Multisensory pollution: Artificial light at night and anthropogenic noise have interactive effects on activity patterns of great tits (Parus major)

Davide Dominoni (Corresponding author), Judith A.H. Smit, Marcel E. Visser, Wouter Halfwerk

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Urbanisation is increasing globally at a rapid pace. Consequently, wild species face novel environmental stressors associated with urban sprawl, such as artificial light at night and noise. These stressors have pervasive effects on the behaviour and physiology of many species. Most studies have singled out the impact of just one of these stressors, while in the real world they are likely to co-occur both temporally and spatially, and we thus lack a clear understanding of the combined effect of anthropogenic stressors on wild species. Here, we experimentally exposed captive male great tits (Parus major) to artificial light at night and 24 h noise in a fully factorial experiment. We then measured the effect of both these stressors on their own and their combination on the amount and timing of activity patterns. We found that both light and noise affected activity patterns when presented alone, but in opposite ways: light increased activity, particularly at night, while noise reduced it, particularly during the day. When the two stressors were combined, we found a synergistic effect on the total activity and the nighttime activity, but an antagonistic effect on daytime activity. The significant interaction between noise and light treatment also differed among forest and city birds. Indeed, we detected a significant interactive effect on light and noise on daytime, nighttime, dusktime and offset of activity of urban birds, but not of forest birds. These results suggest that both artificial light at night and anthropogenic noise can drive changes in activity patterns, but that the specific impacts depend on the habitat of origin. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that co-occurring exposure to noise and light can lead to a stronger impact at night than predicted from the additive effects and thus that multisensory pollution may be a considerable threat for wildlife.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113314
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • national
  • Light pollution
  • Noise
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Great tits
  • Urbanisation
  • Plan_S-Compliant_NO


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