Changes in Spider Community Attributes Along a Subalpine Successional Gradient

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The spider communities of four stages of a successional sere leading to and including spruce forests were studied in northern Utah. Four seral stages were recognized. These include: meadows, aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands, subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) forest, and the climax Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) forests. During the snow-free periods of 1976, 1977, and 1978, 15,987 spiders were collected by three methods including: pitfall traps, by beating vegetation, and with sweep-net samples. Additionally, 1600 15-second intervals of behavioral observations, and measurements of 182 web locations were made. Of 99 species collected, 44 were considered residents of the sere: criteria for assigning the species to foraging strategies (3) and guilds (9) are presented. Five spider communities were ostensively defined--one in the ground stratum of each of the stages and one in the tree stratum of the conifer stages. The data were used to compare the guild strategies of the spiders of the seral stages and to address various hypotheses about successional change in animal community characteristics. Increases with maturity as predicted were observed for 6 spider community parameters including: total biomass, species diversity--richness component, species diversity-equitability component, stratification and spatial heterogeneity, mean organism size, and temporal stratification. A life cycle hypothesis (i.e., short and simple life cycles in early stages, long and complex ones in mature stages) could not be tested because, depending on the life cycle type considered, I found diametrically opposed trends (semi-annual and biennial life cycle types both increased with maturity). The spider species of the ground-stratum meadow community were primarily dispersed in a time dimension (seasonal); the spiders of the tree-stratum community were primarily distributed in a spatial dimension (microhabitat). Spiders of the forest ground-strata communities were dispersed in spatial and temporal dimensions. No dimension was ascertained to be of fundamental importance. Distributions of ground-dwelling species with different foraging strategies, and the resident species of the ground-stratum communities were correlated canonically to 8 environmental variables. Spider species of the meadow community were correlated with a bare diri. variable. Spiders of the aspen community were correlated with 2 environmental variables including: grasses and forbs and a low foliage index. Hunting spiders were correlated with the meadow and aspen variables. Ambushing spiders, web-building spiders, and the spider species of the ground stratum spruce community were correlated with 5 environmental variables including: litter depth, canopy cover, tree basal area, dead leaves and needles, and logs.


This item is a dissertation published by a student who attended Utah State University. Abstract can be accessed through the remote link. Fulltext not available online.

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