Far-reaching displacement effects of artificial light at night in a North American bat community Institutional Repository Document uri icon


  • ABSTRACTArtificial light at night (ALAN) is a global pollutant that disrupts circadian rhythmicity and a broad range of physiological processes and behaviors in animals. However, ALAN sensitivity can vary greatly even among closely related species and urgently needs study for much of the worlds nocturnal wildlife, including bats. While an increasing number of bat species have been assessed for light tolerance in recent years, the spatial extent of ALANs influence on bats has received little attention. This information need is a barrier to the protection of bats from ALAN in land-use planning and policy, and the development of best practices that effectively buffer bat habitat from light trespass. To help address this information gap for North America, we experimentally tested the distances up to which ALAN affects presence and activity of light-averse little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), and the composition of a foraging bat assemblage in Connecticut, USA. We used three residential-scale, white, LED floodlights to expose bat foraging habitat to ALAN and compared acoustic activity of bats at distances of 0, 25, 50, and 75 m from the lights between nights when the lights were on versus off. Little brown bats were present on significantly fewer light than dark nights at every distance. Lighting significantly reduced little brown bat activity overall and at the farthest location from the lights (75 m), where it was only 43% of dark-night activity despite 0 lx of illuminance. Presence of big brown bats was not significantly affected at any distance. Big brown bat activity on light nights averaged 48-75% of dark-night activity at each distance but was significantly lower only at 0 m. Community composition on dark and light nights had an average dissimilarity of 38% and significantly differed at 0 m and 25 m. We conclude the type of ALAN used in our study has a disturbance radius of at least 75 m for the little brown bat and up to 25 m for the big brown bat, with a resulting influence on community composition for up to 50 m. Cumulative habitat loss for the imperiled little brown bat caused by ALAN could therefore be substantial. We urge planners and natural resources regulators to consider these footprints when evaluating indirect impacts to bat habitat from current and future sources of ALAN across these species ranges.

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Seewagen, C. L., Nadeau-Gneckow, J., & Adams, A. M.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Seewagen, Chad L||Nadeau-Gneckow, Julia||Adams, Amanda M

Book Title

  • bioRxiv

publication date

  • October 2023