A laboratory experiment to determine the dispersal response of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) fry to street light intensity

W. D. Riley*, P. I. Davison, D. L. Maxwell, R. C. Newman, M. J. Ives

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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The effect of a range of ecologically relevant broader spectrum street light intensities on the dispersal timing of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) fry was investigated to assess the efficacy of a proposed management tool, the dimming of lamp brightness, for reducing the ecological consequences of artificial night light on aquatic ecosystems. Dispersal timing under treatment street light intensities of 8, 4, 2 and 1 lux was compared to that under a control night light intensity of 0.1 lux, representative of approximately half that experienced from a full moon. Dispersal timing was significantly delayed (by 1.4 to 2.2 days), and its diel pattern significantly disrupted under the treatment street light intensities. However, the dose-response for both delay and disruption effects was not linear, with a strong effect apparent at 1 lux, and little or no additional impact seen when the light intensity was increased further. Under control conditions, the mean time of dispersal was 3:58 h after dusk, with very few fry (<4%) dispersing during daylight hours. For the treatment street light intensities, the mean time of dispersal of fry was significantly later (5:31 h after dusk at 1 lux) at night, and a much wider distribution of fry dispersal times was apparent with many more fry (19% at 1 lux) dispersing during daylight hours. Survival to dispersal in aquarium conditions was high (≥97.8%) and comparable in the control and treatment street light intensities. However, in the wild, the period between fry dispersal and the establishment of feeding territories is considered to be of critical importance in the dynamics of salmonid populations and any disruption may significantly increase predation and reduce fitness. The findings of this aquarium-based investigation suggest that the dimming of lamp brightness has little potential as a successful management strategy to reduce the disruptive impact of street lighting surrounding freshwater ecosystems. We therefore recommend that the best course of action is to maintain and increase natural unlit areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1016-1028
Number of pages13
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Artificial night light
  • Freshwater fish
  • Fry dispersal
  • Salmon
  • Urban environments


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