New damselfly sharing habitat with UK natives - University of Exeter

A damselfly species that came to the UK from Europe poses a minimal risk to native damselflies and dragonflies, new research shows.

As tens of thousands of species shift their “range” (the areas they live in) due to climate change, the small red-eyed damselfly has spread northwards from the Mediterranean. It was first observed in the UK in 1999 and has since established itself.

blue damsely fly with red head and eyes perched on a fodled broad green leaf
Small red-eyed damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) male. Credit Pam Taylor

The new study – by the University of Exeter and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology – used data from the British Dragonfly Society to see if it had caused native damselflies and dragonflies to decline.

The results showed most native dragonflies and damselflies were either found more often or were unchanged in areas colonised by the small red-eyed damselfly.

However, two damselfly species might have been negatively affected, and more research is needed to investigate this.

“With range-shifting increasing globally, we need to understand what impact newly arrived species have on ecosystems,” said Dr Regan Early, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall. In this case, it seems the small red-eyed damselfly has established itself in the UK without harming similar species. It may be establishing itself most strongly in areas with good habitats, and these biodiverse sites could be important for increasing numbers of range-shifters in the future.”

Read the paper, published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, is entitled: “Associations between a range-shifting damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) and the UK’s resident Odonata suggests habitat sharing is more important than antagonism.

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Posted On: 10/02/2023

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