Change the colour (spectral composition) of lighting

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Three studies evaluated the effects of changing the colour (spectral composition) of lighting on reptile populations. Two studies were in the USA and one was in Australia.




  • Behaviour change (3 studies): Two replicated, controlled studies (including one randomized study) in the USA and Australia found that yellow-tinted incandescent lighting did not affect the seaward orientation of loggerhead turtle hatchlings, whereas four other types of lighting did, and that hatchlings were disoriented in fewer trials by red lighting than by amber lighting. One replicated, controlled study in the USA found in laboratory trials that filtering out high wavelengths did not prevent loggerhead or green turtles crawling towards light sources.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, controlled study (years not provided) on a beach in Florida, USA (Witherington & Bjorndal 1991) found that yellow-tinted incandescent lighting did not affect loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta hatchling seaward orientation at high intensity, whereas four other artificial lights did at both low and high intensities. Hatchlings released under high, but not low, intensity yellow-tinted incandescent lighting oriented in a similar direction compared to no lighting (data reported as crawl angle), which was directly seawards on average. High-pressure sodium vapour, low-pressure sodium vapour, red-tinted incandescent and white quartz lighting all affected sea turtle hatchling seaward orientation at high and low intensities compared to no lighting (data reported as crawl angle, see paper for details). Overall, hatchlings tended to be most attracted to white quartz lighting. High-pressure sodium vapour, low-pressure sodium vapour, yellow-tinted incandescent, red-tinted incandescent and white quartz lights were trialled at high and low intensity. Trials were conducted at night by releasing 30 hatchlings/trial (from 30 different clutches) into the centre of an 8 m diameter sand arena divided into 32 segments, with segment one closest to the sea (0°) and a light positioned 4 m from the eighth segment (90°). After five minutes, the segment location of hatchlings was recorded. Trials were also carried out with no lighting.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled study in 2000–2001 in a laboratory in Florida, USA (Sella et al. 2006) found that filtering lights did not prevent loggerhead Caretta caretta or green Chelonia mydas turtle hatchlings from crawling towards a light source, though fewer turtles crawled towards filtered compared to unfiltered lights. Turtles crawled preferentially towards an orange, red or unfiltered light source, but showed no directional preference when no light source was present (data reported as average crawl angle). In addition, more turtles crawled towards a filtered light source over no light in two of four trials (68–84% of individuals), and towards an unfiltered light source over no light in two of two trials (96–100% of individuals). In 2000, turtles were placed in a circular arena where they could crawl in any direction, and in 2001 in a “T-maze” where they could crawl in one of two directions. Light sources were presented at the edge of the arena (orange, red, unfiltered or no light; 30 turtles/treatment) or in one arm of the T-maze (orange, red or unfiltered light; 25 turtles/treatment). High pressure sodium vapour lights were used that mimicked streetlights adjacent to turtle nesting sites (equivalent to 40 or 60 m away). In 2000, hatchlings were obtained from a beach hatchery, and in 2001 from natural nests. Each hatchling was used in only one trial and then released in to the wild. Behaviours were monitored with a video camera and monitor.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2013 on unlit beaches in Queensland, Australia (Robertson et al. 2016) found that loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta hatchlings were disoriented by amber ‘turtle-safe’ artificial lights and only disoriented by red ‘turtle-safe’ lights when three torches were used. Fewer hatchlings oriented directly seawards under amber lighting (72–89%), compared to no lighting (97%; statistical significance depended on the number of torches used, see original paper). Under red lighting, overall the proportion of hatchlings that oriented seawards was similar (98%) compared to no lighting (99%), but when three torches were used hatchlings were significantly more likely to orient towards the artificial light (see paper for details). Amber (620 nm peak wavelength, 9.8 light intensity) and red (640 nm, 8.3) ‘turtle-friendly’ LED lights were tested (1–4 torches/trial) during different parts of the lunar cycle and results compared to no lighting (amber: 21 total trials, red: 9). Trials were carried out by releasing <1-day-old hatchlings (20 hatchlings/trial) in an 8 m circular sand arena divided into 12 segments (see paper for more details). Hatchling segment location was recorded after five minutes.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Sainsbury K.A., Morgan W.H., Watson M., Rotem G., Bouskila A., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Reptile Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for reptiles. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

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Reptile Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Reptile Conservation
Reptile Conservation

Reptile Conservation - Published 2021

Reptile synopsis

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