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      Light pollution: A landscape-scale issue requiring cross-realm consideration

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            Revision notes

            9th May 2022


            Professor Craig Styan                                                                                                      


            UCL Open: Environment



            Dear Professor Styan,


            We would like to thank you and the reviewers for the critical evaluation and constructive comments on our manuscript entitled: “Light pollution: A landscape-scale issue requiring cross-realm consideration”.


            We found the reviewers’ comments very helpful and have modified the manuscript following their suggestions. We believe that the modifications have greatly improved the quality of the manuscript.


            We have outlined our detailed responses to reviewers below.


            We hope that our changes will now make the paper acceptable for publication.



            Yours sincerely,


            Mariana Mayer-Pinto

            Corresponding author



            Response to reviewers

            Reviewer Jack Falcon



            General Comments


            Mayer-Pinto and colleagues submitted a review paper entitled « Light pollution: A landscape-scale issue requiring cross-realm consideration ». This work deals with a subject of great interest, the impacts of artificial light at night (ALAN) on organisms and ecosystems. This subject is the matter of intensive research and several original and review papers have been published the last years on this topic, as a result from an increasing awareness that ALAN induces dramatic negative effects on species, populations and ecosystems, and that politics of mitigation must be implemented in order to reduce the effects of ALAN. The originality of this submission lies in the fact that it considers mainly the effects resulting from the interactions in between aquatic and terrestrial realms, with the help of case studies.

            The paper is well written and of interest for a general audience. I believe however that some aspects could be treated more in depth, in the light of recent publications on the matter.

            We thank the reviewer for their comments.


            We have addressed all comments made by the reviewer (please see below).


            L60. Isn’t it, at the start, a key driver of biological (molecular and cellular) processes?

            Text has been changed to include biological processes (Line 60 in the version with changes tracked)

            -L86-88. Most of the studies today indicate that on the long term ALAN affects dramatically and durably population abundance and richness, and ultimately ecosystems. Thus the term “might” (L86) sounds weak to me. Same comment for the use of “may” L136.

            We have now deleted the term ‘might’ as suggested. However, we use ‘can’ in Line 136 as not every change caused by ALAN will necessarily result in biodiversity loss. 

            -L111. Since daily and seasonal are terms that refer to cyclic/periodic variations, please specify what “…or cyclic movement of…” refers to.

            This has now changed for clarity.

            -L176-180. Is this useful?

            Given the readership of the journal is broad, not everyone may be familiar with these types of life cycles. Therefore, we have left text as is, but would be happy to delete if editor advises so.

            -L194. I do not understand the meaning of “…associated with human populations…” here.

            We have now deleted this. Text reads: ‘ALAN along rivers is…’

            -L294-296. This has already been said before.

            These sentences have now been deleted. Paragraph now starts with “The loss of, or changes in, species…’

            -The paper is based on the choice of 4 case studies. Since the salmon is one of these cases, perhaps the authors could refer to a previous recent review in which a whole section is dedicated to the impact of ALAN and other factors on the migrating Atlantic salmon. In this review paper examples of ALAN impacts on riparian systems are also provided and discussed in light of the literature available (see: Falcón et al., Frontiers in Neuroscience 2020; 10.3389/fnins2020.602796).

            We apologise for our oversight. We have now included the – very relevant – paper by Falcon et al 2020 in our reference list.

            -In the review paper cited above, it is also emphasized that ALAN is not the only factor affecting populations and ecosystems and that the addition of anthropogenic threats, including ALAN, should also be considered when studying solutions to mitigate the effects of ALAN. Perhaps this could also be discussed in this MS, particularly at the end, in the part dealing with the challenges and practical solutions? On site studies prospective studies should consider the existence of 'multifactotial effects' whether positive (sometimes) or negative (most of the times).

            We agree with the reviewer and the manuscript specifically address the issue of ‘multiple stressors’ and how management should consider these (please see Lines 1644 – 1658 in the version with track-changes).

            -L320. Vertical migration refers to the LD synchronized movement, up and down the water column. Thus here I would write "vertical movement" or more simply "migration to the surface".

            Changed as suggested to ‘vertical movement’.

            -L391-393. I do not see why they should be more sensitive; isn’t this the case for all the living? Or perhaps I am missing something here?

            These sentences have now been deleted.

            -L435-440. Indeed. Starting from the observation that ALAN is not “a natural environment” it would seem reasonable to believe it is per se a polluting factor; not mentioning that the absence of effect on the short term does not mean there will be no effect on the long term (as previous studies have shown). And not mentioning that the presence or absence of other harmful factors (depending on the area investigated) might interact with ALAN to promote effects not observable with ALAN alone.

            We agree with the reviewer. However, there may be times when potential impacts of ALAN, depending on the type and intensity, may be ‘negligible’.

            L451-453. I disagree with this assumption; many studies now include this aspect; see the review paper referenced above (which discusses this extensively); and, the authors write later (L513-514) “…any light that is not natural in its origin is likely to interfere with ecological process”. I agree 100% with this.

            We are unsure what assumption the reviewer is referring to as these lines are simply reporting the results of a previous study. Therefore we have not implemented any changes to address this comment, but we would be happy to consider amendments if the reviewer can clarify what statement specifically they are referring to.

            -L493-496. I do not understand this sentence here. Aren’t all species important for the maintenance of an ecosystem?

            Yes, but unfortunately, not everything can be protected at all times. So, this sentence deals with the pragmatic fact that, many times, there are species/groups that are considered priority.

            -L500. What is an acceptable threshold?

            This has been previously discussed in the text (please see lines 1521527 in the version with track-changes). We argue that ‘acceptable’ levels of ALAN include trade-offs between ecological impacts and societal needs or desires and that this decision needs to include multiple stakeholders, including the general public. We have, however, include more explanation in the sentence (see Lines 1575-1577)


            -L547. There is more information available than suggested from the sentence. See Falcón et al, 2020, in which this is discussed.

            We respectfully disagree. As per stated in Falcon et al 2020: “The number of studies reporting

            on the combined effects of ALAN and other anthropogenic factors remains scarce.” We have, however, changed the text to make it clear that we were referring to the interactive effects of ALAN and other stressors.

            -The reference list should be checked, as some references appear incomplete (e.g., lines 847, 883, 893, 967, 989, 1067, 1078,…).

            All references have now been checked and corrected accordingly.



            Response to reviewer Daniel Osborn



            General Comments


            This paper discusses the importance of managing harmful light pollution in a manner that recognises “cross-realm” impacts. The paper is important in raising cross-realm issues for the ecosystems and organisms that form part of the case studies and the use of night-time light pollution (referred to as ALAN in the paper) as the stressor.


            The paper provides a review and some synthesis about (a) material that provides the framing for the topic, including the multi-disciplinary elements and the role of influencing/regulatory/governance actors (b) material that provides a realms context for this specific paper and (c) material linked to evidence that ALAN needs to be managed from a cross-realm perspective and finally (d) material linked to future management approaches.


            The paper relies on Threlfall (2021) for the basis of the cross-realm perspective and on work by Gaston and his colleagues and others for the ecological basis of the impacts of light.


            General comments

            Overall, the paper sets out interesting perspectives on the issues it addresses (a to d above) but it appears repetitive or discursive. A strong edit would give the paper more focus on its unique contribution (case studies of cross-realm issues linked to ALAN; management approaches).


            The paper does not present any new data and the new perspectives it offers can become lost in the more discursive text. Tabulating the main issues based on the published literature and providing some indication of the quality of the literature considered would be helpful. It is appreciated that it would be inappropriate to conduct a systematic review of the literature as no cross-realm specific interventions appear to exist, but the paper could be structured more as a themed or systematised review or more centred on the case studies as a source of evidence. For example, if the material was tabulated in some way to illustrate commonalities between different species or realm combinations this would help the reader understand how strong the evidence base was. Giving slightly more detail about how organisms are affected might provide more for a reader to bite on. Given many of the examples appear to be aquatic this should be possible – an additional unifying diagram may also help. If this is not possible then that should be stated and a reason given.


            The Introduction should set out more clearly what the paper covers (e.g. as indicated in a to d above).


            The paper tends to argue from a perspective that says this is what could be the case in cross-realm way of viewing ALAN impacts and here is the evidence for that. I would normally expect the evidence to be set out first. If the authors prefer to take the first approach it would help greatly to set that out as the approach used in the review. There may be intellectual reasons for doing that or even the practical one that the evidence base for cross-realm approaches are currently very limited.


            We thank the reviewer for their comments.


            We have now included text in which we clearly state how this paper is unique.

            We have also substantially changed the text to make it more concise and clearly state what is known re ALAN impacts and what is not, as suggested.

            In particular, we have deleted several paragraphs and have re-arranged text to improve the flow and avoid repetition.  


            We have also followed the suggestion from the reviewer and each case study now has two subheadings/sections. In the first section with the subheading ‘Demonstrated ALAN impacts’ we state the known/documented impacts of ALAN. In the second section, we then discuss and/or draw inferences of cross-realm impacts based on current, overall ecological and biological knowledge of the species/habitats and highlight major knowledge gaps. See detailed comments below.

            Specific comments:


            Line 81: More text needed to define “realm”, as the current text is unclear and might lead a reader to think that all the factors covered after “i.e.” are one realm. Double brackets need to be avoided if at all possible.

             This section has now been changed as suggested.

            Line 84 to 88: Maybe this text should appear slightly earlier so that any mention of management practices follows material on realms. This would help the narrative flow of the paper.

            This has now been changed to improve clarity as suggested.

            Lime 89: It cannot yet be the case that “are” is correct. There may be some evidence here but surely at present it should be “may”. Even if it is “may” at present that is good enough.


            We have added the word ‘likely’ before limited.

            Around line 100: The Introduction needs an additional line or two to distinguish the paper from Threlfall so that it is clearer how this paper goes beyond the work in Threlfall. Some of the text in the covering letter expresses the unique nature of the paper more clearly than either the Abstract or Introduction do. Re-use of that text might be helpful.

            As suggested by the reviewer, we have now added text to make it clearer the unique nature of the paper.

            Line 105: insert “appropriate” before “conservation actions” as the actions are those to with ALAN not that set of actions in general.




            Line 105 to 107: This reads awkwardly. Rephrase, perhaps such that Taylor’s work comes earlier.


            Line 107 to line 175: This section seems more like a discussion of possibilities – the word likely is used several times – rather than a section that lays out the facts of what is known about ALAN in the realms context and this kind of issues may be why the general point was made about repetition/discursive. The authors should consider how the facts about ALAN can be separated from any discussion on its potential seriousness from the realms perspective and revise text accordingly.

            This section has now been substantially changed to address the reviewer’s comment.

            Case Studies: These are valuable but some indication of the magnitude of impact on the organisms or systems needs to be supplied. It also needs to be clear if these case studies are actually more like thought experiments. If this paper is to make a case that a cross-realm approach is required then the effects seen within each realm and what the overall significance of the cross- or multi-realm effect is needs to be set out else the paper risks failing to convince. For example, biomass might be reduced or predation increased – but by how much and what is the combined impact of those losses?

            We have now changed the case studies to address the issues raised by the reviewer.


            Each case study now first outlines the documented/known effects of ALAN and then we discuss, hypothesise and/or draw inferences on cross-realm impacts based on ALAN impacts, as well as existing knowledge about the species/habitats discussed. We have added subheadings to make this distinction very clear. We also point out the knowledge gaps in each case study.


            …….. And in line 201-202: what is the alteration in migratory behaviour? And, also, what is the nature and magnitude of the effect that the Oppendal paper describes?

            More details have been added to this section as suggested.

            In each case study the authors should present the evidence of effects of ALAN on the case study organism before discussing what that might mean in a cross-realm context. This may shorten the text substantially or at least increase its impact. As written the paper leads the reader to question (say on line 235) the argument proposing a bioindicator/biomonitor even before the evidence is reached.

            We have now changed the structure of the case studies as suggested by the reviewer. Please see previous reply.

            Fig 1: Again, how big are these effects?

            Given the magnitude of effects are very species/context dependent and many times, not known, we left the figure as it is. Our main objective with the figure is to illustrate the several ways in which impacts occurring on individual realms, can have knock-on effects on other realms.  

            Line 244 – “infer” can only be done soundly if more quantitative information were to be supplied in the paper. If the effects were all very small inference would be awkward. Maybe more deduction is required? That might be possible if the evidence came to the readers attention and then the argument for the importance of cross-realm approaches?

            Text and structure of the case study has now been changed, so hopefully we have now addressed this point. 

            Line 278: why is “assuming” used here? Rephrase needed.


            Line 284 to 286: The Holker et al (2015) reference seems very odd in this place. This is a clear example of where more detail needs to be given about what the paper referred to is dealing with. Giving this greater level of detail would provide an internal check for the authors of this paper so that their points and references are more closely tied together. The authors might want to do a similar exercise with respect to the other references as an internal QA exercise. That could be described as part of the systematised review and would increase readers confidence.

            This sentence has now been deleted. Also, we have now re-structured the text and checked references to address the comments raised by both reviewers.

            Line 286 to 291: Complete revision of this text is needed. Some of it is more than difficult to understand and seems highly speculative as written.

            We have now substantially revised the text to make it clearer.

            Line 369: Are these spatial or temporal zones? The text seems to refer to both. Please define.

            These are spatial zones. We were unsure where text might have referred to anything temporal, so no changes have been made.

            Line 415: The use of a bold upper case heading here is the first in the paper since line 54. Apologies if I have missed another main heading such as “Evidence review”.

            We have now added other subheadings throughout the manuscript for clarity.

            Fig 3: What do the symbolic representations of: ?, an ecosystem, a group of people and a map mean to convey. A more extensive legend is needed.

            We have now expanded the caption of the figure to address the point made by the reviewer.

            Line 445: What is n here? Is it the total number of respondents or the number that represents 90% of the total?

            Text has now been modified to make these numbers clearer.

            Line 445 to 449: If 17% is equivalent to over 60 respondents it is difficult to see that 89 respondents is 90% (??)

            Text has now been modified to make these numbers clearer.

            Line 477 to over 550 et seq on integrating knowledge and action (I think) needs careful re-examination along with some structural realignment of the paper to make section headings more consistent and meaningful. This material is important to the paper but seems to be less well articulated than it could be.

            As before, we have made several changes in the text to make it concise and address the issues made by the reviewer.

            Section beginning on line 554 and that beginning on Line 587: These two sections need revisiting as the first seems to suggest that cross-realm issues can most easily be dealt with by single species interventions (which theoretically could be subject to systematic review) and the final section seems to push forward network approaches on cross-realm issues that are perhaps rendered needless if the first of these two sections is the case. There is a potential inconsistency here that needs resolving.

            We have added text now to make this distinction clearer. In particular, we have added: ‘It is important to note, however, that, even though management actions outlined here were focused on one particular group of organisms (e.g. marine turtles), a general understanding of both the terrestrial and marine realms and potential linkages among them, as well as a clear desired outcome, was necessary to devise efficient strategies. None of which, could have been achieved without collaboration among different stakeholders in each individual realm.’


            Terrestrial, marine, and freshwater realms are inherently linked through ecological, biogeochemical and/or physical processes. An understanding of these connections is critical to optimise management strategies and ensure the ongoing resilience of ecosystems. Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a global stressor that can profoundly affect a wide range of organisms and habitats and impact multiple realms. Despite this, current management practices for light pollution rarely consider connectivity between realms. Here we discuss the ways in which ALAN can have cross-realm impacts and provide case studies for each example discussed. We identified three main ways in which ALAN can affect two or more realms: 1) impacts on species that have life cycles and/or stages on two or more realms, such as diadromous fish that cross realms during ontogenetic migrations and many terrestrial insects that have juvenile phases of the lifecycle in aquatic realms; 2) impacts on species interactions that occur across realm boundaries, and 3) impacts on transition zones or ecosystems such as mangroves and estuaries. We then propose a framework for cross-realm management of light pollution and discuss current challenges and potential solutions to increase the uptake of a cross-realm approach for ALAN management. We argue that the strengthening and formalisation of professional networks that involve academics, lighting practitioners, environmental managers and regulators that work in multiple realms is essential to provide an integrated approach to light pollution. Networks that have a strong multi-realm and multi-disciplinary focus are important as they enable a holistic understanding of issues related to ALAN.


            Author and article information

            UCL Open: Environment Preprint
            UCL Press
            8 May 2022
            [1 ] Centre for Marine Science and Innovation, Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
            [2 ] School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
            [3 ] National Centre for Coasts and Climate (NCCC), School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
            [4 ] Department of Ecology, Environment & Evolution, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC 3086, Australia
            [5 ] School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia; Department of Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen 82319, Germany
            [6 ] Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia
            [7 ] Agriculture Victoria Research, Bundoora, VIC 3083, Australia
            [8 ] Pendoley Environmental Pty Ltd, 12A Pitt Way, Booragoon, WA 6154, Australia
            [9 ] Australian Institute of Marine Science, Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
            [10 ] Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia
            [11 ] School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia; College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia
            Author notes

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
            Earth & Environmental sciences,Ecology,Environmental change,Environmental studies,Environmental management, Policy & Planning
            ALAN,People and their environment,Sustainability,Environmental science,Biodiversity,light pollution,Sustainable and resilient cities,multi-disciplinary,Conservation,Urban studies,adaptive management,artificial light at night,Environmental protection,ecological connectivity


            Date: 23 May 2022

            Handling Editor: Dr Craig Styan

            Accept. This revised article has been accepted following peer review and it is suitable for publication in UCL Open: Environment.

            2022-05-23 10:57 UTC

            Date: 23 May 2022

            Handling Editor: Dr Craig Styan

            The article has been revised, this article remains a preprint article and peer-review has not been completed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment for open peer review.

            2022-05-23 10:56 UTC

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