Breeding thresholds in opportunistic Odonata records

Michael A. Patten, Emily A. Hjalmarson, Brenda D. Smith-Patten, Jason T. Bried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous interacting abiotic and biotic factors shape an organism's spatial distribution, and these factors vary spatially and temporally, such that habitat used for breeding may differ from habitat used at other times of the life cycle. We address this complex issue in the context of citizen science and opportunistic species occurrence records, a valuable data source for biogeography and conservation. We focus on the insect order Odonata, the dragonflies and damselflies, which as adults are popular in citizen science programs. Our goal was to devise a means to estimate with high confidence whether a site supports a breeding population if only opportunistic data are available. Our approach fitted logistic curves from occupancy models of observations of tenerals (newly emerged adults that cannot yet disperse from a natal site) against counts of all adults, adult females only, and incidence of breeding behaviors (ovipositing, mate guarding, tandem pairs). Models included median body size and abundance class as covariates of detectability. We subjected logistic curves to a Bayesian two-segment piecewise regression to obtain best estimates of the threshold (with associated credible intervals as an estimate of uncertainty) to assess if a given predictor (e.g., adult count) or combination of predictors was associated with breeding occurrence. We found that no single threshold fit all odonates: thresholds of varying precision were identified for the suborders (dragonflies, damselflies) and for families and select genera in each suborder. Counts of females greatly reduced the required threshold, whereas breeding behavior data reduced the threshold in some cases. Our study shows it is possible to identify breeding occurrences in opportunistic adult Odonata records. It also highlights how citizen scientists should record not only a sound species list with rudimentary counts of adults but also note the sex and breeding behavior. The identification of breeding occurrences in extensive opportunistic data is pertinent to understanding species' distributions and habitat requirements along with their ecological sensitivity and value as bioindicators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105460
JournalEcological Indicators
StatePublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Anisoptera
  • Breeding behavior
  • Citizen science
  • Ecological thresholds
  • Occupancy
  • Zygoptera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Breeding thresholds in opportunistic Odonata records'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this