More dragonflies are gaining than losing from climate change, but is this good news?
The State of Dragonflies in Britain and Ireland 2021 report, just published online by the British Dragonfly Society (BDS), shows that dragonflies are bucking the trend of declining species in Britain and Ireland. In the dragonfly world there have been far more gains than losses. Over 40% of resident and regular migrant species have increased since 1970, while only 11% have declined. Although this sounds like good news for dragonflies, it is in fact yet another indicator of climate change. Dragonflies are a mainly tropical group of insects, so most will benefit from rising
Emperor Dragonfly has shown the largest increase. Found mainly in England and south Wales until the 1990s, the species crossed the Irish Sea in 2000, before spreading rapidly through Ireland. It has also spread northwards in England and Wales, reaching Scotland in 2003. Migrant Hawker and Black-tailed Skimmer have shown similar increases and range expansions to a slightly lesser extent.
In total, 19 of our 46 resident and regular migrant dragonfly and damselfly species have increased in Britain and Ireland, while just five have declined.
In addition, we have gained eight new species since 1995 and two others have reappeared after a long gap in their records. Some of these species have since colonised with Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Willow Emerald Damselfly and Southern Migrant Hawker spreading most rapidly in recent years. This increased rate of immigration and colonisation by species with a more southern distribution in Europe is unprecedented in modern times and clearly shows how our climate is changing to one more commonly found on the Continent.