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  • Tyson Research Center ecology experiment

    A new study at Tyson Research Center of artificial pond systems showed that dragonflies were the liaisons that connected aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems. (Above) A female green darner (Anax junius) deposits eggs into a pond mesocosm where a waiting mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) plans on eating them. (Courtesy Travis Mohrman, Field Station Ecologist/Tyson Research Center)

  • Tyson Research Center

    A male blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) overlooks an experimental pond array at Tyson, WUSTL’s field station for ecosystem studies. (Courtesy Travis Mohrman)

  • Tyson Research Center

    A Halloween pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) perches on grass. (Courtesy Travis Mohrman)

  • Tyson Research Center ecology experiment

    Stock tanks at Tyson Research Center hold artificial pond communities that are manipulated in various ways to explore ecological interactions. (Above) A Tyson crew quantifies and surveys aquatic plants in pond mesocosms. (Courtesy Travis Mohrman)

  • Tyson Research Center dragonflies

    A 12-spot dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) looks out over a pond. (Courtesy Travis Mohrman)

Community in Pictures

At Experiment Site, Dragonflies Key to Change

A new study at Tyson Research Center of artificial pond systems showed that dragonflies were the liaisons that connected aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems.

by Diana Lutz

An elementary school science activity asks children who have each been assigned a wetland plant or animal to connect themselves with string and tape to other “organisms” their assigned plant or animal interacts with in some way.

Once an ecosystem web has been created, the teacher describes an event that affects one “organism.” That “organism” tugs on its string. Other “organisms” that feel the tug then tug on their strings in turn.

The lesson is that every organism is important to the health and balance of a wetland and that every organism in the wetland is connected to every other organism in some way.

That’s more or less an article of faith among ecologists, but how true is it really? Ecologists rarely have the time or resources to test this foundational concept through experiment.

Now a summer-long study shows that purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), a flowering invasive plant, triggers a chain of interactions that ultimately alters the diversity of zooplankton populations in artificial ponds.

The interactions cross traditional ecosystem boundaries, connecting aquatic to terrestrial systems on the wings of dragonflies that exploit, at different times in their lives, the resources of both the water and the land.

Diana Lutz is senior science editor in the university's Office of Public Affairs.

To read the entire article, visit Washington University Newsroom.

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COMMUNITY IN PICTURES:

At Experiment Site, Dragonflies Key to Change A new study at Tyson Research Center of artificial pond systems showed that dragonflies were the liaisons that connected aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems.

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