Improving taxonomic resolution in large-scale freshwater biodiversity monitoring: an example using wetlands and Odonata

Jason T. Bried, Robert P. Hinchliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immature aquatic insects are a major source of taxonomic difficulty in large-scale freshwater biodiversity monitoring. Adult stages could improve taxonomic resolution for assessing distributions and trends of biodiversity. Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) have accessible adult stages that should greatly enhance the amount of species-level information. We used Odonata and a wetland monitoring programme in Alberta, Canada to illustrate how much taxonomic information can be lost in larval collections, and an extensive adult records database to estimate what could be gained from adult surveys. Despite processing 22 638 odonate specimens from 975 wetlands throughout Alberta, larval monitoring failed to collect or identify almost 60% of the lentic-breeding Odonata species known from adult records. A total of 25 lentic-breeding dragonfly species and 12 lentic-breeding damselfly species were present in adult records and not the larval data, including species of conservation concern. Due to the abundance of early instars, a substantial 82% of the processed damselfly collection and 62% of the processed dragonfly collection was left at suborder. We recommend supplementing aquatic sampling with adult rearing, collecting, and observing (at least Odonata) to improve the basic inventory and overall status assessment in large-scale freshwater biodiversity monitoring. This is especially true when aquatic sampling is restricted to a suboptimal time of year for species identifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalInsect Conservation and Diversity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Alberta
  • aquatic macroinvertebrates
  • larvae
  • OdonataCentral
  • species identification
  • taxonomic resolution
  • wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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