Northeast Endemic Damselfly Project

by Pam Hunt

Northeast Endemic Damselfly Project

Field work wrapped up in 2019 for the regional Northeast Endemic Damselfly Project encompassing seven states and four priority species of damselflies. Across the region, it was a mixed year in terms of damselfly activity. We got an earlier start than in 2018, and as a result had much more success with the two species that are active in May and June (the relatively late spring also helped).

For the late-flying species in July and August, several new sites were found in the north (New Hampshire and Maine). In Maine, surveys documented both New England and Scarlet Bluets well to the north and east of where they were previously known in the state, suggesting that both species are a lower conservation priority than previously thought. In the south the results are less consistent: Scarlet Bluets were missed at several historic sites on Cape Cod and Long Island, but found at a few new sites in Connecticut. Observers in the former locations suspect that higher than normal water levels may have reduced habitat suitability or simply made surveys more difficult. Sites on Long Island remain at risk from shoreline development and associated risks.

In New Hampshire, we surveyed a total of 91 sites in 2018-19. Three of the four target species appear more widespread than we previously thought, although there weren’t any major range expansions such as were seen in Maine. The exception is the Pine Barrens Bluet, which is only known from one site in New Hampshire, and as a result is listed as “of Special Concern” by NH Fish and Game. It was discovered at NH Audubon’s Ponemah Bog Sanctuary in 2001, and found there sporadically through 2007. This site was searched multiple times in 2018-19 without success, and it is possible that Pine Barrens Bluet no longer occurs here. Because the species is hard to find and identify, it could certainly be present in other sites near the Massachusetts border, and as time permits new searches will be attempted in 2020.

The next steps in this project involve compiling the data from all seven states to produce habitat models for each of the four species. These models will draw from habitat variables measured at each site (e.g., pH, aquatic vegetation, shoreline vegetation, and pond substrate) and be used to identify the habitat features most important to each species. Preliminary models run for only Maine and New Hampshire early in 2019 indicate that perhaps the most important feature for Scarlet Bluet is the presence of floating vegetation such as lily pads. It will be interesting to see how these results change when a broader geographic range is included in the analysis. We will also produce a conservation plan for the group of damselflies as a whole. This plan will identify threats to each species or its habitat and propose conservation actions to mitigate those threats. It may also include a monitoring plan to ensure that changes to these populations can be detected into the future. Monitoring will be particularly important in southern New England and Long Island where some of the threats may be more pervasive, and species are often of higher conservation concern.

Funding for the Northeast Endemic Damselfly Project comes from a generous grant from the Sarah K. de Coizart Article Tenth Perpetual Charitable Trust. It was also made possible by the participation of representatives from all six other states where the project is taking place.

Project Leader: Pam Hunt

The New England Bluet, one of 4 endemic damselflies in the Northeast.

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