Spiders Feeling The Bite of Human Encroachment on Habitat

spider on leaf photo

Photo by cygnus921 via Flickr CC

That old phrase tossed out by parents at fearful children about spiders, "They're more afraid of you than you are of them," has never been more true, at least according to researchers from the King Juan Carlos University (URJC) who have found that spiders, like many other animal species, are suffering from habitat loss and human encroachment. Typically we think of mammals, reptiles and insects like butterflies that feel the strain from loss of habitat. We don't usually think about spiders since they so often seem to make our houses and buildings their own homes. But research published in Biological Conservation states otherwise. Spiders do indeed suffer from human activity the same as any other living species, reports a press release from the university.

"The abundance and number of spider species is negatively affected by the impact of many human land uses, such as habitat fragmentation, fire and pesticides", Samuel Prieto-Benítez and Marcos Méndez, researchers at the URJC Biodiversity and Conservation Department, tell SINC.

Much of the reason for the oversight is simply because there are few spider species on Red Lists of threatened species, and because fewer than 20% of studies show a harmful effect on arachnids. However, when looking at farmland, pastureland and woodland, it is clear that farming and pasture practices can have a harmful effect on our eight-legged friends through change in plant life as well as insecticides. In woodlands, it is habitat fragmentation that harms the species.

Spiders are incredibly important species, helping with everything from insect control to inspiration for biomimetic inspirations like dew catchers and bird-friendly glass. But they too suffer from human impacts on the planet, even down to climate change. For example, brown recluse spiders are spreading out to new territory across the US as a result of climate change. It should be no surprise that habitat loss also impacts spider species around the globe.

For those farmers who advocate for more natural growing practices, the conclusions of the study for how to help spiders will be a no-brainer -- reduced use of insecticides as well as more biodiversity among plantlife and less habitat fragmentation.

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