If you build it, they will come: Rapid colonization by dragonflies in a new effluent-dependent river reach

Michael T. Bogan, Drew Eppehimer, Hamdhani Hamdhani, Kelsey Hollien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Aquatic ecosystems are greatly altered by urban development, including the complete loss of natural habitat due to water diversions or channel burial. However, novel freshwater habitats also are created in cities, such as effluent-dependent streams that rely on treated wastewater for flow. It is unclear how diverse these novel ecosystems are, or how quickly aquatic species are able to colonize them. In this study, we (1) quantify odonate (Insecta, Odonata) colonization of a novel effluent-dependent river reach, (2) examine how drying events affect odonates in these novel habitats, and (3) explore whether effluent-dependent streams can support diverse odonate assemblages. Methods: We conducted monthly odonate surveys at three sites along the Santa Cruz River (Tucson, AZ, USA) between June 2019 and May 2020. One site was in a long-established effluent-dependent reach (flowing since the 1970s) that served as a reference site and two sites were in a newly-established reach that began flowing on June 24, 2019 (it was previously dry). We compared odonate species richness, assemblage composition, and colonization patterns across these reaches, and examined how these factors responded to flow cessation events in the new reach. Results: Seven odonate species were observed at the study sites in the new reach within hours of flow initiation, and species rapidly continued to arrive thereafter. Within 3 months, species richness and assemblage composition of adult odonates were indistinguishable in the new and reference reaches. However, drying events resulted in short-term and chronic reductions in species richness at one of the sites. Across all three sites, we found over 50 odonate species, which represent nearly 40% of species known from the state of Arizona. Discussion: Odonates were surprisingly diverse in the effluent-dependent Santa Cruz River and rapidly colonized a newly established reach. Richness levels remained high at study sites that did not experience drying events. These results suggest that consistent discharge of high-quality effluent into dry streambeds can be an important tool for promoting urban biodiversity. However, it remains to be seen how quickly and effectively less vagile taxa (e.g., mayflies, caddisflies) can colonize novel reaches. Effluent-dependent urban streams will always be highly managed systems, but collaboration between ecologists and urban planners could help to maximize aquatic biodiversity while still achieving goals of public safety and urban development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere9856
StatePublished - 2020


  • Community assembly
  • Dispersal
  • Drought
  • Drying
  • Novel ecosystem
  • Odonata
  • Streams
  • Urban ecology
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'If you build it, they will come: Rapid colonization by dragonflies in a new effluent-dependent river reach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this