Habitat associations of epigeal spiders in upland calcareous grassland landscapes: the importance for conservation

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Upland calcareous grassland landscapes are typically comprised of a matrix of calcareous grassland, acid grassland and limestone heath plant communities. This matrix of habitats is produced by a combination of underlying geology, climate and management. These landscapes are typically managed through grazing, with management targeted to maintain particular plant communities in the calcareous grassland habitat, whilst patches of acid grassland and limestone heath are not targeted by conservation management. The biodiversity value of acid grassland and limestone heath patches within the calcareous grassland matrix are unknown. This study provides the first assessment of their biodiversity value by examining aspects of epigeal spider diversity supported by these non-target habitat patches in comparison to calcareous grassland. Spiders were sampled in each habitat from April – August 2014 using pitfall traps across three upland regions in Great Britain. Spider species assemblages were distinct between limestone heath and both grassland types. Distinction in species assemblages are likely due to differences in vegetation structure and microclimate e.g. humidity, degree of shade. Each habitat type supported several rare species (e.g. Jacksonella falconeri, Agyneta subtilis) revealing the contribution to spider fauna. The distinct spider species assemblage and presence of rare species in limestone heath patches demonstrate their importance in the upland calcareous grassland matrix. This study highlights the value of monitoring biodiversity in non-target habitats within a habitat matrix alongside those that are actively targeted by management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1201-1219
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number5
Early online date16 Dec 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Dec 2017


  • Heath
  • Acid grassland
  • Limestone
  • Calcareous grassland matrix
  • Grazing
  • Grassland management
  • Conservation


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