengths and rewiring of networks. ALAN can thereby lead to biodiversity loss through the homogenization of temporal niches. This integrative framework aims to advance a predictive understanding of community-level and ecological-network consequences of ALAN and their cascading effects on ecosystem functioning. This article is part of the theme issue 'Light pollution in complex ecological systems'.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sanders D, Hirt MR, Brose U, Evans DM, Gaston KJ, Gauzens B, Ryser R

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences

Year: 2023

Volume: 378

Issue: 1892

Online publication date: 30/10/2023

Acceptance date: 13/06/2023

ISSN (print): 0962-8436

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2970


DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2022.0368

PubMed id: 37899020