Each kind of dragonfly in North America lives in a certain part of the continent, called its range. This is where it can find the habitat it needs, where it can tolerate the climate, and where it has been able to spread to. Mountains or expanses with no suitable habitat, such as a desert, can stop the spread of a species.

A “biome” is a major ecological type or region. The Boreal Forest (or Taiga) and the Great Plains (or Prairies) are examples of biomes. Manitoba lies within these two biomes.

Each biome is divided into ecozones, areas that share certain plant and animal communities, and have similar climates. There are 6 ecozones in Manitoba. Importantly for dragonflies, each has its own kinds of wetlands. In the Prairies ecozone, rivers and streams are slow moving, usually with muddy bottoms. There are few lakes, but many marshes and small shallow ponds. In some Boreal ecozones (Taiga Shield and Boreal Shield), rivers and streams are clear and swift running with rocky bottoms. There are many large and small lakes and deep ponds.

Habitat for dragonflies must include wetlands with fresh water for nymphs, and uplands to provide food and shelter for adults. Dragonflies choose their habitat by sight. Most species look for a certain kind of wetland (marsh, pond, stream or lake) in a specific upland setting (deciduous forest, coniferous forest, grassland or meadow).

The habitat a species selects can determine its range. For example, the Plains Clubtail (Gomphus externus) breeds in slow-flowing muddy rivers. Its North American range is limited to the Great Plains, where you would expect to find such waterways. In Manitoba, it is found in the Prairies ecozone. Another species, the Zigzag Darner (Aeshna sitchensis), has a range that shows it has a strong preference for northern coniferous forests. In fact, its range even mirrors those of other animals that inhabit the Boreal Forest and Northern Montane biomes. In Manitoba the Zigzag Darner is found throughout the Boreal ecozones.

Not all dragonflies have their ranges linked to a certain biome. Some, like the Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) have a very broad range. It breeds in a variety of wetlands and is found in many different sorts of forested uplands.

There are dragonflies that breed in just about every kind of wetland that occurs in Manitoba, from big lakes to small ponds, from tiny creeks to large rivers, and from small springs to large bogs. Some species breed in a number of types of water bodies and are very common, like the Shadow Darner. Others breed only in very specific wetlands and are only found near these habitats. The Eastern Red Damsel (Amphiagrion saucium) breeds only in slightly alkaline spring-fed ponds. This habitat type is quite uncommon so this is a rare species in Manitoba.

There are dragonfly species in all of our ecozones except the Southern Arctic. Worldwide, the range of dragonfly species stops at about the treeline. There are no truly "Arctic" dragonflies.

1) Basic Biology

2) Life Cycle

3) Palaeobiology

4) Biodiversity

5) Biogeography

6) Overwintering / Migration

7) Food

8) Sight and Flight

9) Cultural Significance

10) Conservation

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