School of BioSciences - Theses

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    Impacts of streetlights on sleep in urban birds
    Aulsebrook, Anne Emma ( 2019)
    Over the past century, artificial light has dramatically transformed our environment. Light at night is increasing globally, to the extent that in many places, true darkness no longer exists. As the timing of light can influence almost all aspects of biology, the alteration of natural light cycles could pose a severe threat to wildlife. One particularly harmful impact could be the disruption of sleep. In this dissertation, I investigate the impacts of artificial light at night on sleep. Despite the importance and prevalence of sleep across the animal kingdom, sleep is arguably underappreciated in studies of ecology and conservation. After providing a general introduction (Chapter 1), I begin by giving a broad perspective of sleep research, including current methods, opportunities, and the significance of sleep for issues such as artificial light at night (Chapter 2). I then provide a review of the evidence for impacts of artificial light at night, in both humans and wildlife (Chapter 3). Finally, I explore the effects of artificial light at night on two diurnal bird species: pigeons (Columba livia) and black swans (Cygnus atratus). I focus on the effects of one of the most common sources of outdoor lighting: streetlights. Light at night from LED streetlights caused pigeons to have less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep, have more fragmented sleep, and sleep less intensely than during darkness (Chapter 4). Some of these effects persisted for more than a day after exposure to light at night. In black swans, light at night in a naturalistic environment reduced night-time rest, which we demonstrate reflects reduced sleep (Chapter 5). This research provides the first direct evidence that exposure to environmentally-realistic artificial light at night can disrupt sleep in birds. One possible strategy for reducing disruption of sleep could be to alter the colour of lighting. To test this idea, I compare the effects of two different lighting colours: white (blue-rich) and amber (blue-reduced) light. Previous research has shown that blue wavelengths of light have the greatest effect on melatonin, a hormone important for sleep regulation. However, contrary to my predictions, amber and white light had very similar effects on sleep in both pigeons (Chapter 4) and swans (Chapter 5). Together, these findings will help councils and other land managers to make more informed decisions about lighting, particularly for areas that might offer important refuges for wildlife.