Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

“Light pollution” may affect love lives of birds in the Viennese Forests

25.07.2014

Artificial light in cities exerts negative effects on humans, animals, and their environment. In an ongoing research project, behavioral biologists at Vetmeduni Vienna are investigating how blue tits in the Viennese Forests react to "light pollution".

The study might help to understand effects of “light-at-night” on reproductive behavior of birds. In consequence, it could help developing concepts, minimizing negative effects on the lives of animals and the ecological system, by reducing light sources in specific regions. The research project started this year and is supported by the city of Vienna.


Blue tits are common inhabitants of the City of Vienna.

Photo: Katharina Mahr

The so-called circadian rhythm or "body clock" influences the behaviour of living beings. Light is an important “Zeitgeber”, especially for birds. Based on light, birds know when it is time to mate, breed, forage or migrate. If the natural day and night rhythms are affected by artificial light, the natural behavioral patterns of the animals may also change.

The "light-at-night"-effect disturbs migrating birds

Katharina Mahr and Herbert Hoi from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at the Vetmeduni Vienna are interested in the effects of “light-at-night" in wild birds. "There are studies investigating the effect of artificial light on the orientation and activity of birds. Light, for instance, limits the sense of orientation, but also activity patterns in birds to a great extent," study coordinator Mahr explains.

The Viennese research team is one of the first to experimentally test the effects of artificial light in the natural environment of animals, by actively manipulating ambient light conditions. The team is particularly interested in the reproductive behavior of blue tits in the Viennese Forests. "Blue tits seem to be good model species for this study because we know a lot about their mating and reproductive behaviour. Besides, they frequently breed in cities and therefore are exposed to artificial light," Mahr states.

Research using LED lights in the forest

Over a period of about three weeks, LED lights illuminated various areas of the Viennese Forests for two additional hours in the morning, before sunrise, and in the evening after sunset. In this period scientists examined, activity patterns such as singing and mating behavior, growth and development of the nestlings, as well as stress hormones. The number of extra-pair copulations females perform, could be affected and offspring may more frequently originate from various fathers.

"There is evidence that the circadian rhythm influences mate choice, but does it also affect the development of nestlings?,” Mahr states. “A well-known phenomenon that can be found in chicken farming is the manipulation of the day and night rhythm in order to make the animals lay more eggs."

Does light pollution affect the honesty of sexual signals?

"We assume that light at night affects the birds' strategies of choosing partners. Males, for instance, like to be in the "limelight" whereas females might prefer to "remain in the dark". Thus, light may exert different effects on the love lives of the different sexes. Besides, male blue tits are "morning singers". Particularly fit males start to sing pre-dawn songs. We also know that female blue tits tend to be unfaithful to their partners, but do so covertly. Therefore, we want to find out whether artificial light generates a certain conflict between the sexes," says Mahr.

The fact that such a conflict impairs the reproduction of tits was shown by Mahr in a previous study. http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/9/1/14
Besides, artificial light may cause shorter resting periods and thus impose additional stress on the fledglings.

Light possibly has impact on the entire ecological system of the woods

"More light may also affect other living beings in the Viennese Forests. Insects may for instance be affected. They are an important source of food for many inhabitants of the woods and their presence is therefore essential," says Mahr.

"Urban lights are obviously important for human safety and comfort. Nevertheless, urban planning should take into account the question of where light sources are really necessary. Illuminated billboards, for instance, can be dispensed with. Non-illuminated zones could be planned consciously. Our study is intended to encourage decision-makers to devote greater attention and thought to the subject," Mahr pleads.

The research project „Does Light Pollution affect the Breeding Performance of wild Blue Tits (Canistes caeruleus) in the Viennese Forest?” headed by Katharina Mahr from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at the Vetmeduni Veinna is supported by the Hochschuljubiläumsstiftung of the City of Vienna. The study started in the beginning of 2014 and ends on the 31st of December 2014.

About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,200 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms. http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at

Scientific Contact:
Katharina Mahr
Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 676 9419955
katharina.mahr@vetmeduni.ac.at

Released by:
Susanna Kautschitsch
Science Communication / Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1153
susanna.kautschitsch@vetmeduni.ac.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/presseinformation/press-releases-2014/...

Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Ethology Medicine Veterinary Vetmeduni artificial reproductive rhythm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>