Polar Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 885–894

The impact of snow accumulation on a heath spider community in a sub-Arctic landscape

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00300-013-1313-9

Cite this article as:
Legault, G. & Weis, A.E. Polar Biol (2013) 36: 885. doi:10.1007/s00300-013-1313-9


Patterns of snow cover across the Arctic are expected to change as a result of shrub encroachment and climate change. As snow cover impacts both the subnivean environment and the date of spring melt, these changes could impact Arctic food webs by altering the phenology and survival of overwintering arthropods, such as spiders (Araneae). In this field study, we used snow fences to increase snow cover across a series of large (375 m2) heath tundra plots and examined the effects on the local spider community during the following growing season. Fences increased snow cover and delayed melt on the treatment plots, paralleling the conditions of nearby shrub sites. Frequent sampling over the season revealed that increased snow cover did not affect spider abundance across different genera nor did it affect overall community composition. Further, our snow treatment did not affect the dates when plots achieved seasonal catch milestones (25, 50, 75 % of total seasonal catch). Increased winter snow cover did, however, produce higher body masses in adults and juveniles of the dominant species Pardosa lapponica (Lycosidae), beginning immediately after snow melt until midway through the growing season. In addition, ovary/oocyte mass of mature P. lapponica females was significantly higher on treatment plots during the peak reproductive period. This is the first experimental manipulation study to report a significant effect of landscape-level changes to winter snow cover on the biomass of an Arctic macroarthropod.


Shrub encroachment Arctic arthropods Snow fence Spider mass Arctic spiders Snow accumulation 

Supplementary material

300_2013_1313_MOESM1_ESM.docx (47 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 47 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Koffler Scientific Reserve at Jokers HillKing CityCanada

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