Impact of artificial light at night on the foraging behaviour of the European Hamster: consequences for the introduction of this species in suburban areas

Abstract : Among the pressures introduced by urbanization, artificial light at night (ALAN) can be problematic, particularly for nocturnal species. Populations of European hamsters (Cricetus cricetus) have dramatically decreased in France since 1972 because of habitat loss due to urbanisation and changes in agricultural methods. The conservation project Life Alister aims to increase the abundance of this species in suburban areas via hamster release. However, the success of this population-restoration project may be compromised due to the possible effects of ALAN on the daily and seasonal cycles and behaviour of this nocturnal species. To understand how hamsters may respond to relocation, we experimentally studied the impact of ALAN on hamster foraging, a decisive behaviour for survival in natural habitats. This study assessed the behavioural responses of 18 animals when choosing between two food sources of different palatability in two different lighting conditions: artificial light (4 or 40 lux) or darkness. Our results show that hamsters avoided lighting that mimics suburban streetlights, particularly when grooming. Moreover, this study reveals that hamsters do not avoid street-lit areas when highly palatable food is present, suggesting they would be more susceptible to predation under these circumstances. Our results suggest that the adverse effects of ALAN on the behaviour of hamsters released on the outskirts of developed suburban areas could be limited by restricting the number of street lights, moderating the intensity of street lighting, or switching lights off during the hours hamsters are most active. We further recommend that wildlife managers avoid planting plants that are highly palatable to hamsters close to lighting in suburban areas to limit the risk of predation for this species.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - 1:36:52 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, August 15, 2019 - 1:19:10 AM

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Sophie Marie Dupont, Lauréline Guinnefollau, Christiane Weber, Odile Petit. Impact of artificial light at night on the foraging behaviour of the European Hamster: consequences for the introduction of this species in suburban areas. Rethinking Ecology, Pensoft, 2019, 4, pp.133-148. ⟨10.3897/rethinkingecology.4.36467⟩. ⟨hal-02266434⟩

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