By Anna Kubiak
October 14, 2021
A staple in freshwater ecosystems, dragonflies are known for their adaptability which allows them to thrive all over the world, however, with temperatures on the rise, their future is uncertain.
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explored the effects a warmer climate could have on the species and determined that male dragonflies are losing their pigmentation. This change in coloring could have effects on their ability to find a mate, as a male dragonflies’ brightly colored wings are a defining characteristic of the species.
While former studies have concluded that male dragonflies can become darker in color in colder climates to attract more heat and lighter in warmer climates for the opposite effect, this change is occurring more rapidly than would be expected during their natural evolution.
In recent years, dragonflies have become an important resource for scientists to study, because they require stable oxygen levels and clean water which makes them reliable bioindicators of the health of an ecosystem. Changes in their numbers and health can be the first sign of a decrease in water quality, which is why they are being regulated closely as the impacts of global warming continue to create rippling effects across the world.
Dragonflies are just one of the species beginning to display the consequences climate change can have on our ecosystems. As predators for a variety of bugs including horseflies, deer flies, and mosquitoes, dragonflies can reduce the presence of illnesses such as malaria, dog heartworm, and yellow fever. They are also an ally in the seasonal battle against pests and can reduce the need for toxic pesticides used for bug control.
Dragonflies are also a prey for other freshwater animals such as birds, fish, and frogs, cementing their place in parks, ponds, and even puddles. Currently, long-term effects on the species is a concern and with that uncertainty comes concerns of what their plight may mean for other animals relying on the same resources for their survival.
To encourage dragonflies to inhabit your garden it is recommended to supply them with two feet of fresh water. Additionally, you can attract them by keeping water plants such as calla lilies, water hyacinths, and umbrella palms. Many water plants can be added to already existing gardens or can remain potted nearby.
Currently, dragonflies are known for being one of the most colorful insects on the planet. Ironically, it’s that characteristic that is gaining attention from the scientific community. The struggle facing dragonflies is just beginning, and to remain a wetland staple, dragonflies must overcome unpredictable conditions that place the species in danger. The effects of climate changes are numerous and as temperatures continue to rise, dragonflies are just one of the animals to have their uncertain futures in our hands.