- 1 Climate change affects many ecosystems on earth. If not dying out or migrating, the species affected have to survive the altered conditions, including changes in community structure. It is, however, usually difficult to distinguish changes caused by a changing climate from other factors.
- 2Forestry is considered to be the major disturbance factor in Swedish forests. Here, we use forest lake data sets from 1996 and 2006 which include species abundance data for dragonfly larvae, water plant structure, forest age and forestry measures during a period of 25 years: from 1980 to 2005. Hence, we were able to discriminate between forestry effects and changes in species composition driven by recent climate change.
- 3We explored effects on regional species composition, species abundance and ecosystem functions, such as changes in niche use, utilising dragonflies (Odonata) as model organisms.
- 4Our results show that dragonflies react rapidly to climate change, showing strong responses over such a short time span as 10 years. We observed changes in both species composition and abundance; former rare species have become more frequent and now occur in lakes of a wider quality range, while former widespread species have become more selective in their choice of waters. The new communities harbour about the same number of species as before, but seen from a regional perspective, diversity is reduced.
- 5We predict that the altered species composition and abundance might raise new demands in conservation planning as well as altering the ecological functions of the aquatic systems.