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ALAN effects on coastal phytoplankton


Spatharis, Sofie (2022), ALAN effects on coastal phytoplankton, Dryad, Dataset,


Artificial light at night (ALAN) is increasingly recognised as a disruptive form of environmental pollution, impacting many physiological and behavioural processes that may scale up to population and community-level effects. Mounting evidence from animal studies show that the severity and type of the impact depends on the wavelength and intensity of ALAN. This knowledge has been instrumental for informing policy-making and planning for wildlife-friendly illumination. However, most of this evidence comes from terrestrial habitats, while research testing alternative wavelength illumination in marine environments is lagging behind. In this study we investigated the effect of such alternative ALAN colours on marine primary producers. Specifically, we tested the effect of green, red, and natural white LED illumination at night, compared to a dark control, on the growth of a green microalgae as well as the biomass, diversity and composition of a phytoplankton assemblage. Our findings show that green ALAN boosted chlorophyll production at the exponential growth stage, resulting in higher biomass production in the green algae Tetraselmis suesica. All ALAN wavelengths affected the biomass and diversity of the assemblage with the red and green ALAN having the stronger effects, leading to higher overall abundance and selective dominance of specific diatom species compared to white ALAN and the dark control. Our work indicates that the wavelength of artificial light sources in marine areas should be carefully considered in management and conservation plans. In particular, green and red light should be used with caution in coastal areas, where there might be a need to strike a balance between the strong effects of green and red light on marine primary producers with the benefit they bring to other organisms.


This was a laboratory research work involving 4 ALAN treatments: dark, green, red, natural white. Two experiments were conducted: one with a single species Tetraselmis suesica and anothe with a natural coastal phytoplankton assemblage. Experiments were carried out concurrently for 14 days each and data was collected in growth rate, chlrophyl a and species diversity and composition.

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