University of Oulu

Merckx, T., Nielsen, M. E., Kankaanpää, T., Kadlec, T., Yazdanian, M., & Kivelä, S. M. (2023). Dim light pollution prevents diapause induction in urban and rural moths. Journal of Applied Ecology, 60, 1022– 1031.

Dim light pollution prevents diapause induction in urban and rural moths

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Author: Merckx, Thomas1,2; Nielsen, Matthew E.2; Kankaanpää, Tuomas2;
Organizations: 1Biology Department, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
2Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Department of Ecology, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Prague-Suchdol, Czech Republic
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-06-08


1. Light pollution is increasingly affecting biodiversity and may also disrupt seasonal adaptations. Even dim artificial light, such as skyglow—which can spread far beyond urban areas—can interfere with using photoperiod as a seasonal cue.

2. Here, we test how light pollution impacts diapause induction and whether urban evolution counteracts it, by using common-garden experiments with a common, widespread geometrid moth (Chiasmia clathrata). We raised offspring from urban and rural populations from North- and Mid-European countries in treatments with and without dim light at night.

3. The dim light treatment strongly increased direct development overall—with no evidence for urban adaptation to it—but distinctly more so in Mid- than in North-European populations.

4. Because diapause induction is critical for surviving winter, these results indicate that dim but widespread light pollution may have detrimental effects on insect populations, especially so at mid-latitudes, and may hence explain part of the ongoing, large-scale insect declines globally.

5. Synthesis and applications. Latitudinal variation in sensitivity to light pollution means that its contribution to insect declines—and its conservation importance—should likewise vary among regions. In mid-latitude regions, where populations seem more sensitive to light pollution, mitigating light pollution should be a high priority for insect conservation. Reducing skyglow from cities should benefit both urban populations—which were just as susceptible as rural populations in our study—and rural populations—because skyglow extends far beyond the geographic boundaries of cities.

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Series: Journal of applied ecology
ISSN: 0021-8901
ISSN-E: 1365-2664
ISSN-L: 0021-8901
Volume: 60
Issue: 6
Pages: 1022 - 1031
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.14373
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was financed by the Academy of Finland (Grant Nos. 314833, 319898 and 345363 to S.M.K.) and the Kvantum Institute at the University of Oulu.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 314833
Detailed Information: 314833 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
319898 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
345363 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2023 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.