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Endangered Species: Hine's emerald dragonfly

By Cheryl Santa Maria

The Weather Network

January 15,2014

Identified by its bright green eyes, metallic green thorax and a blackish-brown abdomen, the Hine's emerald dragonfly is incredibly rare, found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Missouri, and one Canadian site west of Barrie, Ontario.

It lives in wetlands with grassy vegetation and its curious breeding habits have piqued the interest of experts.

During the winter and low-water periods, this species lays its larvae in crayfish burrows, in close proximity to the predator fish.

"We're not sure about the predator-prey dynamics," says Tanya Pulfer, Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas Coordinator with Ontario Nature. "There are a lot of questions about why they're 'flying into the mouth of the lion', so to speak."

There's a lot of mystery surrounding the Hine's emerald dragonfly, and part of this can be attributed to its recent discovery: amateur naturalist Chris Evans first spotted the species in 2010.

Experts have determined that it is threatened by water level fluctuations and a degradation in wetland quality.

Ontario's only habitat site is also at risk due to the presence of the European common reed, an invasive plant species.

"Reduced groundwater inputs associated with proposed development or climate change could directly impact Hine’s emerald breeding sites by reducing the water necessary to maintain larval habitat," the Ontario government writes.

While the Canadian Hine's emerald habitat is protected, activities in adjacent wetlands could negatively impact the species -- but recovery strategies are in place in Canada and the U.S.

"The ... goal ... is to prevent any loss of population, genetic diversity, or habitat functionality at extant sites or at any other extant locations which may be identified in the future in Ontario," the Ontario government says.

This is being done through habitat conservation, reducing invasive species and public awareness.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

- Keep the water clean. Ground-water contamination threatens many of Canada's endangered species, including the Hine's emerald dragonfly. The UFSWS recommends minimizing the use of lawn chemicals, recycling used car oil and properly disposing of paint and other toxic household products.

- Join a conservation group and help educate the public about the Hine's emerald dragonfly.

- Spread the word about wetland and habitat destruction and the negative impact it has on Canada's endangered species.

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