If you build ponds, they will come: Forestry and Land Scotland’s bid to boost dragonfly numbers 


Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is teaming up with the British Dragonfly Society to help protect and boost the population of some of the rarest dragonflies in the British Isles.

Over 50 FLS sites are home to some of Britain’s rarest dragonflies.

The new conservation partnership will focus on improving dragonfly habitat as a whole, but with a particular focus on six endangered or vulnerable species: the Northern Damselfly, Azure Hawker, White-faced Darter, Brilliant Emerald, Northern Emerald and the Variable Damselfly.

In the British Isles, three of these species only breed in Scotland: the Northern Damselfly, the Azure Hawker and the Northern Emerald.

FLS and the British Dragonfly Society will work together to train FLS workers to better survey the dragonflies, implement practical measures to improve their habitats and explore how peatland restoration processes could also benefit dragonflies.

Daniele Muir, Scotland conservation officer of the British Dragonfly Society, said: “Because FLS land is home to so many of Britain’s rarest species, we have an opportunity to make a huge impact.

“Climate change means many of our rare dragonflies are already struggling, their homes are shallow pools that are dying out.

“These beautiful creatures have been around since the time of the dinosaurs and it’s vital we protect them.

“We’ll be working with FLS to train their ecologists and foresters on survey techniques and provide practical advice on enhancing land for dragonflies.”

Re-ponding Scotland 

FLS will be creating new ponds across its estate to create new homes for dragonfly species.

Daniele Muir will visit FLS dragonfly sites over the next few months to advise where new ponds could be created, or if existing ponds should be enhanced to help dragonflies.

FLS’s ecology team has already been working on ponds as part of its commitment to biodiversity.

Kenny Kortland, wildlife ecologist for FLS, said: “At some existing ponds we might simply cut back surrounding trees so there’s less shade. That will make the water warmer for dragonflies, and better for breeding.

“Creating new ponds will be part of the work, and that will be specific to each site and dragonfly species.

“Scotland has lost a lot of its ponds over the years, and digging more will boost not just the dragonflies but also create habitat for a wide range of aquatic species, such as water beetles and pond skaters.

“We’re also restoring peatland across Scotland and once that becomes wetter and boggier, we’ll also see increases in biodiversity, including some of the rarer species of dragonfly.

“Having a denser network of ponds, bogs and wetlands in the landscape will also allow such species to move north in response to the warming climate.

“Our overall aim is to enhance the ecological health of large parts of Scotland’s publicly-owned forests and land, we want complex ecosystems with lots of species, including dragonflies.

“Anyone doubting the importance of dragonflies should remember that they eat midges.”

Daniele Muir agrees that dragonflies perform important functions, but points out that one of those is bringing joy.

“There’s nothing nicer than seeing dragonflies flying around on a warm summer’s day next to a pond or a loch.

“They’re so beautiful and colourful and they really do lift the spirit.”

FLS and the British Dragonfly Society have signed a three-year agreement until March 2025.

FLS and dragonflies: some facts 

The land that FLS manages is vitally important for dragonflies.

The six UK species included on the  International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, also known as the IUCN Red List or Red Data Book, are all found on FLS land.

Northern Damselfly Coenagrion hastulatum Endangered
Azure Hawker Aeshna caerulea Vulnerable
White-faced Darter Leucorrhinia dubia Endangered
Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica Vulnerable
Northern Emerald Somatochlora arctica Near Threatened
Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum Near Threatened


The Northern damselfly is the rarest it occurs in only 13 hectads. There are at least four known sites on FLS land in two of the main breeding areas in Speyside and Perthshire.

The Azure Hawker is only found in the Highlands and is undergoing an inferred decline (inferred due to lack of data). This northern species is also vulnerable in the light of climate change. FLS land in Glen Affric and Glen Garry are important for this species. It is thought to now to extinct in Silver Flowe. It occurs in just over 50 hectads.

Northern Emerald FLS has significant sites for this species with some of the best breeding areas. It breeds in bog pools and runnels in Glen Affric, Cannich, Speyside, Argyll and Lochaber. Sunart is particularly important.

The White-faced darter is endangered. Scotland holds the bulk of sites for this species and some of the best most important extensive sites are on FLS land over a significant number of different sites, at the Monadh Mhor (Inverness) also in Glen Affric, Speyside, Lochaber and Argyll.

About the British Dragonfly Society 

The British Dragonfly Society is the voice for dragonflies in Britain and we work to conserve these wonderful insects and their wetland habitats. The charity was established in 1983 and our key aims are to improve understanding and awareness of dragonflies, their conservation and the challenges they face, in order to increase action for dragonflies across Britain.

BDS website: https://british-dragonflies.org.uk/

Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@britishdragonflysociety

Scottish Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScotlandBds

Scottish FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/64825760687019


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