Variability and stability of a dragonfly assemblage

P. H. Crowley, D. M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Using 12 years of monthly sweep-net data from 9-12 permanent sampling stations, we evaluated the variability and stability of the dragonfly assemblage in Bays Mountain Lake (northeastern Tennessee, USA). To do this, we adopted the view that a stable assemblage (i.e. one capable of recovering quickly from disturbances) should have low variability (i.e. high persistence of taxa, relatively constant densities, and high rank concordance), except with disturbances more intense and frequent than those in this system. Moreover, a stable assemblage should contain populations that exhibit density dependence and should tend to remain within a restricted range of densities (boundedness), shifting toward a narrow density interval between generations (attraction). To test some specific predictions derived from these views, we analyzed 12-year sequences of larval population sizes just before the onset of emergence for the 13 dominant dragonfly taxa in the lake. Most but not all of the 13 dominant taxa persisted during the 12-year period. Variabilities of taxon densities, measured as standard deviations across generations of log-transformed population sizes, were representative of the broad range for other invertebrates but somewhat higher than those of terrestrial vertebrates. There were fewer than three significant abundance trends over the 12-year period, and rank concordance between generations was high (W=0.716). Density dependence was detected among some of the dragonfly density sequences by five different methods. Using techniques presented in the companion paper, we found strong indications of both boundedness and attraction in the whole assemblage. We conclude tentatively that an assemblage consisting of at least 11 of the 13 dominant dragonfly taxa at Bays Mountain Lake has low-to-moderate variability and is stable, but that the complete 29-species assemblage is probably not stable at the scale of this single lake. We emphasize the need for coupling such long-term descriptive analyses with studies of responses to experimental disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-269
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1992


  • Attraction
  • Boundedness
  • Density dependence
  • Persistence
  • Rank concordance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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