The importance of tropical mountain forests for the conservation of dragonfly biodiversity: A case from the Colombian Western Andes


Forests have been widely recognized as key habitats for odonate (dragonflies and damselflies) biodiversity, but the importance of forests for holding odonate biodiversity remains understudied in tropical mountains, one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Here we describe the odonate assemblage composition along the elevation gradient in the Tatamá Mountains (Colombian Cordillera Occidental). We analyzed the effects of elevation, habitat, and suborder on species richness and endemism. We found that the richest assemblage occurred in the foothills between 300 and 600 m, where the biotas of the Chocó biogeographic region and the Tropical Andes converge. Anisoptera richness was higher in open habitats, that of Zygoptera higher in forests. Richness and endemism decreased with elevation, and no relation between habitat and richness was found. However, the number of endemic species was strongly related to forests, which harbored 25 out of 28 endemic species. Also, forest odonates had narrower elevation ranges than open-habitat odonates. These patterns can be explained because tropical mountains were historically covered by forests, while open habitats derived from human activities (i.e., pastures) that have flourished in the past centuries. The forest odonate assemblages at different elevations have been evolving for millions of years, in relatively stable ecological conditions, which could promote the high number of forest endemics in the tropical mountains. Our results emphasize the role of tropical mountain forests in the conservation of Odonata diversity.

Issue section: Original article