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Keywords:

  • anthropogenic impacts;
  • biodiversity conservation;
  • climate change targets;
  • LED street lights;
  • light pollution;
  • light-emitting diodes

Abstract

Artificial lighting is a key biodiversity threat and produces 1900 million tonnes of CO 2 emissions globally, more than three times that produced by aviation. The need to meet climate change targets has led to a global increase in energy-efficient light sources such as high-brightness light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Despite the energetic benefits of LEDs, their ecological impacts have not been tested. Using an experimental approach, we show that LED street lights caused a reduction in activity of slow-flying bats ( Rhinolophus hipposideros and Myotis spp.). Both R. hipposideros and Myotis spp. activities were significantly reduced even during low light levels of 3.6 lux. There was no effect of LED lighting on the relatively fast-flying Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Pipistrellus pygmaeus and Nyctalus/Eptesicus spp. We provide the first evidence of the effects of LED lights on bats. Despite having considerable energy-saving benefits, LED lights can potentially fragment commuting routes for bats with associated negative conservation consequences. Our results add to the growing evidence of negative impacts of lighting on a wide range of taxa. We highlight the complexities involved in simultaneously meeting targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. New lighting strategies should integrate climate change targets with the cultural, social and ecological impacts of emerging lighting technologies.