Rich and abundant spider communities result from enhanced web capture breadth and reduced overlap in urban greenspaces.


Gardiner MM(1), Delgado de la Flor YA(1), Parker DM(1), Harwood JD(2).
Author information:
(1)Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, Ohio, 43210, USA.
(2)Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, S123 Ag Science, North Lexington, Kentucky, 40546, USA.


Urbanization is a key contributor to biodiversity loss, but evidence is mounting that cities can support rich arthropod communities, including rare and threatened species. Furthermore, greenspace is growing within hundreds of "shrinking cities" that have lost population resulting in a need to demolish an overabundance of infrastructure creating vacant land. Efforts are underway to transform vacant lots, often viewed as blighted areas, into habitats that promote biodiversity and generate ecosystem services, such as urban agroecosystems. To understand how reconfiguring these greenspaces might influence species conservation, elucidation of the factors that drive the distribution of an urban species pool is needed. In particular, the importance of species interactions in structuring urban communities is poorly understood. We tested hypotheses that (1) greater breadth of prey captured by web-building spiders and reduced overlap of prey capture among individuals facilitates the conservation of genera richness and abundance and (2) heterogeneity within a greenspace patch facilitates enhanced dietary niche breadth and greater resource partitioning. In 2013 and 2014, the abundance, breadth and degree of overlap in prey capture of sheet web spiders (Linyphiidae) was measured using web mimic traps at 160 microsites (0.25 m2 ) situated in four urban vacant lots and four urban farms in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Within a subset of 40 microsites, we used vacuum sampling and hand collection to measure the abundance and genera richness of Linyphiidae. Spider richness and abundance were significantly reduced within urban farms relative to vacant lots. The distribution of spiders and prey was explained by habitat structure, with microsites dominated by tall grasses and flowering plants, with a high bloom abundance and richness, supporting greater prey capture and a higher genera richness and abundance of spiders. In 2014, web capture overlap was significantly greater within microsites dominated by bare ground. These findings illustrate that urban greenspace conservation efforts that focus on reducing bare ground and incorporating a diversity of grasses and flowering plant species can promote linyphiid spiders, potentially by relaxing exploitative competition for shared prey.