Artificial lights at night cause high mortality of seabirds, one of the most endangered groups of birds globally. Fledglings of burrow-nesting seabirds, and to a lesser extent adults, are grounded by lights when they fly at night. We review the current state of knowledge of light attraction, identify information gaps and propose measures to address the problem. Although other avian families such as Alcidae and Anatidae can be involved, the most affected seabirds are petrels and shearwaters: at least 56 species, more than one-third of them (24) threatened, are grounded by lights. Grounded seabirds have been found worldwide, mainly on oceanic islands but also at some continental locations. Petrel breeding grounds confined to formerly uninhabited islands are particularly at risk from ever-growing levels of light pollution due to tourism and urban sprawl. Where it is impractical to ban external lights, rescue programs of grounded birds offer the most immediate and extended mitigation measures to reduce light-induced mortality, saving thousands of birds every year. These programs also provide useful information for seabird management. However, the data typically are fragmentary and often strongly biased so the phenomenon is poorly understood, leading to inaccurate impact estimates. We identified as the most urgent priority actions: 1) estimation of mortality and impact on populations; 2) assessment of threshold light levels and safe distances from light sources; 3) documenting the fate of rescued birds; 4) improvement of rescue campaigns, particularly in terms of increasing recovery rates and level of care; and 5) research on seabird-friendly lights to reduce attraction. More research is necessary to improve our understanding of this human-wildlife conflict and to design effective management and mitigation measures.
Rodríguez A, Holmes ND, Ryan PG, et al. 2017. A global review of seabird mortality caused by land-based artificial lights. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12900
izeThe last 3rd February 2017, Airam Rodríguez presented the oral communication entitled "Is light pollution a barrier in the breeding habitat of seabirds" in the symposium "Current biodiversity conservation challenges" chaired by M.B. García & J. Lahoz‐Monfort within the XIV MEDECOS & XIII AEET meeting. This contribution is co-authorized by A. Rodríguez, B. Rodríguez, and J.J. Negro from Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC) and Grupo de Ornitología e Historia Natural de las Islas Canarias (GOHNIC) and the abstract reads:
"Many burrow-nesting seabirds are nocturnal at their breeding colonies, i.e. visit the colonies at night. Petrel and shearwater fledglings are attracted and disorientated by artificial lights at night when they leave the nest and fly for first time towards the sea. If they are ground and not rescued, they have a high probability of perishing. In contrast, adults nesting on inland colonies have to cross over the cities or avoid the lit areas to reach their nests several times during the breeding period. How birds manage that situation may offer useful information to minimise light-induced mortality. Our aim is to study the behaviour of Cory’s shearwaters Calonectris diomedea borelais during the commuting flights (adults) or dispersal (fledglings) to their breeding colonies in relation to spatial distribution of light pollution. We use GPS data-loggers to track birds from several colonies on Tenerife, Canary Islands. Nocturnal satellite imagery is employed to evaluate the spatial distribution of light polluted areas. While fledglings are attracted and grounded in the closest lights to their natal colonies, adults fly over the cities without apparently avoiding artificial lights by using the shortest distance from coastlines to their colonies. Due to high elevation of nesting colonies, return flights were longer than outgoing flights as adults glided from colony to the ocean. Artificial lights do not seem to be a problem for adult shearwaters attending their nesting colonies, but constitute an important barrier for fledglings’ dispersal."
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