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

Boyes, Douglas H. ORCID:; Evans, Darren M.; Fox, Richard; Parsons, Mark S.; Pocock, Michael J.O.. 2021 Is light pollution driving moth population declines? A review of causal mechanisms across the life cycle [in special issue: Impacts of artificial lighting at night on insect conservation] Insect Conservation and Diversity, 14 (2). 167-187.

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1. 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. 2. 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. 3. 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. 4. 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.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1752-458X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: artificial light at night, insect declines, Lepidoptera, meta-analysis, nocturnal, phototaxis, street lighting
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 27 Dec 2020 13:18 +0 (UTC)

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