MDDS Background & Introduction
Insects in the order Odonata, damselflies and dragonflies, are a significant and conspicuous component of Maine's wildlife diversity. At this time 161 species have been documented in the state, comprising nearly 36% of the total North American odonate fauna (435 species)! Considering the distribution and habitat associations of odonates in neighboring states and provinces 5 to 10 additional species may yet be awaiting discovery in Maine. Factors contributing to Maine's odonate wealth include the state's large size and its diversity of landforms and unspoiled wetland ecosystems. Additionally, Maine holds a unique geographic position, providing habitats for species with both boreal affinities and more southerly Appalachian and coastal plain associations. Indeed over half of the state's odonates are comprised of species that reach the edge of their latitudinal range in Maine.
There is increasing demand for information on the status, distribution, habitat relationships, and conservation of damselflies and dragonflies in Maine. Forest industry, hydroelectric, land-trust, and municipal interests are requesting information from the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife (MDIFW) concerning these and other species of conservation concern for environmental permitting, relicensing projects, voluntary habitat protection, and land acquisition. Demand for information is also growing from the scientific community and the general public as interest in statewide biodiversity issues increases. While odonates are considered highly sensitive to freshwater habitat degradation and experiencing declines nationwide, baseline information for the group has been lacking in Maine, until recently.
In 1998, MDIFW received an Outdoor Heritage Fund grant to conduct a 5-year, volunteer-based Maine Damselfly and Dragonfly Survey (MDDS). Additional support has since been provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In the past two decades MDIFW has completed similar atlasing projects for breeding birds (1978), amphibians and reptiles (1999), and freshwater mussels (2000) -- all of which were among the first of their kind in North America. Similarly, the MDDS is believed to be among the first state-sponsored odonate atlasing projects in the country and it is our hope that neighboring state and provincial agencies will consider designing similar odonate atlas projects, or providing support to private initiatives already underway. Past volunteer atlasing efforts have provided valuable information to the conservation and scientific community in Maine and we anticipate that the MDDS will contribute significantly toward a baseline understanding of the status, distribution, and habitat associations of damselflies and dragonflies in Maine.
Maine is a big state and, previous to the MDDS, only a small number of biologists had contributed most of what we know of Odonata. As a result, there were large geographic gaps in terms of collection effort, with notably few records from western and northern portions of the state. By recruiting and training volunteers statewide MDDS generated 3,000-4,000 records annually, yielding several times the amount of information on Maine Odonata, in just a few years, than had been collected in the last 150 years combined! Whether you are already a member of the growing and fervent cadre of amateur dragonfly watchers nationwide, or simply harbor a latent curiosity about these fascinating and colorful insects, we hope that this website will assist you in learning more about Maine's winged aquatic jewels.