Dragonflies, the forgotten indicators of the ecosystem’s good health

Dragonflies, the forgotten indicators of the ecosystem’s good health

Pune: “Lack of funds in the study of insects and the fear and stigma attached to them has led to a scarcity of data and awareness about the importance of dragonflies,” said researcher Prosenjit Dawn, who has been studying dragonflies since 2012.

Dawn is part of Dragonfly SouthAsia (DSA), a citizen science group that has been connecting amateurs in the field to experts since 2015 when it was originally called Dragonfly India.

To connect with young researchers and enthusiasts, Dragonfly SouthAsia has been conducting region-wise meetings of researchers from different South Asian countries every year.

Due to the coronavirus lockdown, the meeting was held virtually this year.

LACK OF DATA
Pointing out the lack of data regarding the number and species of dragonflies, naturalist Parag Rangnekar said that as far as the dragonfly study was concerned, we are still at the first step of the ladder.

“This was the problem with the study of all kinds of insects. Insect studies do not attract the same amount of interest and funding as the research and conservation of other animals such as tigers, or bird,” Rangnekar said.

Apart from budget, Dawn also said that the fear that common people have towards insects also causes a hindrance.

“The fear emerges from a lack of knowledge about these creatures. People don’t understand the importance of insects, which are one of the most important parts of the ecosystem,” Dawn added.

IMPORTANCE OF DRAGONFLIES
Dragonflies are indicator species. “This means that the existence of dragonflies determines the health of an ecosystem, especially the water bodies. Dragonflies lay their eggs in clean water bodies,” Rangnekar stated.

Ecologist Pankaj Koparde added, “Dragonflies and damselflies are predatory insects. They play a significant role in controlling the insect population, especially pests such as mosquitoes and agricultural pests. They are freshwater insects, showing a semi-aquatic life cycle. Their larvae are underwater and adults are terrestrial and aerial predators.”

Rangnekar said that there are majorly two different types of dragonflies. 

“The ones who live and thrive only in specific habitats, and others who are generally found everywhere. Although there is a lack of sufficient data to point out exactly where this is happening, it has been a general observation that the dragonflies found in specific habitats are decreasing in number,” he explained.

PURPOSE OF THE PLATFORM
Dawn said, “The meetings conducted by DSA have brought the researchers together to understand each other’s research. Moreover, it has helped the study, which earlier remained confined to paperwork and the scientific community, reach people at large.”

While biodiversity is going through a huge crisis, it was important to protect the insects that are the backbones of the ecosystem.

He added, “DSA has also provided a platform to all of those who are researching insects.”

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order Odonata and have evolved around 325 million years ago.

“Though in individual capacities, we have been contributing to the research on odonates of India, we thought that doing collaborative research will be much more productive. Today, across many web portals, we have around 9,000 members from South Asian countries including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh,” Koparde added.

To connect with young researchers and enthusiasts, Dragonfly SouthAsia has been conducting region-wise meetings of researchers from different South Asian countries every year.

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