Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 2565–2595 | Cite as

Ground spider assemblages as indicators for habitat structure in inland sand ecosystems

Original Paper


Open inland sand ecosystems harbour a specialised flora and fauna and are among the most endangered habitats in Central Europe. Land-use changes and lack of habitat dynamics are acknowledged as significant drivers for habitat loss and degradation. It is imperative for nature conservation to obtain criteria such as community structure and biodiversity of model groups to assess the conservation value of threatened habitats. By investigating the correlation between ground spider assemblages and habitat structure, the study aimed to find out the indicator potential of spiders in order to promote conservation objectives and management strategies for open inland sand ecosystems. Non-metric multidimensional scaling revealed four habitat groups with distinct spider assemblages that clearly reflected the whole variety of habitat structure types within the study area. Species distribution was constrained by biotic and abiotic gradients while the ecological traits of spiders differed significantly among the groups. Generalised linear models showed that abundances of particular species were significantly correlated with environmental factors and habitat structure, making them thus suitable as focal species to assess natural habitat modifications as well as success of management efforts. Based on these findings, we derived major aims for successful habitat management of inland sand ecosystems taking into account also the needs of arthropod conservation. Management should include both small and large reserves when aiming for higher levels of disturbance, and sand dynamics to prevent increasing scrub encroachment and to create a larger number of early succession stages.


Araneae Conservation Disturbance Dry grasslands Environmental factors Heathlands Habitat management 



I would like to thank the district administration (Untere Landschaftsbehörde) of Borken, Coesfeld, Gütersloh, Paderborn, Recklinghausen, Steinfurt and Warendorf for enabling field work. I also wish to express my gratitude to A. Beulting, K. Hannig, K. Mantel, M. Olthoff, N. Ribbrock, H. Terlutter and C. Venne for information on study areas and M. Breuer for assistance during field work. Furthermore, I am thankful to S. Hsieh, J. Schirmel and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript and to R. Baumgartner for linguistic revision of the text. My work was funded by a scholarship of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, FES).


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Community Ecology, Institute of Landscape EcologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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