Combined effects of nocturnal exposure to artificial light and habitat complexity on fish foraging.


Department of Ecology and Biogeography, Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland. Electronic address: [Email]


Due to the widespread use of artificial light, freshwater ecosystems in urban areas at night are often subjected to light of intensities exceeding that of the moonlight. Nocturnal dim light could modify fish behaviour and benefit visual predators because of enhanced foraging success compared to dark nights. However, effects of nocturnal light could be mitigated by the presence of structured habitats providing refuges for prey. We tested in laboratory experiments whether nocturnal light of low intensity (2 lx) increases foraging efficiency of the Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis) on invertebrate prey (Gammarus fossarum). The tests were conducted at dusk and night under two light regimes: natural cycle with dark nights and disturbed cycle with artificially illuminated nights, in habitats differing in structural complexity: sand and woody debris. We found that nocturnal illumination significantly enhanced the consumption of gammarids by fish compared to dark nights. In addition, the perch was as effective predator in illuminated nights (2 lx) as at dusk (10 lx). Woody debris provided an effective refuge only in combination with undisturbed darkness, but not in illuminated nights. Our results suggest that nocturnal illumination in aquatic ecosystems may contribute to significant reductions in invertebrate population sizes through fish predation. The loss of darkness reduces the possibility of using shelters by invertebrates and hence the effects of elevated light levels at night could not be mitigated by an increased habitat complexity.


Artificial light at night,Fish,Invertebrates,Predation,Urban ecosystems,