Coral broadcast spawning events - in which gametes are released on certain nights predictably in relation to lunar cycles - are critical to the maintenance and recovery of coral reefs following mass mortality. Artificial light at night (ALAN) from coastal and offshore developments threatens coral reef health by masking natural light:dark cycles that synchronize broadcast spawning. Using a recently published atlas of underwater light pollution, we analyze a global dataset of 2135 spawning observations from the 21st century. For the majority of genera, corals exposed to light pollution are spawning between one and three days closer to the full moon compared to those on unlit reefs. ALAN possibly advances the trigger for spawning by creating a perceived period of minimum illuminance between sunset and moonrise on nights following the full moon. Advancing the timing of mass spawning could decrease the probability of gamete fertilization and survival, with clear implications for ecological processes involved in the resilience of reef systems.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (grant numbers NE/S003533/2 and NE/S003568/1 awarded to T.W.D. and T.S.)
© 2023, The Author(s).