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Duarte, C., Quintanilla-Ahumada, D., Anguita, C., Manríquez, P. H., Widdicombe, S., Pulgar, J., et al. (2019). Artificial light pollution at night (ALAN) disrupts the distribution and circadian rhythm of a sandy beach isopod. Environmental Pollution, 248, 565–573.
Abstract: Coastal habitats, in particular sandy beaches, are becoming increasingly exposed to artificial light pollution at night (ALAN). Yet, only a few studies have this far assessed the effects of ALAN on the species inhabiting these ecosystems. In this study we assessed the effects of ALAN on Tylos spinulosus, a prominent wrack-consumer isopod living in sandy beaches of north-central Chile. This species burrows in the sand during daylight and emerges at night to migrate down-shore, so we argue it can be used as a model species for the study of ALAN effects on coastal nocturnal species. We assessed whether ALAN alters the distribution and locomotor activity of this isopod using a light system placed in upper shore sediments close to the edge of the dunes, mimicking light intensities measured near public lighting. The response of the isopods was compared to control transects located farther away and not exposed to artificial light. In parallel, we measured the isopods’ locomotor activity in the laboratory using actographs that recorded their movement within mesocosms simulating the beach surface. Measurements in the field indicated a clear reduction in isopod abundance near the source of the light and a restriction of their tidal distribution range, as compared to control transects. Meanwhile, the laboratory experiments showed that in mesocosms exposed to ALAN, isopods exhibited reduced activity and a circadian rhythm that was altered and even lost after a few days. Such changes with respect to control mesocosms with a natural day/night cycle suggest that the changes observed in the field were directly related to a disruption in the locomotor activity of the isopods. All together these results provide causal evidence of negative ALAN effects on this species, and call for further research on other nocturnal sandy beach species that might become increasingly affected by ALAN.