Dragonflies (Insecta: Odonata) as indicators of habitat quality in Mediterranean streams and rivers in the province of Barcelona (Catalonia, Iberian Peninsula)


In a field study carried out in 2011 and 2014 adult dragonflies were identified as a rapid and easy-to-use means of assessing habitat quality and biological integrity of Mediterranean streams and rivers in the province of Barcelona (Region Catalonia, Iberian Peninsula). The study included sampling sites from five different river catchments: Besòs, Foix, Llobregat, Ter and Tordera. Multivariate statistical procedures and indicator species analysis were used to investigate the relationship between river ecological status, study sites and dragonfly species or species assemblages’ occurrence. The dragonfly association identified with western Mediterranean permanent streams, i.e. Cordulegaster boltonii, Boyeria irene, Onychogomphus uncatus and Calopteryx virgo meridionalis, was found only at the sites with the highest status. All these taxa were identified as indicator species of sites with the best scores for the macroinvertebrate based IBMWP index and for the combined IASPT index, which reflects the sensitivity of the macroinvertebrate families present to environmental changes; besides, B. irene and C. virgo meridionalis also proved to be indicator species of the riparian forest quality index and C. boltonii of the more inclusive ECOSTRIMED, which assesses the overall conservation status of the riverine habitats. The information obtained on habitat preferences and indicator value showed that adults of these taxa may constitute a valuable tool for preliminary or complementary cost-effective monitoring of river status and restoration practices as part of a broader set of indices reflecting biodiversity and ecosystem integrity.

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