UWE Bristol academics win research funding to investigate the population level effects of artificial lighting on biodiversity

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Two lights in the countryside

Academics at UWE Bristol have won a substantial bid from the National Environment Research Council (NERC) to investigate the population level effects of artificial lighting on biodiversity, using bats as models.

There is urgent need to understand how global environmental changes impact biodiversity. This project will address scientific and conservation challenges of global importance, pushing the scientific boundaries within global change research.

Dr Emma Stone, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Sciences, with Dr Paul Lintott from the UWE Bristol Bat Conservation Research Lab and the University of Exeter (Dr Razgour) aim to fill the gaps in their understanding of the population level impacts of artificial lighting, specifically, impacts on bat population fitness, breeding success, genetic connectivity between bat populations, and the potential for adaptation.

The ability of populations to respond to artificial lighting depends on the nature and speed of change in artificial lighting across the landscape and the ability of species to adapt to such changes. Species’ ability to adapt is a function of their physiological characteristics, how diverse the species are genetically, and their movement ability. Artificial lighting creates barriers to animal movement which can prevent populations from breeding and may have implications for population growth, ability to adapt and long-term survival.

Despite a better understanding of the impacts of artificial lights on animal behaviour, no studies have yet assessed responses at both the genomic, reproductive and physiological levels. The team will address this major gap in global change research through applying a novel interdisciplinary approach combining ecological, genomic, physiological and demographic tools to experimentally study the effect of artificial lighting on nocturnal wildlife, focusing on bats. They will focus on: the brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), a light sensitive species that commonly roosts in buildings.

Dr Stone commented: “I am so pleased to get this project funded. It is the culmination of all my work on bats and lighting since I started my career. This is a very exciting project as it allows us to push the boundaries of research in this field to ask the next key questions that have eluded us until now, by assessing population level effects of lighting on bats. I am also super excited to work with my long term collaborator Dr Razgour at the University of Exeter, the combination of her expertise in genetics with my expertise in bats and artificial lighting creates a novel interdisciplinary approach to this field”.

We look forward to sharing more on this project as it develops.

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