Skip to main content

Environmental drivers of spider community composition at multiple scales along an urban gradient


Broad-scale modification of natural ecosystems associated with urbanisation often leads to localised extinctions and reduced species richness. Despite this, habitats within the urban matrix are still capable of supporting biodiversity to varying degrees. As species have different responses to anthropogenic habitat modification, the species composition of urban areas can depend greatly on the habitat characteristics of the local and surrounding areas. The aim of this study was to compare the community composition of spiders in private gardens, urban parks, patches of remnant vegetation and continuous bushland sites, so as to identify habitat variables associated with variation in spider populations along and within the urban gradient and matrix. Overall spider abundances and richness were highest in remnant vegetation patches and were associated with increased vegetation cover at microhabitat and landscape-scales. While gardens were not as diverse as remnant patches, they did support a surprisingly high diversity of spiders. We also found that species composition differed significantly between gardens and other urban green spaces. Higher richness within gardens was also associated with greater vegetation cover, indicating the importance of private management decisions on local biodiversity. Differences in community composition between land-use types were driven by a small number of urban-tolerant species, and spider guilds showed different responses to habitat traits such as vegetation cover and human population densities. This study demonstrates that urban land-uses support unique spider communities and that maintaining vegetation cover within the urban matrix is essential in order to support diverse spider communities in cities.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


Download references


We thank the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Royal Botanic Gardens and local councils for the permission to sample in their areas. We also thank N. Cooper and the team at Systems Pest Management for their support, and the owners of the gardens for allowing us to conduct our surveys on their properties. CGT is supported by the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, which is funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to E. C. Lowe.

Additional information

Communicated by Peter J. T. White.

This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Urban biodiversity.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (PDF 611 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lowe, E.C., Threlfall, C.G., Wilder, S.M. et al. Environmental drivers of spider community composition at multiple scales along an urban gradient. Biodivers Conserv 27, 829–852 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Urbanisation
  • Community composition
  • Land-use
  • Spider
  • Vegetation cover