Positive tree diversity effects on arboreal spider abundance are tied to canopy cover in a forest experiment

Thumbnail Image

Publication or External Link





Butz, Elizabeth M., Schmitt, Lauren M., Parker, John D., and Burghardt, Karin T.. 2023. “ Positive Tree Diversity Effects on Arboreal Spider Abundance are Tied to Canopy Cover in a Forest Experiment.” Ecology 104(8): e4116.


Human actions are decreasing the diversity and complexity of forests, and a mechanistic understanding of how these changes affect predators is needed to maintain ecosystem services, including pest regulation. Using a large-scale tree diversity experiment, we investigate how spiders respond to trees growing in plots of single or mixed species combinations (4 or 12) by repeatedly sampling 540 trees spanning 15 species. In 2019 (6 years post-establishment), spider responses to tree diversity varied by tree species. By 2021, diversity had a more consistently positive effect, with trees in 4- or 12-species plots supporting 23% or 50% more spiders, respectively, compared to conspecifics in monocultures. Spiders showed stronger tree species preferences in late summer, and the positive impact of plot diversity doubled. In early summer, the positive diversity effect was tied to higher canopy cover in diverse plots, leading to higher spider densities. This indirect path strengthened in late summer, with an additional direct effect of plot diversity on spiders. Prey availability was higher in diverse plots but was not tied to spider density. Overall, diverse plots supported more predators, partly by increasing available habitat. Adopting planting strategies focused on species mixtures may better maintain higher trophic levels and ecosystem functions.