Artificial light at night (ALAN) is an increasing phenomenon worldwide that can cause a series of biological and ecological effects, yet little is known about its potential interaction with other stressors in aquatic ecosystems. Here, we tested whether the impact of lead (Pb) on litter decomposition was altered by ALAN exposure using an indoor microcosm experiment. The results showed that ALAN exposure alone significantly increased leaf litter decomposition, decreased the lignin content of leaf litter, and altered fungal community composition and structure. The decomposition rate was 51% higher in Pb with ALAN exposure treatments than in Pb without ALAN treatments, resulting in increased microbial biomass, β-glucosidase (β-G) activity, and the enhanced correlation between β-G and litter decomposition rate. These results indicate that the negative effect of Pb on leaf litter decomposition in aquatic ecosystems may be alleviated by ALAN. In addition, ALAN exposure also alters the correlation among fungi associated with leaf litter decomposition. In summary, this study expands our understanding of Pb toxicity on litter decomposition in freshwater ecosystems and highlights the importance of considering ALAN when assessing environmental metal pollutions.
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