Riparian and in-channel habitat properties linked to dragonfly emergence
In freshwater ecosystems, habitat alteration contributes directly to biodiversity loss. Dragonflies are sentinel species that are key invertebrate predators in both aquatic (as larvae) and terrestrial ecosystems (as adults). Understanding the habitat factors affecting dragonfly emergence can inform management practices to conserve habitats supporting these species and the functions they perform. Transitioning from larvae to adults, dragonflies leave behind larval exoskeletons (exuviae), which
... (exuviae), which reveal information about the emergent population without the need for sacrificing living organisms. Capitalizing on Atlantic Canada's largest freshwater wetland, the Grand Lake Meadows (GLM) and the associated Saint John/Wolastoq River (SJWR), we studied the spatial (i.e., across the mainstem, tributary, and wetland sites) and temporal (across 3 years) variation in assemblages of emergent dragonflies (Anisoptera) and assessed the relative contribution of aquatic and terrestrial factors structuring these assemblages. The GLM complex, including the lotic SJWR and its tributaries and associated lentic wetlands, provided a range of riparian and aquatic habitat variability ideal for studying dragonfly emergence patterns across a relatively homogenous climatic region. Emergent dragonfly responses were associated with spatial, but not temporal, variation. Additionally, dragonfly communities were associated with both aquatic and terrestrial factors, while diversity was primarily associated with terrestrial factors. Specific terrestrial factors associated with the emergence of the dragonfly community included canopy cover and slope, while aquatic factors included water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and baseflow. Our results indicate that management of river habitats for dragonfly conservation should incorporate riparian habitat protection while maintaining aquatic habitat and habitat quality.