Faculty Sponsor: Chris Paradise
The natural cycles of light and dark have been altered and disrupted due to the proliferation of artificial light at night (ALAN), and understanding its impacts across organisms, populations, communities of insects is critical, especially given the recent realization that insect populations around the world are declining. We hypothesized that artificial light at night can act as a source of pollution and a powerful force that can alter both the function and structure of local insect communities through a disruption of species interactions. To test this hypothesis, we utilized a UV-light trapping method to assess insect communities at six different Davidson College (Davidson, NC) campus sites, three of which were exposed to ALAN and three of which were unlit at night. We found distinct differences in communities due to the significant effect of lighting on individual insect communities suggesting artificial light can act as a disruptive force. We found that dark sites consistently had 170% more insects than lit sites. In addition, insect activity increased exponentially with temperature in dark sites, while it increased linearly in lit sites. While the limitations in our taxonomic resolution, restricted our conclusions regarding individual species, the capacity of light pollution to alter insect communities could have drastic implications for the stability of ecological systems and, therefore, should become a more prominent focus of ecological research.