Saturday, 5 April 2014

UK dragonfly numbers may be down after wet winter, conservationists warn

Overflowing rivers may have washed away nymphs but impact will not be seen until flying season


theguardian.com, Friday 4 April 2014 06.00 BST

The iridescent dragonflies that flit alongside the UK's waterways could become a rarer sight in coming years after this winter's deluge, the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) have warned.

The mosquitoes and midges that dragonflies prey upon may increase as a result, boosted by the pools and puddles left by southern Britain'swettest winter for at least 250 years.

There are 45 dragonfly and closely related damselfly species that breed in the UK. But while they are best known for their colourful, darting summer flights, they actually spend most of their lives as nymphs inrivers, canals and ponds. After three years underwater, they emerge as flying adults to mate and then die as soon as a week later.

Dr Mark Robinson, national ecologist at the CRT, said overflowing rivers are known to wash the nymphs away. "If you think about life in rivers that burst their banks, most of it has been spread over the fields over the last few months," he said. "The nymphs are then just pickings for birds and small mammals. As they spend three years in the water, if you lose a year it can take a long time to recover."

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