Odonata drift: a reassessment


More than 400 scientific journal articles and gray literature reports that addressed macroinvertebrate drift were reviewed and 63 articles were found that reported on the natural drift of Odonata at some taxonomic level. Forty-three species and 44 genera within 15 families (nine Zygoptera; six Anisoptera) were documented in the drift. Drift of another 13 species and eight genera was inferred from indirect evidence. The mean drift density reported was 0.03 m–3 (range <0.001–0.153 m–3), which is relatively low, but not unexpected because benthic densities of Odonata are often lower than those of the macroinvertebrate taxa that occur more frequently in the drift. Percent composition of odonates in the total drift was invariably <10% and usually <1%, but the percent was slightly higher if expressed as biomass or volume because odonate larvae are relatively large. Most odonates that drifted were not full grown. High flows were often associated with drift of Odonata, but not exclusively so; drift was highest at night and during summer months. Accidental (catastrophic) drift and active, behavioral drift to colonize new habitats and reduce crowding are thought to be the primary causes of Odonata drift, but its ecological significance would benefit from more research. The presumption that Odonata have a low predisposition to drift is probably not uniformly accurate. Use of drift nets specifically to collect odonates is unlikely to be as efficient as other collection methods in most circumstances, but it should not be entirely dismissed because drift nets are easy to set, relatively clean to operate, do not destroy habitats, and provide integrated samples of various habitats where it might be difficult or unsafe to use other methods.

Issue section: Review