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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Artificial Light Impacts on Coastal Ecosystems (ALICE)

Currently Active: 

This study will quantify the impacts of Artificial Light At Night (ALAN) on life history responses of reef building corals.

Seafront lighting at the Red Sea.
Seafront lighting at the Red Sea. Image: J. Wiedenmann & C. D'Angelo

Coastlines are illuminated with artificial light at night (ALAN) from piers, promenades, ports harbours, and dockyards. Artificial sky glow created by lighting from coastal settlements can now be detected above 22% of the world's coasts nightly, and will dramatically increase as coastal human populations more than double by year 2060. Life history adaptations to the moon and sun are near ubiquitous in the upper 200m of the sea, such that cycle's and gradients of light intensity and colour are major structuring factors in marine ecosystems. The potential for ALAN to reshape the ecology of coastal habitats by interfering with natural light cycles and the biological processes they inform is increasingly recognised.

Levels of artificial light
Does artificial light at night interrupt reef coral reproduction?

This project will conduct a series of laboratory experiments to determine the impacts of ALAN on symbiotic corals. Parallel experiments will simultaneously quantify the impacts of ALAN interference with natural light cycles on the life history responses and species interactions (competition and mutualism). To maximise impact, ALICE will hold a series of five one-day structured workshops to facilitate knowledge transfer to and between our project partners from marine conservation, coral reef management, lighting industry and public outreach organisations to co-design ecologically sustainable lighting practices and technologies.

Image credit: J. Wiedenmann & C. D'Angelo

Staff: Dr Cecilia D'Angelo, Prof Joerg Wiedenmann, Dr Thomas Davies and collaborators

Funding: NERC
Funding dates: Nov 2019 – Oct 2023

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