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Keywords:

  • Atlantic forest;
  • forest management;
  • habitat connectivity;
  • habitat structure;
  • tree monocultures

Abstract  This study investigates how abundance, diversity and composition of understorey spiders were influenced by four different forest habitats in a southern Brazilian Araucaria forest. The study area encompasses a landscape mosaic comprised of Araucaria forest, Araucaria plantation, Pinus plantation, and Eucalyptus plantation. Understorey spiders were collected by beating the vegetation inside three patches of each forest habitat. To assess possible predictors of spider assemblage structure, several patch features were analysed: potential prey abundances, estimation of vegetation cover, diversity index of vegetation types, patch ages, patch areas, and geographical distance between patches. To assess the influence of high-level taxa approaches on spider assemblage patterns, analyses were carried out individually for family, genera and species levels. Additionally, Mantel tests were carried out in underlying similarity matrices between each taxon. Significant differences in spider abundances among forest habitats were found. Pinus plantations showed the highest abundance of spiders and Eucalyptus plantations showed the lowest abundance. Spider abundance was significantly influenced by patch ages, geographical distance and vegetation cover. Expected numbers of families, genera and species did not vary among forest habitats. Spider composition of two Eucalyptus patches differed from the other forest patches, probably due to their low vegetation cover and isolation. Genera composition was the best correlate of species composition, showing that a higher-level surrogate can be an alternative to the species approach. The understorey spider diversity in this managed area could be maintained when suitable habitat structures are provided, thus ensuring the connectivity between different habitat types. Further studies should focus on individual species responses to the conversion of native forest to monocultures.