Riparian vegetation loss, stream channelization, and web-weaving spiders in northern Japan
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Removal of riparian vegetation and straightening of stream channels (channelization) are the most prevalent forms of habitat degradation in streams and their riparian zones. Both have direct effects on organisms in the habitats where they occur, but also have potential to cause indirect effects by interrupting the flux of invertebrate prey between the two adjacent ecosystems. We measured abundance of web-building riparian spiders along four types of streams in Hokkaido, Japan: relatively undisturbed streams, streams where riparian vegetation had been removed, previously channelized streams where the banks had revegetated, and streams that had been both channelized and had the vegetation removed. Spider abundance was reduced by 70% or more by either habitat disturbance alone, or both combined, and the number of spider families was also reduced. Spiders of the family Tetragnathidae, which specialize in capturing adult insects emerging from streams, were strongly reduced by either form of habitat degradation alone, or in combination. In contrast, abundance of spiders in other families that capture prey from both terrestrial and aquatic sources was reduced more strongly by vegetation loss than channelization. These results indicate that riparian vegetation loss has strong direct effects on spiders by reducing habitat for web sites. They also suggest that channelization can have strong indirect effects on riparian-specialist tetragnathid spiders, probably by reducing the flux of adult aquatic insects from the stream to the riparian zone.