Night-time lighting alters the composition of marine epifaunal communities

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Marine benthic communities face multiple anthropogenic pressures that compromise the future of some of the most biodiverse and functionally important ecosystems in the world. Yet one of the pressures these ecosystems face, night-time lighting, remains unstudied. Light is an important cue in guiding the settlement of invertebrate larvae, and altering natural regimes of nocturnal illumination could modify patterns of recruitment among sessile epifauna. We present the first evidence of night-time lighting changing the composition of temperate epifaunal marine invertebrate communities. Illuminating settlement surfaces with white light-emitting diode lighting at night, to levels experienced by these communities locally, both inhibited and encouraged the colonization of 39% of the taxa analysed, including three sessile and two mobile species. Our results indicate that ecological light pollution from coastal development, shipping and offshore infrastructure could be changing the composition of marine epifaunal communities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2015
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