The extent of artificial night light and anthropogenic noise (i.e., “light” and “noise”) impacts is global and has the capacity to threaten species across diverse ecosystems. Existing research involving impacts of light or noise has primarily focused on noise or light alone and single species; however, these stimuli often co-occur and little is known about how co-exposure influences wildlife and if and why species may vary in their responses. Here, we had three aims: (1) to investigate species-specific responses to light, noise, and the interaction between the two using a spatially explicit approach to model changes in abundance of 140 prevalent bird species across North America, (2) to investigate responses to the interaction between light exposure and night length, and (3) to identify functional traits and habitat affiliations that explain variation in species-specific responses to these sensory stimuli with phylogenetically informed models. We found species that responded to noise exposure generally decreased in abundance, and the additional presence of light interacted synergistically with noise to exacerbate its negative effects. Moreover, the interaction revealed negative emergent responses for several species that only reacted when light and noise co-occurred. Additionally, an interaction between light and night length revealed 47 species increased in abundance with light exposure during longer nights. In addition to modifying behavior with optimal temperature and potential foraging opportunities, birds might be attracted to light, yet suffer inadvertent physiological consequences. The trait that most strongly related to avian response to light and noise was habitat affiliation. Specifically, species that occupy closed habitat were less tolerant of both sensory stressors compared to those that occupy open habitat. Further quantifying the contexts and intrinsic traits that explain how species respond to noise and light will be fundamental to understanding the ecological consequences of a world that is ever louder and brighter.
June 10, 2021