A review of odonatology in freshwater applied ecology and conservation science

Jason T. Bried, Michael J. Samways

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The academic study of dragonflies and damselflies (odonatology) is well established, but relatively limited attention has been given to odonates in the context of applied ecology and conservation science. We used the Web of Science™ and Odonatological Abstract Service (ISSN 1438-0269) to capture trends in primary literature, characterize study features (habitats, life stages, etc.), identify research themes, and suggest future directions for odonatology in freshwater applied ecology and conservation science. We found no papers in this area prior to 1980, and 411 papers from 1980 through 2013. Nearly 75% of these papers were recent (since 2005) and >l40% were very recent (since 2010). We identified several broad and overlapping research themes: 1) model taxa, 2) tools and indicators, 3) odonate-centered work, and 4) methodological issues and improvements (field sampling, data modeling/simulation, conservation/landscape-scale genetics). We found more reliance on fieldbased observational approaches than experiments and model-driven exercises, although the number of papers using model-driven exercises is rapidly increasing. We found a strong focus on adult stages, odonate assemblages, the Odonata as a whole, and studies of particular species. We identified research priorities in areas such as ecological valuation and management, monitoring and assessment, climate change and landscape planning, concordance with other taxa, effects of urbanization, data modeling/simulation, and rare-species ecology and conservation. To help establish an identity and facilitate communication, we suggest naming this diverse realm "applied odonatology". We think applied odonatology has a good future for a range of topics from conservation genetics and population ecology to assessments of anthropogenic impacts and the conservation of biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1023-1031
Number of pages9
JournalFreshwater Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Assessment
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Climate change
  • Dragonflies
  • Freshwater health
  • Landscape planning
  • Monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science


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