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Environmental and spatial drivers of spider diversity at contrasting microhabitats

Barton, Philip S., Evans, Maldwyn J., Foster, Claire N., Cunningham, Saul A., Manning, Adrian D.
Austral ecology 2017 v.42 no.6 pp. 700-710
Araneae, arthropods, environmental factors, grasslands, landscapes, microhabitats, models, species diversity, trees, wood logs, woodlands
The relative importance of environmental and spatial drivers of animal diversity varies across scales, but identifying these scales can be difficult if a sampling design does not match the scale of the target organisms' interaction with their habitat. In this study, we quantify and compare the effects of environmental variation and spatial proximity on ground‐dwelling spider assemblages sampled from three distinct microhabitat types (open grassland, logs, trees) that recur across structurally heterogeneous grassy woodlands. We used model selection and multivariate procedures to compare the effects of different environmental attributes and spatial proximity on spider assemblages at each microhabitat type. We found that species richness and assemblage composition differed among microhabitat types. Bare ground cover had a negative effect on spider richness under trees, but a positive effect on spider richness in open grassland. Turnover in spider assemblages from open grassland was correlated with environmental distance, but not geographic distance. By contrast, turnover in spiders at logs and trees was correlated with geographic distance, but not environmental distance. Our study suggests that spider assemblages from widespread and connected open grassland habitat were more affected by environmental than spatial gradients, whereas spiders at log and tree habitats were more affected by spatial distance among these discrete but recurring microhabitats. Deliberate selection and sampling of small‐scale habitat features can provide robust information about the drivers of arthropod diversity and turnover in landscapes.