Rhode Island dragonfly census nets 19 new species

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 14, 2002 — Rhode Island’s list of resident dragonflies and damselflies has grown to 133 species with the addition of 19 new records collected during a five-year census of the state’s ponds, streams and wetlands.

Administered by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey and The Nature Conservancy, the census is designed to identify and protect biodiversity hotspots in the state.

“We’re taking what we learn from this project and working to conserve the habitat that these animals live in,” said Virginia Brown, coordinator of the Natural History Survey’s Ecological Inventory, Monitoring and Stewardship Program, based at the University of Rhode Island. “Significant conservation work is already happening as a result of this project, particularly in the Ponagansett River watershed in Foster where we found the Coppery Emerald.”

The Coppery Emerald is one of several rare southern species found during the census at the northern limits of their range. Others include the Southern Sprite, with just one population previously documented in all of New England; the Blackwater Bluet, which appears to be thriving in Charlestown, South Kingstown and Richmond despite being absent in the rest of New England; and the Taper-tailed Darner, found in several Rhode Island bogs in 2002 although it had only been seen in Rhode Island once before.

In addition, census volunteers found six new populations of the Ringed Boghaunter, one of New England’s rarest dragonflies.

“For a small state with little boreal habitat and few large rivers, we’ve got a lot of species here,” Brown said.

The Great Swamp Management Area in South Kingstown and the Arcadia Management Area in Exeter are the state’s top dragonfly and damselfly hotspots, and South Kingstown leads all other communities in the state with 103 species recorded. Brown notes that northern communities like Burrillville and Glocester also host a large number of species, some of which are not found in South County.

More than 40 volunteers participated in collecting 11,000 specimens from every community in Rhode Island. While the census was initially planned as a five-year project, Brown has decided to extend it for one additional year “to fill in the gaps in the data. We’re going to be more targeted next year, looking for particular species in particular townships. I bet there are a few more species out there that we haven’t collected yet but that have been recorded just over the border,” she said.

With the fieldwork nearly complete, Brown said “there’s still a huge amount of work to do. We’ve got lots of data analysis that needs to be done, like comparing the amount of development in an area with the diversity of species we found.” She also intends to publish an atlas showing where each species is found.

For Information: Virginia Brown 401-874-5817