British dragonflies are emerging earlier in the year under climate change
Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash
What is it about?
I analysed an extensive dataset of sightings of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) over a 50-year period in the UK. These 450,000 sightings were of around 40 species and provided a detailed record of dates on which different Odonata species were emerging from their aquatic habitats. I found that there was a significant shift towards earlier emergence which was consistent with that observed in terrestrial species. I further demonstrated that there was a difference between two groups of species that varied in what stage they over-wintered. Those species that sat in the water over winter as eggs did not show a response to climate change while those that were larvae over winter did show a response. I infer from this that the response to climate change is caused by a decline in mortality associated with cooler temperatures in the more vulnerable larval stages.
Why is it important?
A number of studies have demonstrated an effect of climate change on the phenology of animals and plants. This study showed that the signal was present even for animals that occupy aquatic habitats, suggesting that temperature changes influences aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in much the same way.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Christopher Hassall