How dragonflies and damselflies respond to global change; a cross-continental analysis

Ms Catherine Sirois-Delisle1, Dr. Jeremy Kerr1

1University Of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

There are critical gaps in understanding how and when species respond to rapid environmental change that limit our capacity to address conservation risks in a timely way. Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are excellent model organisms to explore this issue: their range margins are thought to shift quickly in response to global change, they rely on a wide range of environmental conditions, their ecological needs are very well known, and massive occurrence datasets exist due to high public interest and ease of identification. Using millions of records for over 100 European and North American odonate species collected between 1901 and 2016, we discover significant shifts in species range limits and elevational limits following years of rapid climate change. We show that species’ ranges are becoming larger as they expand northward and towards the equator, exposing species to temperatures outside their historic thermal limits. Latitudinal range changes are highly distinct between continents, but surprisingly converge in elevation change. We assess the effects of life history and functional traits on these rapid changes, to better understand how traits affect the strength of climate change and land-use change impacts on interspecific distributional changes. This is a crucial step towards accurately predicting interspecific effects of global change on other taxa, as humans continue to transform the world at unprecedented rates.


Catherine Sirois-Delisle is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa. She graduated from her master’s degree in Environmental Sustainability, where she studied climate change impacts on North American bumblebees; this work was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports. Her PhD work continues to explore how species move through the landscape in response to global change. She investigates why some species persist while others decline under global change, a major challenge in conservation biology.

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