Bright lights, big city: influences of ecological light pollution on reciprocal stream–riparian invertebrate fluxes


  • Corresponding Editor: J. M. Marzluff.


Cities produce considerable ecological light pollution (ELP), yet the effects of artificial night lighting on biological communities and ecosystem function have not been fully explored. From June 2010 to June 2011, we surveyed aquatic emergent insects, riparian arthropods entering the water, and riparian spiders of the family Tetragnathidae at nine stream reaches representing common ambient ELP levels of Columbus, Ohio, USA, streams (low, 0.1–0.5 lux; moderate, 0.6–2.0 lux; high, 2.1–4.0 lux). In August 2011, we experimentally increased light levels at the low- and moderate-treatment reaches to 10–12 lux to represent urban streams exposed to extremely high levels of ELP. Although season exerted the dominant influence on invertebrate fluxes over the course of the year, when analyzed by season, we found that light strongly influenced multiple invertebrate responses. The experimental light addition resulted in a 44% decrease in tetragnathid spider density (P = 0.035), decreases of 16% in family richness (P = 0.040) and 76% in mean body size (P = 0.022) of aquatic emergent insects, and a 309% increase in mean body size of terrestrial arthropods (P = 0.015). Our results provide evidence that artificial light sources can alter community structure and ecosystem function in streams via changes in reciprocal aquatic–terrestrial fluxes of invertebrates.