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Tuesday, April 10 • 11:30am - 11:45am
SYMPOSIA-09: Light Pollution Predicts Firefly Abundance and Species Richness at Multiple Spatial Scales

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AUTHORS: Ariel Firebaugh*, University of Virginia Department of Environmental Sciences; Dr. Kyle J. Haynes, University of Virginia Blandy Experimental Farm, Department of Environmental Sciences

ABSTRACT: Light pollution from artificial light at night is a symptom of urbanization whose ecological consequences are poorly understood. We sought to understand how light pollution affect insects, and the spatial scales over which these effects appear, using fireflies as a model system. Many firefly species are nocturnal and communicate with bioluminescent flashes during courtship prior to mating. Although laboratory and field experiments show light pollution impacts firefly flashing behavior, less is know about the consequences of light pollution for firefly populations. We evaluated effects of light pollution and urbanization using field surveys and citizen science data. In summer 2017, we surveyed firefly abundance, firefly species richness, light pollution, and vegetation characteristics at 45 sites across Virginia. Around these same sites, we conducted geospatial analysis of satellite imagery to calculate mean illuminance from light pollution (VIIRS DNB 2011) and urbanized land cover (NLCD Percent Developed Impervious Surface 2011) within 1 and 10 km radii. We found relatively local factors including illuminance from light pollution at the site impacted firefly abundance and species richness. We also compared our data with those from Firefly Watch, a large-scale citizen science project affiliated with the Boston Museum of Science. We combined firefly abundance and local light pollution observations reported by citizen scientists with geospatial analysis of light pollution and impervious surface surrounding each site. Light pollution and impervious surface within 1 km of each site were significant predictors of firefly abundance. Our work will help determine how citizen science data can be used to examine larger-scale ecological patterns. Additionally, identifying drivers of firefly abundances and richness could help to conserve these unique insects in a rapidly urbanizing world.

Tuesday April 10, 2018 11:30am - 11:45am CDT
Adams Room