by Stephanie Smith
August 18, 2017
A female seaside dragonlet lands on a blade of cordgrass in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore on August 2, 2017. The species is abundant in the region’s tidal marshes in summer, spending most of its time perched on the stems of marsh plants or feeding on smaller insects.
Seaside dragonlets are the only true marine dragonfly in North America, because unlike most odonates—carnivorous insects such as dragonflies and damselflies—their larvae can survive in highly salty waters. That makes them familiar residents of the Chesapeake Bay region’s salt marshes, or coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides.
Although seaside dragonlets are plentiful, the salt marsh habitats they favor soon may not be: climate change models predict sea levels to rise three feet by the end of the century, which could drown local marshes and wetlands. Significant amounts of the Bay region’s nearly 300,000 acres of tidal wetlands would be lost.
Recent research, however, has shown that salt marshes may be able to migrate inland more quickly than previously thought, outpacing rising water levels and allowing the critical habitats to survive. But researchers warn that this migration may be blocked if a marsh is “hardened” by coastal cliffs, development or sea walls, as nearly 20 percent of the Bay’s tidal wetlands already are.
Learn more about the impacts of climate change in the Chesapeake Bay region.