Odonata as candidate macroecological barometers for global climate change

Christopher Hassall
  • Freshwater Science, September 2015, University of Chicago Press
  • DOI: 10.1086/682210

What is it about?

Over the past 50-60 years of climate change, we have been recording the presence of a wide range of species. This means that we can now use those records to see which species are responding, and whether there is a consistent response across the different species. Specifically, I looked for evidence that UK species (including insects, fish, and amphibians) are moving north and emerging earlier. I showed that there is a group of well-recorded species including the hoverflies, spiders, and dragonflies, which are all showing strong and consistent northward movements and earlier emergence. I focus on the dragonflies as a group of interest, and suggest that they can be used as an indicator (or "barometer") for climate change.

Why is it important?

The work has two important outcomes: first, we can use dragonflies to detect changes in the environment. This way of measuring climate change is more relevant to the planet than absolute temperature (e.g. using weather stations) because it reflects how nature is responding. The second major finding is that the kind of biological recording that we are already doing can play a vital role in our study of the natural world's response to climate change. Biological records are often poorly-supported (in financial terms) compared to standardised monitoring, but harness an enormous amount of enthusiasm and expertise from the recording community.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/682210

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Christopher Hassall