Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 339–356 | Cite as

Grazing history influences biodiversity: a case study on ground-dwelling arachnids (Arachnida: Araneae, Opiliones) in the Natural Park of Alpi Marittime (NW Italy)

  • Mauro Paschetta
  • Valentina La Morgia
  • Dario Masante
  • Matteo Negro
  • Antonio Rolando
  • Marco Isaia


Alpine pastures are typical examples of “high nature value farmlands”, representing important habitats harbouring unique biological communities. Disturbance induced by overgrazing influences significantly ecosystem processes, in which invertebrates play a major role. To develop new models of sustainable management of pastures, more knowledge is needed of the animal communities, essential to the ecological functioning of pasture ecosystems. The apparent poor ecological state of several pastures in the Natural Regional Park of Alpi Marittime (NW-Italy) lead us to evaluate the influence of grazing history on biodiversity, using spider and harvestmen assemblages as key groups. Four different pastoral types characterized by four different grazing histories were identified using the Daget-Poissonet method. Spiders and harvestmen were collected by means of pitfall traps. Arachnid assemblages were characterized in terms of composition, abundance, species richness, richness of endemic species and taxonomic relatedness. Generalized linear mixed models (GLMM) were used to test differences among assemblages occurring in each pastoral type. Furthermore, we tested differences in terms of plant communities (species richness and percentage of zoogenic species). Specificity and fidelity of every spider and harvestmen species within pastoral types were explored by the IndVal (Indicator Value) procedure. Fifty-eight species of spiders and seven species of harvestmen were collected (2,304 individuals). Pastoral types related to intensive grazing were characterized by the dominance of diurnal wanderer spiders (namely Lycosidae) while, conversely, nocturnal wanderers (mainly Gnaphosidae) were more abundant in extensive pastoral types. Results show that both species richness and spider abundance were higher in abandoned areas of extensive grazing, while endemic assemblages were richer in extensive grazed areas, which also hosted the most diverse plant community. Furthermore, most of the indicator species of spiders of this type were endemic, characterized by more demanding ecological requirements.


Alpine pastures Disturbance Spiders Harvestmen Plants Taxonomic relatedness Endemic species 



Field work has been supported by the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy, in the framework of the ATBI + M project (All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory + Monitoring). Thanks to the Staff of the Natural Park of Alpi Marittime for logistic support. Thanks to Axel L. Schönhofer for the identification of harvestmen and to Gabriele Chiappetta and Nicola Bodino for helping in the field work. Referee one provided very useful comments and contributed substantially to the improvement of the earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mauro Paschetta
    • 1
  • Valentina La Morgia
    • 1
  • Dario Masante
    • 1
  • Matteo Negro
    • 1
  • Antonio Rolando
    • 1
  • Marco Isaia
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e Biologia dei SistemiUniversità di TorinoTurinItaly

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