Effects of urbanization on Odonata assemblages in tropical island streams in San Juan, Puerto Rico


Urbanization has considerable impacts on stream ecosystems. Streams in urban settings are affected by multiple stressors such as flow modifications and loss of riparian vegetation. The richness and abundance of aquatic insects, such as odonates, directly reflect these alterations and can be used to assess urban impacts on streams. The effects of urbanization on odonate richness and abundance on tropical islands is as yet poorly understood. The objective of this study is to identify the effects of urbanization on stream habitat quality and associated odonate assemblages in Puerto Rico. We sampled 16 streams along a rural to urban gradient in the San Juan Metropolitan Area, where each stream was characterized using the Stream Visual Assessment Protocol (SVAP) for Puerto Rico and by analyzing their surrounding land cover. A 100-m segment of each stream was surveyed to assess adult odonate richness and abundance during the rainy and dry seasons. Adults were identified visually, and their abundance was recorded. Favorable local scale factors, like improved habitat quality, as measured with the SVAP, resulted in higher abundances of odonates. However, regional factors such as percent urban cover did not appear to significantly affect richness and abundances of odonates. Overall, our study indicates that odonate assemblages are affected by the loss of habitat integrity, and conservation of tropical odonates may benefit from focusing on local scale factors.

Issue section: Original Article