Complexity within an oil palm monoculture: The effects of habitat variability and rainfall on adult dragonfly (Odonata) communities

Sarah H. Luke, Andreas Dwi Advento, Rory A. Dow, Anak Agung Ketut Aryawan, Holly Barclay, Amy E. Eycott, Julie K. Hinsch, Candra Kurniawan, Mohammad Naim, Darren J. Mann, Pujianto, Dedi Purnomo, Tuani Dzulfikar Siguga Rambe, Eleanor M. Slade, Soeprapto, Sudharto Ps, Suhardi, Ribka Sionita Tarigan, Resti Wahyuningsih, Rudy Harto WidodoJean Pierre Caliman, Jake L. Snaddon, William A. Foster, Edgar C. Turner

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Recent expansion of oil palm agriculture has resulted in loss of forest habitat and forest-dependent species. However, large numbers of species—particularly insects—can persist within plantations. This study focuses on Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies): a charismatic indicator taxon and a potentially valuable pest control agent. We surveyed adult Odonata populations biannually over three years within an industrial oil palm plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia. We assessed the effects of rainfall (including an El Niño Southern Oscillation-associated drought), the role of roadside ditches, and the importance of understory vegetation on Odonata populations. To assess the impacts of vegetation, we took advantage of a long-term vegetation management experiment that is part of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Tropical Agriculture (BEFTA) Programme. We found 41 Odonata species, and communities varied between plantation core and roadside edge microhabitats, and between seasons. Abundance was significantly related to rainfall levels four months before surveys, probably indicating the importance of high water levels in roadside ditches for successful larval development. We found no significant effect of the BEFTA understory vegetation treatments on Odonata abundance, and only limited effects on community composition, suggesting that local understory vegetation structure plays a relatively unimportant role in determining communities. Our findings highlight that there are large numbers of Odonata species present within oil palm plantations and suggest that their abundance could potentially be increased by maintaining or establishing waterbodies. As Odonata are predators, this could bring pest control benefits, in addition to enhancing biodiversity within intensive agricultural landscapes. Abstract in Indonesian is available with online material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-379
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Dragonflies
  • Elaeis guineensis
  • Indonesia
  • plantation management
  • SE Asia
  • sustainability
  • tropical agriculture

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