• Anthropogenic electromagnetic radiation (light, radiofrequency) is perceived to threaten pollinators and biodiversity.
• Potential risks are artificial light at night (ALAN) and anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (AREMR).
• We assessed the quantity and quality of evidence, and the level of consensus, to distil key messages for science and policy.
• ALAN can alter pollinator communities and functions, although this remains to be well established.
• Evidence of AREMR impacts is inconclusive due to a lack of high quality, field-realistic studies.
• Whether pollinators and pollination face a threat from the spread of ALAN or AREMR remains a major knowledge gap.
Worldwide urbanisation and use of mobile and wireless technologies (5G, Internet of Things) is leading to the proliferation of anthropogenic electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and campaigning voices continue to call for the risk to human health and wildlife to be recognised. Pollinators provide many benefits to nature and humankind, but face multiple anthropogenic threats. Here, we assess whether artificial light at night (ALAN) and anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (AREMR), such as used in wireless technologies (4G, 5G) or emitted from power lines, represent an additional and growing threat to pollinators. A lack of high quality scientific studies means that knowledge of the risk to pollinators from anthropogenic EMR is either inconclusive, unresolved, or only partly established. A handful of studies provide evidence that ALAN can alter pollinator communities, pollination and fruit set. Laboratory experiments provide some, albeit variable, evidence that the honey bee Apis mellifera and other invertebrates can detect EMR, potentially using it for orientation or navigation, but they do not provide evidence that AREMR affects insect behaviour in ecosystems. Scientifically robust evidence of AREMR impacts on abundance or diversity of pollinators (or other invertebrates) are limited to a single study reporting positive and negative effects depending on the pollinator group and geographical location. Therefore, whether anthropogenic EMR (ALAN or AREMR) poses a significant threat to insect pollinators and the benefits they provide to ecosystems and humanity remains to be established.
EKLIPSE Project: Electromagnetic fields threaten wildlife
- EMR represents a potential risk to the orientation or movement of invertebrates and may affect insect behavior and reproduction;
- bird orientation can be disrupted by weak magnetic fields in the radiofrequency range, and the same may be true for other vertebrates including mammals; and
- EMR exposure may affect plant metabolism due to production of reactive oxygen species often resulting in reduced plant growth.
- Moreover, there is “an urgent need to strengthen the scientific basis of the knowledge on EMR and their potential impacts on wildlife.”
The EKLIPSE review was conducted at the request of Buglife, the only European organization devoted to the conservation of invertebrates. Invertebrates are vitally important to humans and other life forms which could not survive without them; yet, thousands of species are declining, and many are heading towards extinction.
Additional Resources (Updated March 15, 2020)
Nyqvist D, Durif C, Johnsen MG, De Jong K, Forland TN, Sivle LD. Electric and magnetic senses in marine animals, and potential behavioral effects of electromagnetic surveys. Mar Environ Res. 2020 Mar;155:104888. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
Panagopoulos DJ, Balmori A, Chrousos GP. On the biophysical mechanism of sensing upcoming earthquakes by animals. Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jan 29;717:136989. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/