||Light pollution is rapidly increasing and can have deleterious effects on biodiversity, yet light types differ in their effect on wildlife. Among the light types used for street lamps, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are expected to become globally predominant within the next few years.
In a large-scale field experiment, we recorded bat activity at 46 street lights for 12 nights each and investigated how the widespread replacement of conventional illuminants by LEDs affects urban bats: we compared bat activity at municipal mercury vapour (MV) street lamps that were replaced by LEDs with control sites that were not changed.
Pipistrellus pipistrellus was the most frequently recorded species; it was 45% less active at LEDs than at MV street lamps, but the activity did not depend on illuminance level. Light type did not affect the activity of Pipistrellus nathusii, Pipistrellus pygmaeus or bats in the Nyctalus/Eptesicus/Vespertilio (NEV) group, yet the activity of P. nathusii increased with illuminance level. Bats of the genus Myotis increased activity 4Â·5-fold at LEDs compared with MV lights, but illuminance level had no effect.
Decreased activity of P. pipistrellus, which are considered light tolerant, probably paralleled insect densities around lights. Further, our results suggest that LEDs may be less repelling for light-averse Myotis spp. than MV lights. Accordingly, the transition from conventional lighting techniques to LEDs may greatly alter the anthropogenic impact of artificial light on urban bats and might eventually affect the resilience of urban bat populations.
Synthesis and applications. At light-emitting diodes (LEDs), the competitive advantage â the exclusive ability to forage on insect aggregations at lights â is reduced for light-tolerant bats. Thus, the global spread of LED street lamps might lead to a more natural level of competition between light-tolerant and light-averse bats. This effect could be reinforced if the potential advantages of LEDs over conventional illuminants are applied in practice: choice of spectra with relatively little energy in the short wavelength range; reduced spillover by precisely directing light; dimming during low human activity times; and control by motion sensors. Yet, the potential benefits of LEDs could be negated if low costs foster an overall increase in artificial lighting.