Original Paper

Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 11, pp 3141-3155

First online:

Using spider web types as a substitute for assessing web-building spider biodiversity and the success of habitat restoration

  • John R. GollanAffiliated withAustralian MuseumEcosystem Management, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England Email author 
  • , Helen M. SmithAffiliated withAustralian Museum
  • , Matthew BulbertAffiliated withAustralian MuseumDepartment of Biological Sciences, Behavioural Ecology Group, Macquarie University
  • , Andrew P. DonnellyAffiliated withAustralian MuseumEarthwatch Institute Australia
  • , Lance WilkieAffiliated withAustralian Museum

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Arthropods have been regarded as good indicators of habitat quality due to their sensitivity to changes in habitat state. However, there are many constraints to working with arthropods that make them inaccessible to land managers and most volunteer-driven initiatives. Our study examined a novel approach for detecting changes in web-building spider communities by focussing on the types of webs that spiders build rather than the spider itself. This method was cost-effective, easy-to-use, and importantly, we found a strong congruency between the diversity of web architecture and the diversity of web-building spider genera. The metrics derived from this method could distinguish differences in web-building communities among habitat types that represented a successional gradient, and thus we concluded that the method was useful for monitoring the progress of restoration. Many other applications for the method are possible such as environmental impact assessment and agricultural pest management, and we encourage development in these areas.


Araneae Citizen science Cost-effective Indicator Invertebrate