A framework to assess evolutionary responses to anthropogenic light and sound

John P. Swaddle*, Clinton D. Francis*, Jesse R. Barber, Caren B. Cooper, Christopher C.M. Kyba, Davide M. Dominoni, Graeme Shannon, Erik Aschehoug, Sarah E. Goodwin, Akito Y. Kawahara, David Luther, Kamiel Spoelstra, Margaret Voss, Travis Longcore


  • Anthropogenic light and sound are an important component of global change.
  • These stimuli often co-occur and may function synergistically.
  • The selection pressure of light and noise may drive the rate of evolutionary change.
  • We propose a framework to explore the ultimate consequences of noise and light exposure.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.06.009

Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Human activities have caused a near-ubiquitous and evolutionarily-unprecedented increase in environmental sound levels and artificial night lighting. These stimuli reorganize communities by interfering with species-specific perception of time-cues, habitat features, and auditory and visual signals. Rapid evolutionary changes could occur in response to light and noise, given their magnitude, geographical extent, and degree to which they represent unprecedented environmental conditions. We present a framework for investigating anthropogenic light and noise as agents of selection, and as drivers of other evolutionary processes, to influence a range of behavioral and physiological traits such as phenological characters and sensory and signaling systems. In this context, opportunities abound for understanding contemporary and rapid evolution in response to human-caused environmental change.