Research Group: 
Running period: 
2015 to 2018

Artificial light at night (LAN) is an emerging problem. Recent studies have demonstrated short-term effects of LAN on animals, including humans, but the long-term consequences have not yet been studied. To fill this gap, we need an interdisciplinary approach that combines ecological and physiological/molecular methods. In this innovative project we will integrate three strands of ageing research at different levels of biological organization.

At the organism level, LAN has been shown to increase workload and disrupt sleep, which could in turn increase metabolic rate. At the physiological level, higher energy expenditure has been associated with oxidative stress and faster senescence. At the cellular level, oxidative stress and sleep disruption can accelerate telomere erosion, an important process involved in the development of senescence. We will address these issues in wild songbirds using a unique experimental facility in the field, where street lights with different light colours are set up in eight forests in the Netherlands. The overall aim is to evaluate the long term consequences of LAN, focusing on important physiological mechanisms that may underline poor maintenance of body functions. This will enable us to assess the effect of LAN on the rate of ageing, but also to measure fitness in a natural setting. In addition, the set-up will also allow evaluation of which wavelength of light might be less impacting.

Therefore the proposed project will not only advance our knowledge about the long-term effects of light pollution, but will also benefit other scientific disciplines, policy-making and the industry.


Global change



Research team