Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project reference: 330655
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE

Periodic Report Summary 1 - ECOLIGHTSFORSEABIRDS (Artificial night lights and seabirds: solutions to a fatal attraction)

• Summary description of the project objectives.
On archipelagos worldwide, high numbers of fledglings of different seabird species are attracted to artificial lights during their first flights to the sea. This attraction causes mortality as grounded birds are vulnerable to starvation, predation, dehydration and collision with vehicles. To avoid/reduce light induced mortality, rescue campaigns are carried out in many places, and although only a few have been documented, the current information on seabird attraction to artificial lights mainly comes from these campaigns. The main objective of this project is to examine the negative effects of light pollution produced by artificial night lighting on seabirds and to provide ways to mitigate mortality. Here, we aim to understand the mechanisms responsible of fatal attraction in order to design more eco-friendly artificial lights and more efficient rescue campaigns. To reach that, our study is designated in two levels: 1) studying and obtaining a better understanding of the processes and factors involved in the physiology and behaviour of potentially affected birds. And 2) on the improvement of measures (mainly rescue campaigns) carried out by local governments and environmental NGOs to mitigate the negative effects of light pollution.

• Description of the work performed since the beginning of the project.
We have analysed three long-term datasets on records of birds grounded by lights or penguin attendance to breeding colonies recorded by automated monitoring systems. In addition, we have conducted three experiments on shearwaters and penguins. In the first one, we tested the effect of different light types (metal halide, and high pressure sodium and LED) in the number of attracted and grounded shearwaters. While in the second and third ones, we have tested the effect of light intensity and light colour on the penguin behaviour at attendance to the colony.

• Description of the main results achieved so far.
During the first two years of the project we have produced five scientific papers (four published and one under review; see list below). In addition to this, we have conducted other studies which are in preparation. None-the-less, here we will only focus on the main findings of the published papers.
We have provided scientific-based information crucial for a better understanding of the light-induced mortality of petrels in two new archipelagos: Phillip Island, Australia, and Balearic Islands, Spain. On Phillip Island we found that mortality of rescued fledglings was 4–8 times higher than that reported elsewhere for other shearwater species, presumably because of the systematic rescue effort conducted there. This result led us to believe that light-induced mortality of seabirds has been usually underestimated. Furthermore, we demonstrated that reduction of light pollution and better traffic management (speed limit reduction, traffic stopping and display of warning signals) can mitigate artificial light-induced mortality (Rodríguez et al. 2014). Also on this island, we have studied the body condition of birds grounded by lights (on roads) in comparison with birds on the colonies and washed onto beaches. We found that birds on the roads have a better condition than beach-washed birds and similar to birds on the colonies (Rodríguez et al. 2016b). On the Balearic Islands, we made the first assessment of light-induced mortality in three petrel species, and evaluated light pollution impact on the colonies based on radiance levels measured from a nocturnal satellite image. The proportion of fledglings affected by lights was low, probably due to the coastal distribution of the breeding colonies on the islands. Note that light pollution levels in the Balearic Islands are very high. Between 30 and 47 % of colonies (depending on the species) were exposed to light-polluted areas in a radius of 4 km (Rodríguez et al. 2015b).
In addition, we have tracked for first time the inaugural flights of shearwater fledglings, offering accurate information on the flight characteristics from colonies to grounding locations (distances overflown until grounding, straight distances, and timing). We found on the Canaries that birds were grounded on the first lit areas found in their pathways to the ocean (more than 50% of birds were rescued in a radius of 5 km from the colony; maximum straight distance 15 km), and interestingly, birds hatched on inland colonies got a higher probability of being grounded by lights than fledglings from coastal colonies (Rodríguez et al. 2015a).
Finally, we have studied the attendance pattern of little penguins to two breeding colonies under different lighting conditions: natural night skylight and artificial lights (around 3 lux) used to enhance penguin viewing for ecotourism. Moonlight could be overridden by artificial light at our artificially lit colony, but the similar patterns between colonies suggest that artificial light did not mask the moonlight effect (Rodríguez et al. 2016a).

Scientific papers:
• Rodríguez A, Burgan G, Dann P, Jessop R, Negro JJ, Chiaradia A (2014) Fatal Attraction of Short-Tailed Shearwaters to Artificial Lights. PLoS ONE 9(10): e110114. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110114
• Rodríguez A, Rodríguez B, Negro JJ (2015a) GPS tracking for mapping seabird mortality induced by light pollution. Scientific Reports 5: 10670. doi: 10.1038/srep10670
• Rodríguez A, García D, Rodríguez B, Cardona E, Parpal L, Pons P (2015b) Artificial lights and seabirds: is light pollution a threat for the threatened Balearic petrels? Journal of Ornithology 156: 893-902. doi: 10.1007/s10336-015-1232-3
• Rodríguez A, Chiaradia A, Wasiak P, Renwick L, Dann P (2016a) Waddling on the Dark Side: Ambient Light Affects Attendance Behavior of Little Penguins. Journal of Biological Rhythms. doi: 10.1177/0748730415626010
• Rodríguez A, Moffett J, Revoltos A, Wasiak P, McIntosh R, Sutherland DR, Renwick L, Dann P, Chiaradia A (2016b) Light pollution and seabird fledglings: targeting our efforts in rescue programmes. European Journal of Wildlife Research (under review)

• The expected final results and their potential impact and use.
We expect that final results have an important impact in the design of public street lighting on islands where seabirds and humans coexist, but also in artificial lighting used to enhance wildlife watching at night (for example, penguin emergence in southern Australia).

• Project Website:

• Scientists-in-charge during Outgoing Phase (1st January 2014 - 31st December 2015):
Dr Peter Dann & Dr Andre Chiaradia
Research Department, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Summerlands, Victoria, Australia
Internet sites:

• Scientist-in-charge during Return Phase (1st January 2015 - 31st December 2016):
Prof. Juan José Negro
Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC), Sevilla, Spain
Internet site:

• Marie-Curie Fellow:
Dr. Airam Rodríguez
Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC), Sevilla, Spain
Internet site:

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Life Sciences
Record Number: 182311 / Last updated on: 2016-05-23
Information source: SESAM