Guardians of the Watershed: dragonflies and damselflies as reliable indicators of the quality of wetland habitats

Gland, Switzerland (19.10.2004) IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Earlier this year, the Species Survival Commission’s Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) Specialist Group, published Guardians of the Watershed. Global status of Dragonflies: Critical Species, Threats and Conservation in the International Journal of Odonatology. It will undoubtedly be of use to all nature conservationists, including odonatologists looking for global, but concentrated, information on the threats to dragonfly survival.


Healthy wetland ecosystems, that store water and reduce flooding, are vital for people and wildlife alike. Dragonflies (Odonata) are ideal indicators of wetland health because their larvae develop in water and include a full array of ecological types. This means that they can be used as indicators to monitor both positive and negative habitat changes. One of the world’s biggest problems today is related to its freshwater resources, both quality and quantity, and currently almost 40% of the world’s population experience serious water shortages. Dragonflies are already used to monitor wetland health in Europe, Japan, the USA and Australia, and it is hoped that this report will facilitate monitoring and research of dragonflies and their habitats in other parts of the world, as well as encouraging their conservation.

Mortonagrion hirosei (Coenagrionidae) Distribution: Japan (Honshu) and China (Hong Kong) - photo courtesy of Keith WilsonGuardians of the Watershed has been compiled by 35 authors reporting on 22 regions and together they cover almost the whole world; only a few Asiatic regions remain uncovered. For each region a review on the odonatological history is given, critical odonate species, as well as critical habitats and sites are listed and general implications for necessary conservation measures and research are provided.

Following on from the production of Guardians of the Watershed and based on its regional reports, the Odonata Specialist Group is currently revising the entire global dragonfly Red List. Present knowledge on the threat status and necessary conservation measures for species in North America, Europe, North and South-West Asia, Japan, Australia and for large parts of Africa is comparatively good. On the other hand, for some tropical regions, notably South America and Southeast Asia, surveys are urgently needed because we are still largely in the “data deficiency” stage for many dragonflies.

Other ongoing activities include the preparation of guidelines for "Important Sites Criteria" for Odonata which should be finalised by the end of 2005.

There is no website exclusively for the Odonata Specialist Group, but general information on dragonflies can be found on the Worldwide Dragonfly Association (WDA) website.

For more information contact:

IUCN/SSC Odonata Specialist Group: Dr Viola Clausnitzer,; Tel: ++49 345 2098996;

Anna Knee or Andrew McMullin, IUCN/SSC Communications Officers, or; Tel: ++41 22 999 0153

Work area: 
Climate Change
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