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Artificial lighting at night alters aquatic‐riparian invertebrate food webs
- Sullivan, S. Mažeika P., Hossler, Katie, Meyer, Lars A.
- Ecological applications 2019 v.29 no.1 pp. e01821
- Araneidae, Tetragnathidae, aquatic insects, carbon, community structure, detritivores, ecological function, ecosystems, energy, food chain, lighting, nitrogen, periphyton, predators, stable isotopes, streams, subsidies, wetlands, Ohio
- Artificial lighting at night (ALAN) is a global phenomenon that can be detrimental to organisms at individual and population levels, yet potential consequences for communities and ecosystem functions are less resolved. Riparian systems may be particularly vulnerable to ALAN. We investigated the impacts of ALAN on invertebrate community composition and food web characteristics for linked aquatic‐terrestrial ecosystems. We focused on food chain length (FCL), a central property of ecological communities that can influence their structure, function, and stability; and the contribution of aquatically derived energy (i.e., nutritional subsidies originating from stream periphyton). We collected terrestrial arthropods and emergent aquatic insects from a suite of stream and wetland sites in Columbus, Ohio, USA. Stable isotopes of carbon (¹³C) and nitrogen (¹⁵N) were used to infer FCL and contribution of aquatically derived energy. We found that moderate‐to‐high levels of ALAN altered invertebrate community composition, favoring primarily predators and detritivores. Impacts of ALAN, however, were very taxon specific as illustrated, for example, by the negative impact of ALAN on the abundance of orb‐web spiders belonging to the families Tetragnathidae and Araneidae: key invertebrate riparian predators. Most notably, we observed decreases in both invertebrate FCL and reliance on aquatically derived energy under ALAN (although aquatic energetic contributions appeared to increase again at higher levels of ALAN), in addition to shifts in the timing of reciprocal nutritional subsidies. Our study demonstrates that ALAN can alter the flows of energy between aquatic and terrestrial systems, thereby representing an environmental perturbation that can cross ecosystem boundaries. Given projections for global increases in ALAN, both in terms of coverage and intensity, these results have broad implications for stream ecosystem structure and function.