Artificial Lighting at Night (ALAN)

Urban lighting, roadway lights, and other non-natural light sources are all forms of artificial lighting at night (ALAN) that can exert pervasive, long-term stress on ecosystems, many of which already suffer from other, more well-known forms of pollution. Since 2010, we’ve been investigating the ecological consequences of ALAN on aquatic and riparian ecosystems, relative to both the intensity/illuminance of lighting as well as its spectral composition. This work contributes to a growing understanding of the global change that ALAN represents to both human and natural systems.

Our current work is investigating the ecological effects of ALAN on small urban streams, wetlands, and large riparian reservoir systems. In a paired design, we are quantifying ecosystem metabolism, food web structure, and community composition in urban streams impacted with ALAN. We are also quantifying habitat usage and foraging patterns of birds and mammals in riparian corridors impacted by ALAN. Since the perception of light widely varies across different taxonomic groups, this project seeks to determine the illuminance levels (lux) and associated spectral compositions that are harmful to ecosystems.

This funding is provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation Grant Number 00052155.

Co-PI: Suzanne Gray

Some highlights of our work include:

1. 2013 – Article published in Ecological Applications describing how ALAN on can alter community structure and ecosystem function in streams via changes in reciprocal aquatic–terrestrial fluxes of invertebrates.
Meyer, L.A., and S.M.P. Sullivan. 2013. Bright lights, big city: influences of ecological light pollution on reciprocal stream-riparian invertebrate fluxes. Ecological Applications 23: 1322-1330.

2. 2018 – New article in Ecological Applications on 5 years of research in Columbus streams, wetlands, and riparian zones on the effects of ALAN on invertebrate community and food-web structure and cross-boundary flows of energy. Also see Ohio State News for a feature on this research.
Sullivan, S.M.P., Hossler, K. and L.A. Meyer. 2019. Artificial lighting at night alters aquatic-riparian invertebrate food webs. Ecological Applications 29:e01821.

3. 2018 – New review article in Estuaries and Coasts overviewing ALAN impacts from individuals to ecosystems in estuaries.
Zapata, M.J., Sullivan, S.M.P, and S.M. Gray. 2019. Artificial lighting at night in estuaries – ecological implications from individuals to ecosystems. Estuaries and Coasts 42: 309-330.

4. 2018$600K funding by the Ohio Department of Transportation to investigate the ecological impacts of LED lighting on vulnerable ecosystems and to develop best management practices for roadway lighting.

5. Also check out posters and other presentations: How does artificial lighting at night (ALAN) influence stream ecosystem metabolism?

ALAN in Central Ohio



Warm day of sampling out on Griggs Reservoir