The importance of canopy complexity in shaping seasonal spider and beetle assemblages in saltmarsh habitats

Ford, Hilary; Evans, Ben; Van Klink, Roel; Skov, Martin W.; Garbutt, Angus ORCID: 2017 The importance of canopy complexity in shaping seasonal spider and beetle assemblages in saltmarsh habitats. Ecological Entomology, 42 (2). 145-155.

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1. Habitat structure, including vegetation structural complexity, largely determines invertebrate assemblages in semi-natural grasslands. The importance of structural complexity to the saltmarsh invertebrate community, where the interplay between vegetation characteristics and tidal inundation is key, is less well known. 2. It was hypothesised that canopy complexity would be a more important predictor of spider and beetle assemblages than simple vegetation attributes (e.g. height, community type) and environmental variables (e.g. elevation) alone, measured in two saltmarsh regions, south-east (Essex) and north-west (Morecambe Bay) U.K. Canopy complexity (number of non-vegetated ‘gaps’ in canopy ≥ 1 mm wide) was assessed using side-on photography. Over 1500 spiders and beetles were sampled via suction sampling, winter and summer combined. 3. In summer, saltmarshes with abundant spider and beetle populations were characterised by high scores for canopy complexity often associated with tussocky grass or shrub cover. Simple vegetation attributes (plant cover, height) accounted for 26% of variation in spider abundance and 14% in spider diversity, rising to 46% and 41%, respectively, with the addition of canopy complexity score. Overwintering spider assemblages were associated with elevation and vegetation biomass. Summer beetle abundance, in particular the predatory and zoophagous group, and diversity were best explained by elevation and plant species richness. 4. Summer canopy complexity was identified as a positive habitat feature for saltmarsh spider communities (ground-running hunters and sheet weavers) with significant ‘added value’ over more commonly measured attributes of vegetation structure.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Emmett
ISSN: 0307-6946
Additional Keywords: CBESS, invertebrate, overwintering, saltmarsh, structural complexity, vegetation structure
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 04 Apr 2017 10:28 +0 (UTC)

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