Coral reefs represent the most diverse marine ecosystem on the planet, yet they are undergoing an unprecedented decline due to a combination of increasing global and local stressors. Despite the wealth of research investigating these stressors, Artificial Light Pollution at Night (ALAN) or “ecological light pollution” represents an emerging threat that has received little attention in the context of coral reefs, despite the potential of disrupting the chronobiology, physiology, behavior, and other biological processes of coral reef organisms. Scleractinian corals, the framework builders of coral reefs, depend on lunar illumination cues to synchronize their biological rhythms such as behavior, reproduction and physiology. While, light pollution (POL) may mask and lead de-synchronization of these biological rhythms process. To reveal if ALAN impacts coral physiology, we have studied two coral species, Acropora eurystoma and Pocillopora damicornis, from the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba, Red Sea, which is undergoing urban development that has led to severe POL at night. Our two experimental design data revealed that corals exposed to ALAN face an oxidative stress condition, show lower photosynthesis performances measured by electron transport rate (ETR), as well as changes in chlorophyll and algae density parameters. Testing different lights such as Blue LED and White LED spectrum showed more extreme impact in comparison to Yellow LEDs on coral physiology. The finding of this work sheds light on the emerging threat of POL and the impacts on the biology and ecology of Scleractinian corals, and will help to formulate specific management implementations to mitigate its potentially harmful impacts.
- light pollution