KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 27, 2003 -- Rhode Islands list of resident dragonflies and damselflies has grown to 135 species with the discovery of two new species identified in the final year of a six-year census of the states ponds, streams and wetlands.
Administered by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey at the University of Rhode Island and The Nature Conservancy, the census is designed to identify and protect biodiversity hotspots in the state. Overall, the project found 21 new species in Rhode Island.
The two new species discovered in 2003 are arrow clubtail, a medium-sized dragonfly with bright green eyes that was found on the Blackstone River between Lincoln and Cumberland; and umber shadowdragon, a lake-dwelling species found in Scituate that is active only at dusk.
Also found this year in Burrillville was a large population of zebra clubtails, a globally imperiled species that prefers forested streams with very clean water. Burrillville is the only place in Rhode Island, outside of the Pawcatuck River watershed, that this rare dragonfly has been found.
"These new records are very significant considering how late in our study they were discovered," said Virginia Brown, a dragonfly expert and coordinator of the Natural History Surveys Ecological Inventory, Monitoring and Stewardship program. "The zebra clubtail discovery, especially, is extraordinary. The Nature Conservancy considers that species a conservation target wherever it is found."
This year was a challenging year for the volunteers looking for dragonflies in the state. "Much of the early season was a washout because of all the rain and cold weather we had in April and May. Nothing was flying then," Brown said.
Later in the season, the rain was responsible for good news for the project.
"Because there was so much water around, we made some good progress finding species that have been virtually non-existent in past years," said the URI biologist. "Those species that breed in small streams or boggy areas that are often dry in drought years were abundant this year. And the same is true of the species found in temporary pools."
Now that the data collection for the project is complete, Brown will be reviewing the projects 13,000 dragonfly records, double-checking their identifications, and analyzing the data. The Natural History Survey will publish a detailed atlas in 2005 showing where each species was found in the state, along with illustrations, photographs, habitat descriptions, and distribution information.
"Rhode Island has amazing dragonfly diversity for its size," Brown said. "Providence and Washington counties have more dragonfly species than almost any county in the country." Providence County is home to 124 species of dragonflies and damselflies, while 125 species can be found in Washington County. With 107 species each, Burrillville and South Kingstown hold the distinction of being the home of the most dragonfly species of any town in the state.
For Further Information: Virginia Brown 874-5817