Home LATEST NEWS Dragonflies and damselflies are dying for lack of habitat

Dragonflies and damselflies are dying for lack of habitat


This is the first time that the IUCN has made an inventory of the 6,016 species of dragonflies and damselflies – the odonata – listed in the world.

And she estimates that 16% of them are threatened with extinction, in an update of her Red List which is a global inventory of the state of conservation of flora and fauna.

By thus highlighting the loss of dragonflies in the world, the red list […] underlines the urgent need to protect wetlands and the rich biodiversity they support, says IUCN Director General Bruno Oberle.

These ecosystems are disappearing three times faster than forests anywhere in the world, he warns.

Between 1970 and 2015, it is estimated that 35% of wetlands in the world (lakes, rivers, marshes or even coastal or marine areas) have disappeared, according to a report by the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

While wetlands can often appear hostile to humans, they provide essential services, insists Mr. Oberle, stressing: They store carbon, give us clean water and food, protect us from flooding and are the habitat of one in ten known species in the world..

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Odonata are thus an excellent indicator of the health of wetlands.

Dragonflies and damselflies are very, very sensitive to changes in the environment. And so they serve as a wake-up call to what’s happening in wetlands around the world., explained to AFP Craig Hilton-Taylor, in charge of red list at IUCN.

Due to a lack of data on a number of the species assessed, it is impossible to say whether they are endangered or not, but he is concerned that 40% of the species may, in fact, be classified as threatened.

The situation has particularly deteriorated in South and South-East Asia, where more than a quarter of odonata are threatened, victims in particular of clearing and dewatering to make way for palm oil plantations.

In Europe and North America, pesticides and pollutants as well as climate change are the greatest threats to these insects.

Climate change is a key factor, recalls Mr. Hilton-Taylor, because it causes droughts which have a devastating effect on their habitat. However, dragonflies are also a major predator of mosquitoes and other disease-carrying flies.

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The Red List, which is a reference document of 142,577 species, both flora and fauna, has for the first time passed the 40,000 (40,084) endangered species mark.

While some species seem to be recovering and have been placed in less exposed categories, a larger number is on the contrary more threatened.

Among them, the Pyrenean desman, which is also nicknamed the trumpet rat because of its very elongated muzzle.

This small mammal which physically resembles shrews, moles and rats is now considered to be in danger whereas previously, the animal that lives in France and in the north of the Iberian Peninsula was classified vulnerable.

The population has fallen by half during the last decade, mainly because of the impact of the development of waterways, such as dams to produce electricity for example.

The use of water for agriculture or to produce artificial snow for ski resorts in the Pyrenees have also made large areas uninhabitable for small animals.

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