The authors conducted the present study in the municipality of Paragominas, state of Pará, northern Brazil, where they sampled adult dragonflies in 50 100-m-long wadeable stream sites in 2011. We collected 1769 specimens represented by 11 families, 41 genera and 97 species. The suborder Zygoptera contributed 961 individuals and Anisoptera 808.

Among the 97 recorded species, nine were classified as useful indicators of ecological condition, with four species being associated with more degraded streams (three Anisoptera, one Zygoptera) and five with more preserved streams (all were Zygoptera). Anisoptera (dragonflies) tend to provide more useful indicators of more degraded environments because they have more efficient homeostatic mechanisms and are more mobile, enabling them to tolerate a wider range of environmental conditions.

By contrast, Zygoptera (damselflies) tend to provide a more useful role as indicators of more preserved environments and high levels of environmental heterogeneity because of their smaller body sizes and home ranges and greater ecophysiological restrictions.

The authors conclude from their assessment of this low-order Amazonian stream system that (i) the occurrence of specific odonate species is strongly associated with the configuration of riparian vegetation, (ii) agricultural activities appear to be the main factor determining changes in the composition of odonate assemblages, and (iii) these insects can act as useful indicators of the ecological consequences of riparian habitat loss and disturbance.

Because generalist species invade moderately degraded areas, those areas may have high species richness but host few species of Zygoptera. Therefore, preserving dense riparian vegetation is necessary to maintain aquatic ecological condition, and that condition can be rehabilitated by planting new trees. Both require enforcing existing environmental regulations, various types of incentives and educating local communities.

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