Riparian condition influences spider community structure and the contribution of aquatic carbon subsidies to terrestrial habitats

Jamie Lee Hunt, Harriet Paterson, Paul Close, Neil E. Pettit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Degradation of riparian zones can alter aquatic and terrestrial communities of flora and fauna and disrupt their role in assimilating and mobilising carbon between the two ecosystems. Riparian spiders that predate on emergent aquatic invertebrates can contribute to carbon flux and the structure of aquatic and riparian food webs. The impact of riparian degradation on spiders in temperate rivers of Australia and their role in this broader ecosystem function is poorly understood. We surveyed the riparian zone of four rivers of south-western Australia in areas of natural intact vegetation and degraded agricultural land to explore whether riparian spider abundance, and diversity may be affected by changes to riparian condition. We also assessed the impact of the riparian condition on carbon fluxes between aquatic and terrestrial environments, using stable isotope analysis. We found overall abundance of riparian spiders was higher in degraded agricultural sites compared to natural intact sites and the structure of spider assemblages was different. Orb-weaver spiders (Araneidae and Tetragnathidae) were found to be more abundant in agricultural areas where canopy cover and understory are sparse as a result of livestock grazing and trampling. The contribution of carbon from aquatic invertebrates in a natural intact site was 48.5% for Orb-weavers and 41.6% for Cursorial Hunter spiders but reduced to 19.6% and 39.9% respectively in a degraded agricultural site. These results suggest that the position of spiders in riparian food webs and the amount of aquatic subsidy may change according to the condition and complexity of the riparian zone.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141109
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume746
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

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