Artificial light pollution inhibits plant phenology advance induced by climate warming

Environ Pollut. 2021 Dec 15;291:118110. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.118110. Epub 2021 Sep 6.


Natural photic regime has been drastically altered by the artificial night sky luminance. Despite evidence of sufficient light brightness inducing plant physiology and affecting phenology, generalization regarding effects of light pollution on plant phenology across species and locations is less clear. Meanwhile, the relative contributions and joint effects of artificial light pollution and climate change or other anthropic stressors still remain unknown. To fill this knowledge gap, we utilized in situ plant phenological observations of seven tree species during 1991-2015 in Europe, night-time light dataset and gridded temperature dataset to investigate the impacts of the artificial light pollution on spatial-temporal shifts of plant phenological phases under climatic warming. We found 70% of the observation sites were exposed to increased light pollution during 1992-2015. Among them, plant phenological phases substantially delayed at 12-39% observation sites of leaf-out, and 6-53% of flowering. We also found plant species appeared to be more sensitive to artificial light pollution, and phenology advancement was hindered more prominently and even delay phenomenon exhibited when the color level showed stronger sky brightness. Linear mixed models indicate that although temperature plays a dominant role in shifts of plant phenological phases at the spatial scale, the inhibitory effect of artificial light pollution is evident considering the interactions. To our knowledge, this study is the first to quantitatively establish the relationship between artificial light pollution and plant phenology across species and locations. Meanwhile, these findings provide a new insight into the ecological responses of plant phenology to the potential but poorly understood environmental stressors under this warmer world and call for light pollution to be accorded the equal status as other global change phenomena.

Keywords: Artificial light pollution; Climate change; Ecological response; In situ; Plant phenology; Species.

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Light / adverse effects*
  • Plants* / radiation effects
  • Seasons
  • Temperature
  • Trees