Identifying high-quality pond habitats for Odonata in lowland England: implications for agri-environment schemes

Authors

  • EVA M. RAEBEL,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney, Abingdon, UK
    2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
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  • THOMAS MERCKX,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney, Abingdon, UK
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  • RUTH E. FEBER,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney, Abingdon, UK
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  • PHILIP RIORDAN,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney, Abingdon, UK
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  • DAVID W. MACDONALD,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney, Abingdon, UK
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  • DAVID J. THOMPSON

    1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
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Eva M. Raebel, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney, Oxfordshire OX13 5QL, UK. E-mail: evamraebel@gmail.com

Abstract

Abstract.  1. Agricultural intensification has contributed to severe declines in odonate (dragonfly and damselfly) populations. The objective of our study is to benefit current measures for the conservation of odonates by establishing the conditions favourable to Odonata and focusing on ponds within agricultural land.

2. Our landscape-scale study used exuvial counts and habitat measurements from 29 ponds across a catchment in England, over 3 years, to determine key factors affecting odonate abundance and species richness.

3. Ponds dominated by floating and submerged vegetation were the most transparent, supported the highest abundance and species richness of exuviae, and were always fully or partially surrounded by buffer strips. Ponds lacking vegetation were turbid, yielding no exuviae even if they were buffered. English agri-environment schemes (AES) currently support pond and buffer strip creation and management.

4. Abundance of exuviae was higher in recently created ponds compared to older ponds, whereas ponds that had dried out the previous summer had fewer exuviae.

5. Species richness of exuviae decreased with increasing distance to the nearest viable pond, falling by more than 40% for distances over 100 m.

6. We conclude that odonate conservation would be more effective if AES would consider the spatial scale at which ponds are created and the location, type, and quality of ponds targeted for buffer strips.

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