1 We characterized and compared diversity patterns of canopy and understorey spiders (Arachnida: Araneae) on sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) in hardwood forests of southern Québec, Canada.
2 We sampled canopies of 45 sugar maple and 45 American beech trees and associated understorey saplings in mature protected forests near Montréal. Samples were obtained by beating the crown foliage at various heights and by beating saplings around each tree.
3 Eighty-two species were identified from 13 669 individuals. Forty-eight species and 3860 individuals and 72 species and 9809 individuals were collected from the canopy and the understorey, respectively.
4 Multivariate analyses (NMDS ordination and NPMANOVA) showed the composition of canopy and understorey assemblages differed significantly, and canopy assemblages differed between tree species. Rank-abundance distribution models fitted to the canopy and understorey data indicated that different mechanisms structure the assemblages in both habitats. Three abundant spider species were significantly more common in the canopy; ten species were collected significantly more often in the understorey.
5 The forest canopy was shown to be an important reservoir for spider diversity in north-temperate forests.