Cloud cover amplifies the sleep-suppressing effect of artificial light at night in geese

Sjoerd J van Hasselt, Roelof A Hut, Giancarlo Allocca, Alexei L Vyssotski, Theunis Piersma, Niels C Rattenborg*, Peter Meerlo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

In modern society the night sky is lit up not only by the moon but also by artificial light devices. Both of these light sources can have a major impact on wildlife physiology and behaviour. For example, a number of bird species were found to sleep several hours less under full moon compared to new moon and a similar sleep-suppressing effect has been reported for artificial light at night (ALAN). Cloud cover at night can modulate the light levels perceived by wildlife, yet, in opposite directions for ALAN and moon. While clouds will block moon light, it may reflect and amplify ALAN levels and increases the night glow in urbanized areas. As a consequence, cloud cover may also modulate the sleep-suppressing effects of moon and ALAN in different directions. In this study we therefore measured sleep in barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) under semi-natural conditions in relation to moon phase, ALAN and cloud cover. Our analysis shows that, during new moon nights stronger cloud cover was indeed associated with increased ALAN levels at our study site. In contrast, light levels during full moon nights were fairly constant, presumably because of moonlight on clear nights or because of reflected artificial light on cloudy nights. Importantly, cloud cover caused an estimated 24.8% reduction in the amount of night-time NREM sleep from nights with medium to full cloud cover, particularly during new moon when sleep was unaffected by moon light. In conclusion, our findings suggest that cloud cover can, in a rather dramatic way, amplify the immediate effects of ALAN on wildlife. Sleep appears to be highly sensitive to ALAN and may therefore be a good indicator of its biological effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116444
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Volume273
Early online date7-Jan-2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15-Mar-2021

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