Large and least isolated fragments preserve habitat specialist spiders best in dry sandy grasslands in Hungary

Abstract

The role of fragment size, isolation and habitat diversity in the conservation of spider assemblages living in fragmented landscape were studied in dry sandy grasslands (East Hungary, Nyírség). Spiders were collected using pitfall traps at eight dry grassland fragments from 2001 to 2009 from March to October fortnightly. We tested the rules of island biogeography, which suggest that the species richness increases with the size and decreases with the isolation of fragments. The habitat diversity is an important factor for species richness, since large areas usually have more habitats; therefore, the number of species may be higher in these areas. During the 9-year study period, altogether 10,544 individuals belonging to 106 species were collected. Contradicting the classical theory, we found a significant negative relationship between the total number of spider species and the grassland size, while the ratio of sandy grassland specialist spider species increased with fragment size. The relationship between the ratio of generalist species and the fragment size was not significant. The overall species richness and the isolation of studied grasslands did not show a significant relationship. The ratio of sandy grassland specialist species decreased, while the ratio of generalist species increased with the increasing of isolation. The habitat diversity did not show any effect on spider species richness. We concluded that to conserve the habitat specialist species it is recommended to preserve the large and least isolated grassland fragments, furthermore to increase the size of small fragments with the restoration of the adjacent croplands.

DOI: 10.1007/s10531-013-0439-y

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