Dragonflies and damselflies

Context

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) can be notified if they include qualifying features under the dragonfly criteria outlined in sections 2-4 of Chapter 19 'Dragonflies' of the Guidelines for Selection of Biological SSSIs.  In Northern Ireland, ASSIs are selected on a very similar basis – the Guidelines for the Selection of Biological ASSIs in Northern Ireland is an addendum to the SSSI guidelines rather than an alternative.  The criteria mainly cover nationally rare and scarce species, and outstanding assemblages of species.  Site boundaries should include the semi-natural terrestrial habitats used for feeding and resting, as well as the breeding sites.  Water quality and quantity requirements should also be taken into consideration.

 
Sites can be notified for the following species:
  • those species believed extinct in Great Britain (orange-spotted emerald Oxygastra curtisii, Norfolk damselfly Coenagrion armatum and dainty damselfly C. scitulum): if rediscovered, all sites qualify for selection;
  • all sites of Norfolk hawker Aeshna isosceles, which is listed as Endangered in the British Red Data Book (RDB); 
  • the strongest populations of RDB Vulnerable species – northern damselfly Coenagrion hastulatum and scarce emerald damselfly Lestes dryas; and
  • RDB Rare species northern emerald Somatochlora arctica, scarce chaser Libellula fulva and southern damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale.
 
The strongest populations of nationally scarce species (those known or presumed to occur in 16-100 10km squares in Great Britain, but not RDB species) also qualify as selection criteria, such as azure hawker Aeshna caerulea, hairy dragonfly Brachytron pratense and white-faced darter Leucorrhinia dubia, as do two further species that are threatened in Europe and breeding in Great Britain; namely the southern damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale (endangered) and club-tailed dragonfly Gomphus vulgatissimus (vulnerable).  For all of the above single species criteria, sites containing combinations of species are especially valuable.
 
Sites may also be notified for outstanding assemblages if the total number of species meets or exceeds a certain threshold level based on the location within Great Britain, ranging from 7 species in the Orkneys to 17 species in central southern England.
 
Under Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive, the southern damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale is the sole damselfly species qualifying as a feature for the selection of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in the UK.  There are no dragonflies in the UK for which SACs can be selected.
 

Summary statistics

  SAC A/SSSI Total
Favourable condition 13% 82% 68%
Main monitoring coverage E S  
Reported assessments 8 33 41
Completeness of assessments 80% unknown  
Distribution of features     UK
 

Number of assessments reported by country and site type

Country SAC SSSI/ASSI
England 6 8
Scotland 0 25
Wales 2 0
Northern Ireland 0 0
United Kingdom 8 33
 

Natura features

List of Natura 2000 interest features within this reporting category

Interest feature name  
Formal name Informal name No. of assessments reported Total no. of features % assessed
Coenagrion mercuriale Southern damselfly 8 10 80%
 
Natura 2000 comprises Special Protection Areas (under the Birds Directive) and Special Areas for Conservation (under the Habitats and Species Directive). The list presented here includes all of the qualifying interest features under these Directives, and shows the proportion of these features for which a condition assessment has been made.
 

SSSI features

List of SSSI and ASSI interest features in this reporting category

Interest feature name  
Formal name Informal name No. of assessments reported
Aeshna caerulea Blue aeshna dragonfly 2
Ceriagrion tenellum Small red damselfly 1
Coenagrion hastulatum Northern blue damselfly 1
Coenagrion pulchellum Variable damselfly 2
Ischnura pumilio Scarce blue-tailed damselfly 1
Somatochlora arctica Northern emerald dragonfly 2
Dragonfly assemblage Dragonfly assemblage 20
Outstanding dragonfly assemblage Outstanding dragonfly assemblage 4
 
This list has not been fully standardised at a UK level yet. It is intended to show the principal constituent "feature types" for this reporting category.
 

Maps - distribution

UK distibution of reported interest features

Distribution of reported interest features.

Map showing the locations of the 10km squares in which at least one condition assessment has been reported. It does not show features that have not yet been assessed.

 

Maps - Natura

Distribution of SAC features showing assessments of favourability Condition of SAC features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
Current condition of SAC features
Distribution of SAC features showing assessments of favourability (where unfavourable-recovering is counted as unfavourable).
Condition of SAC features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
The implication of the unfavourable-recovering condition assessments is that at some point in the future these features should become favourable. This map shows the effect of that recovery by counting the favourable and unfavourable-recovering assessments together.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: we do not have information on the timescale of the predicted recovery, which may be influenced by many past, natural and human related factors. A sustained sympathetic management regime is more likely to result in favourable condition being attained.

Key: Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable:

Natura map legend - Key: proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable

 

Details of how these maps were produced

 

Maps - SSSI

Current condition of SSSI/ASSI features Condition of SSSI/ASSI features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
Current condition of SSSI/ASSI features
Distribution of SSSI/ASSI features showing assessments of favourability (where unfavourable-recovering is counted as unfavourable).
Condition of SSSI/ASSI features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
The implication of the unfavourable-recovering condition assessments is that at some point in the future these features should become favourable. This map shows the effect of that recovery by counting the favourable and unfavourable-recovering assessments together.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: we do not have information on the timescale of the predicted recovery, which may be influenced by many past, natural and human related factors. A sustained sympathetic management regime is more likely to result in favourable condition being attained.

Key: Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable:

SSSI map legend - Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable

 

Details of how these maps were produced

 

Condition summary

Reporting category condition summary on Natura 2000 sites and SSSI

This lists the 10 different condition assessments and presents a bar chart showing the number of features within the SSSI series and the Natura 2000 series (either SPA for bird features or SAC for features other than birds). Note that for Natura 2000 we are able to estimate the number of features that have not been assessed during the 6 year reporting period - we are unable to do this for SSSI/ASSI because we do not have an overall list of notified interest features for these designations.

 

NB favourable unclassified and unfavourable unclassified have been used in this first six year cycle to get around difficulties in identifying trends in condition as common standards monitoring is implemented. It is expected that these categories will not be used for subsequent assessments of a feature.

 

Condition assessment - Natura 2000 features

The number and proportion of assessments for Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA) interest features falling into each of the condition categories
The number and proportion of assessments for Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA) interest features falling into each of the condition categories. Note that the �unfavourable� category includes all reports of unfavourable condition except �unfavourable recovering� which is shown as a separate segment.
 

Condition assessment - SSSI features

The number and proportion of assessments for SSSI/ASSI interest features falling into each of the condition categories
The number and proportion of assessments for SSSI/ASSI interest features falling into each of the condition categories. Note that the �unfavourable� category includes all reports of unfavourable condition except �unfavourable recovering� which is shown as a separate segment.
 

Adverse activities

The number of interest features where an activity has been reported as being implicated in the "unfavourable" condition of a feature
The number of interest features where an activity has been reported as being implicated in the "unfavourable" condition of a feature. More than one adverse activity may be reported for each feature.
 

Management measures

The measures summary bar chart lists the management measures relevant to the reporting category
For each "measure" the chart shows the number of interest features where that measure has been taken on a site to improve or maintain the condition of an interest feature. More than one measure may be reported for each feature assessed.
 

Interpretation

68% of dragonfly and damselfly features reported are in favourable condition.  This is about the average for species features and above the average for all features combined.  82% of A/SSSI features reported are favourable, with a further 9% of A/SSSI unfavourable-recovering. 
 
Only 13% of southern damselfly features reported are favourable.  This is worringly low.  However, 49% are unfavourable-recovering, so there is some good news.  Continued effort will be needed to ensure recovery to favourable condition. 
 
In more detail, 31% of damselfly and 86% of dragonfly assessments reported are favourable.  The reasons for these differences are not clear. 
 
Unsurprisingly, the factors associated with unfavourable condition relate to water quality or management of water bodies and the marginal vegetation thereof.  Care is needed in interpreting these assessments, as guidance on setting conservation objectives for dragonfly and damselfly features had not been fully developed when the assessments were made.