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Research article2020Peer reviewed

Artificial lighting reduces the effectiveness of wildlife-crossing structures for insectivorous bats

Bhardwaj, M.; Soanes, K.; Lahoz-Monfort, J. J.; Lumsden, L. F.; van der Ree, R.


In an attempt to improve cost-effectiveness, it has become increasingly popular to adapt wildlife crossing structures to enable people to also use them for safe passage across roads. However, the required needs of humans and wildlife may conflict, resulting in a structure that does not actually provide the perceived improvement in cost-effectiveness, but instead a reduction in conservation benefits. For example, lighting within crossing structures for human safety at night may reduce use of the structure by nocturnal wildlife, thus contributing to barrier and mortality effects of roads rather than mitigating them.In this study, we experimentally evaluated the impact of artificial light at night on the rate of use of wildlife crossing structures, specifically underpasses, by ten insectivorous bat species groups in south-eastern Australia. We monitored bat activity before, during and after artificially lighting the underpasses. We found that bats tended to avoided lit underpasses, and only one species consistently showed attraction to the light. Artificial light at night in underpasses hypothetically increases the vulnerability of bats to road-mortality or to the barrier effect of roads. The most likely outcomes of lighting underpasses were 1. an increase in crossing rate above the freeway and a decrease under the underpasses, or 2. a reduction in crossing rate both above freeways and under the underpasses, when structures were lit. Our results corroborate those of studies on terrestrial mammals, and thus we recommend that underpasses intended to facilitate the movement of wildlife across roads should not be lit.


Chiroptera; Connectivity; Human-wildlife; Impact of light; Road ecology; Underpasses

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management
2020, Volume: 262, article number: 110313

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

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