Declines in moth populations stress the need for conserving dark nights

Langevelde, Frank van; Braamburg-Annegarn, Marijke; Huigens, Martinus E.; Groendijk, Rob; Poitevin, Olivier; Deijk, Jurriën R. van; Ellis, Willem N.; Grunsven, Roy H.A. van; Vos, Rob de; Vos, Rutger A.; Franzén, Markus; WallisDeVries, Michiel F.


Given the global continuous rise, artificial light at night is often considered a driving force behind moth population declines. Although negative effects on individuals have been shown, there is no evidence for effects on population sizes to date. Therefore, we compared population trends of Dutch macromoth fauna over the period 1985–2015 between moth species that differ in phototaxis and adult circadian rhythm. We found that moth species that show positive phototaxis or are nocturnally active have stronger negative population trends than species that are not attracted to light or are diurnal species. Our results indicate that artificial light at night is an important factor in explaining declines in moth populations in regions with high artificial night sky brightness. Our study supports efforts to reduce the impacts of artificial light at night by promoting lamps that do not attract insects and reduce overall levels of illumination in rural areas to reverse declines of moth populations.