Seabirds are impacted by coastal light pollution, where they are attracted to and disoriented by artificial light at night, often leading to massive mortality events. While adults are occasionally recorded in fallout throughout the year, this phenomenon is most severe during
fledging season and juveniles comprise the majority of affected individuals. In a newly published perspectives article in Conservation Science and Practice, we explore a connection between the visual system development of burrow nesting seabirds and the observed higher vulnerability to light pollution by seabird juveniles. Undeveloped and untrained vision at fledging, together with behavioural inexperience, could explain differences observed between age groups. Multidisciplinary research is needed to clarify such effects further mitigate light induced mortality.
More info at: Atchoi E, Mitkus M, Rodríguez A (2020) Is seabird light‐induced mortality explained by the visual system development? Conservation Science and Practice e195.
In a new article, the NGO Red de Observadores de Aves y Vida Silvestre de Chile describes new colonies, with their population estimation, phenology and threats of one of the few seabirds which still being considered as "Data Deficient" by Birdlife, the Markham’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma markhami). One of the main threats described for the conservation of this storm-petrel is light pollution since there are several salt-mines and ports near one of the main colonies, where the team estimated that 20,000 fledglings are falling each year. The research team have been working for reducing the light pollution of Northern Chile, together with the Environmental Ministry, the Chilean Wildlife Service, and two rescue groups of volunteers. Thus, it is promising that the situation could change in the next years.
More into at:
Barros R, Medrano F, Norambuena HV, Peredo R, Silva R, de Groote F, Schmitt F (2019) Breeding phenology, distribution and conservation status of Markham’s Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma markhami in the Atacama Desert. Ardea 107: 75–84.
42% of petrel species are threatened and 52% are suffering population declines based on IUCN criteria. These percentages are higher than those of the Clase Aves. According to a global review on the conservation research on petrels and shearwaters, 38 researchers from 34 institutions and 10 countries have recognized light pollution as the second most severe threat for this avian group (measured as number of species affected). The most severe threat identified in this review paper were invasive species at breeding grounds, being rats the most pervasive introduced species. Other identified threats were bycatch, overfishing, climate change, and plastic pollution.
More info at:
Rodríguez A, et al (2019) Future Directions in Conservation Research on Petrels and Shearwaters. Frontiers in Marine Science DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00094
Bycatch in net fisheries is recognized as a major source of mortality for many marine species, including seabirds. Few mitigation solutions, however, have been identified. In a new study authors assessed the effectiveness of illuminating fishing nets with green light emitting diodes (LEDs) to reduce the incidental capture of seabirds. Experiments were conducted in the demersal, set gillnet fishery of Constante, Peru and compared 114 pairs of control and illuminated nets. Seabird bycatch was higher in control nets than in illuminated nets, representing an 85.1% decline in the guanay cormorant (Phalacrocorax bougainvillii) bycatch rate. 39 cormorants were caught in control nets, while only 6 were caught in illuminated nets. This study showing that net illumination reduces seabird bycatch and previous studies showing reductions in sea turtle bycatch without reducing target catch indicate that net illumination can be an effective multi-taxa bycatch mitigation technique. This finding has broad implications for bycatch mitigation in net fisheries given LED technology’s relatively low cost, the global ubiquity of net fisheries, and the current paucity of bycatch mitigation solutions.
More info at: Mangel JC, Wang J, Alfaro-Shigueto J, Pingo S, Jimenez A, Carvalho F, Swimmer Y, Godley BJ (2018) Illuminating gillnets to save seabirds and the potential for multi-taxa bycatch mitigation. Royal Society Open Science 5: 180254.
For many decades, the spectral composition of lighting was determined by the type of lamp, which also influenced potential effects of outdoor lights on species and ecosystems. Light‐emitting diode (LED) lamps have dramatically increased the range of spectral profiles of light that is economically viable for outdoor lighting. Because of the array of choices, it is necessary to develop methods to predict the effects of different spectral profiles without conducting field studies, especially because older lighting systems are being replaced rapidly. We describe an approach to predict responses of exemplar organisms and groups to lamps of different spectral output by calculating an index based on action spectra from behavioral or visual characteristics of organisms and lamp spectral irradiance. We calculate relative response indices for a range of lamp types and light sources and develop an index that identifies lamps that minimize predicted effects as measured by ecological, physiological, and astronomical indices. Using these assessment metrics, filtered yellow‐green and amber LEDs are predicted to have lower effects on wildlife than high pressure sodium lamps, while blue‐rich lighting (e.g., K ≥ 2200) would have greater effects. The approach can be updated with new information about behavioral or visual responses of organisms and used to test new lighting products based on spectrum (see here). Together with control of intensity, direction, and duration, the approach can be used to predict and then minimize the adverse effects of lighting and can be tailored to individual species or taxonomic groups.
More info at
Longcore T, Rodríguez A, Witherington B, Penniman JF, Herf L, Herf M (2018) Rapid assessment of lamp spectrum to quantify ecological effects of light at night. Journal of Experimental Zoology A
Wildlife watching is an emerging ecotourism activity around the world. In Australia and New Zealand, night viewing of little penguins attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. As penguins start coming ashore after sunset, artificial lighting is essential to allow visitors to view them in the dark. This alteration of the nightscape warrants investigation for any potential effects of artificial lighting on penguin behavior. We experimentally tested how penguins respond to different light wavelengths (colors) and intensities to examine effects on the colony attendance behavior at two sites on Phillip Island, Australia. At one site, nocturnal artificial illumination has been used for penguin viewing for decades, whereas at the other site, the only light is from the natural night sky. Light intensity did not affect colony attendance behaviors of penguins at the artificially lit site, probably due to penguin habituation to lights. At the not previously lit site, penguins preferred lit paths over dark paths to reach their nests. Thus, artificial light might enhance penguin vision at night and consequently it might reduce predation risk and energetic costs of locomotion through obstacle and path detection. Although penguins are faithful to their path, they can be drawn to artificial lights at small spatial scale, so light pollution could attract penguins to undesirable lit areas. When artificial lighting is required, we recommend keeping lighting as dim and time‐restricted as possible to mitigate any negative effects on the behavior of penguins and their natural habitat.
More infot at:
Rodríguez A, Holmberg R, Dann P, Chiaradia A (2018) Penguin colony attendance under artificial lights for ecotourism. Journal of Experimental Zoology A, doi: 10.1002/jez.2155
We analysed data collected by a volunteer-based initiative for rescuing grounded birds, in Mallaig, a village in the west of Scotland. The village is 27km away from the Isle of Rum, the second biggest colony of Manx shearwaters in the world. We investigated how moon and meteorological variables affect the number of birds that were recovered on the ground. We found that during full moon fewer birds ground in the village than during new moon; similar to effects discovered in other studies. In addition we found that strong onshore winds cause more groundings suggesting that birds may be blown towards the village and then being affected by the lights. To a lesser extent, visibility conditions also have an effect on grounding probabilities in Mallaig. Our results can improve rescue campaigns of not only Manx Shearwaters but also other species attracted to light pollution, by predicting conditions leading to an increase in the number of groundings.
More info at:
Syposz M, Gonçalves F, Carty M, Hoppitt W, Manco F (2018) Factors influencing location and number of Manx Shearwater grounding in west Scotland. Ibis, doi.org/10.1111/ibi.12594
Several studies on petrels and shearwaters have shown that light pollution can be harmful for both fledglings and adults, but little is known of the way such anthropogenic elements affect the quality of parental care at the nest. Chick provisioning in petrels and shearwaters occurs exclusively at night and is also negatively correlated with the intensity of moonlight. Thus, we tested the effect of two outdoor disco events, organized during the touristic season, on overnight weight gain in 26 chicks of Scopoli’s shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) from Linosa Island. The two disco events occurred under contrasting moonlight conditions (moonless vs moonlight). We observed a weight loss in chicks situated closer to disco compared with the control nests located further away. Therefore, this effect was only evident on the moonless night and all the chicks fledged successfully at the end of the breeding season. These results suggest that light disturbances can have a negative effect on parental care, but moonlight might musk the bird’s perception and thus the magnitude of the disturbance. However, it remains crucial to further our understanding of the impact, which touristic anthropogenic activities have on breeding birds, and to identify and effectively manage human activities in important breeding grounds such as Linosa Island, the biggest colony of Scopoli’s shearwater in Europe.
More info at:
Cianchetti-Benedetti M, Becciu P, Massa B, Dell’Omo G. (2018) Conflicts between touristic recreational activities and breeding shearwaters: short-term effect of artificial light and sound on chick weight. Eur J Wildl Res 64: 19
In that section, the most relevant news about the project and other news related to seabird conservation will be highlighted