Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are beautiful insects of the living world. These winged delicacies have much significance in our ecosystem and food webs. They are visitors of our homesteads and farmlands. The observation and study of odonates is important because their life cycle is closely associated with freshwater bodies, which are shrinking now a day. Odonates, are called as amphibiotic insects because they complete their life cycle in both air and water . The amphibians like frog complete their life cycle on land and water.
They are always associated with some specific aquatic ecosystems ranging from brooks, streams to temple side ponds or other freshwater bodies. Odonates are used as a popular tool for bio-monitoring aquatic ecosystems to examine the impact of pollution and other anthropogenic disturbances on the water bodies. The dumping of waste to water bodies, leaching of these wastes to water bodies, purification, etc are major concern to the present day world.
Once up on a time there was good number of Odonates in the homesteads owing to the availability of freshwater bodies. Paddy fields and wetlands have these insects in good numbers. This was used by various types of dragonflies and damsel flies for feeding breeding and foraging etc. But now due to the large scale filling up of fresh water bodies and pollution of existing water bodies and due to use of pesticides and other poisons the array of odanates in the farmlands have come down. The remnants of these minute beauties can be traced out from various forests except the high altitude forests of the Munnar landscape. These forests which have immense perennial and annual streams and brooks provide good breeding ground and potential for their survival.
Fresh water is necessary for completion of larval life cycle, which make the congregation of odonates near freshwater bodies like ponds, brooks, streams, rivers, lakes, marshes, ditches and un polluted areas near water bodies. Some are seen to feed in dry areas, but need water for breeding.
The odonates present in forest habitats may be rare adapting to such specific habitat. As with other fauna and flora, some of these odonates along with the associated species are rare members in the forests. The details have to be unraveled.
With a unique habitat diversity of Munnar Wildlife Division, it offers high species diversity in the odonates and lepidopterans. Recent Lepidopteran surveys have shown light to many new species of butterflies in Chinnar and various Sholas. The data on the diversity, population, distribution, seasonality and movement of Odonate is very feeble and hence detailed surveys and monitoring programmes are needed in this field. The health of the ecosystem can be judged from the health of the odonate population, as it is a direct indication of fresh water availability.
A three day Odonate survey is being conducted at Munnar Wildlife Division from 22-25th October 2015 .The survey is being conducted by the Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department in association with Travancore Natural History Society (TNHS) Trivandrum and Kottyam Nature Society (KNS).
Around 50 delegates from different parts of the country representing various NGO’s and Research Institutions are participating in the event which will be mentored by a dozen experts on odonates. The Munnar Wildlife Division terrain will be covered using 12 base camps, covering the driest stretches of Chinnar to the high elevation grasslands of Kurinjimala. The survey will cover the Chinnar WLS, Anamudi Shola NP, Pampadumshola NP, Mathikettan Shola NP and Kurinjimala Sanctuary. Methodology adhered is by occular estimation, direct sighting and no specimen will be collected. Cameras, binoculars and other optical instruments will be used. Location of the Water boides will be marked by the GPS. Nature of the water body will also be recorded. Any threat to the same will be analyzed by the survey team and intimated to the Park managers for further actions.
Odonates are indicators of environmental health as any change in the quality of the water they breed or in the air their adults fly will determine their survival and diversity. Some species like Reed tail Damselflies are highly specific and restricted to particular hill streams and they are a good indicator of the water quality. Any adverse change in the climate will affect them first. These are predators, their status also reflects the status of the small insects that they feed on, and they form an important part of the food web.
The event will conclude on 25th at Munnar with analysis of the data under the chairmanship of Mr. G Prasad Wildlife Warden, Mr Kiran CG, Mr Toms Augustine and Dr Kalesh. The Forest tribal watchers and field staff along with Warden Mr Prasad G and Asst Wildlife Wardens Mr Sebi K E and Mr Prabhu P M will be in field for the coming 3 days to probe into the world of these winged wonders.