< Back to previous page


An experimental approach to investigating effects of artificial light at night on free-ranging animals

Journal Contribution - e-publication

Subtitle:implementation, results, and directions for future research
Animals have evolved with natural patterns of light and darkness. However, artificial light is being increasingly introduced into the environment from human infrastructure and recreational activity. Artificial light at night (ALAN) has the potential to have widespread effects on animal behavior, physiology, and fitness, which can translate into broader-scale effects on populations and communities. Understanding the effects of ALAN on free-ranging animals is non-trivial due to challenges such as measuring levels of light encountered by mobile organisms and separating the effects of ALAN from those of other anthropogenic disturbance factors. Here we describe an approach that allows us to isolate the effects of artificial light exposure on individual animals by experimentally manipulating light levels inside nest boxes. To this end, a system can be used consisting of light-emitting diode (LED) light(s) adhered to a plate and connected to a battery and timer system. The setup allows exposure of individuals inside nest boxes to varying intensities and durations of ALAN while simultaneously obtaining video recordings, which also include audio. The system has been used in studies on free-ranging great tits (Parus major) and blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) to gain insight into how ALAN affects sleep and activity patterns in adults and physiology and telomere dynamics in developing nestlings. The system, or an adaptation thereof, could be used to answer many other intriguing research questions, such as how ALAN interacts with other disturbance factors and affects bioenergetic balance. Furthermore, similar systems could be installed in or near the nest boxes, nests or burrows of a variety of species to manipulate levels of ALAN, evaluate biological responses, and work towards building an interspecific perspective. Especially when combined with other advanced approaches for monitoring the behavior and movement of free-living animals, this approach promises to yield ongoing contributions to our understanding of the biological implications of ALAN.
Journal: Journal of visualized experiments
ISSN: 1940-087X
Volume: 99
Pages: 1 - 19
Publication year:2022
Keywords:A1 Journal article