Why Monitor Odonates?

Blue dasher dragonfly © Joy Marzolf, Mass Audubon
Blue dasher dragonfly © Joy Marzolf, Mass Audubon

Odonates are an attractive group for monitoring for a number of reasons.

  • They occur in a variety of habitats, e.g., along streams and rivers, at the edges of ponds and forests, in wet meadows, and in fields
  • They are often the top predators in their aquatic larval and adult stages.
  • Odonate larvae are sensitive to environmental changes and have been used as indicators of water quality and habitat change.
  • Their presence at a wildlife sanctuary can be interpreted to mean that the aquatic habitat at or near a sanctuary is adequate to support larval growth and development.
  • The 166 species of odonates occurring in Massachusetts provides a manageable opportunity for comparing long-term changes in species richness.
  • Odonate taxonomy is well known, and there are good field guides and websites (see Resources). Expertise at odonate identification, especially at Mass Audubon, has increased in recent years, largely through the efforts of amateur naturalists and birders.