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© Robert Whyte 2018
Spiders (order Araneae) have proven to be highly rewarding organisms in biodiversity studies1, being an important component in terrestrial food webs, an indicator of insect diversity and abundance (their prey) and in Australia an understudied taxon, with many new species waiting to be discovered and described. In 78 Australian spider families science has so far described about 4,000 species, only an estimated quarter to one third of the actual species diversity.
Spiders thrive in good-quality habitat, where structural heterogeneity combines with high diversity of plant and fungi species. These fundamentals result in high diversity and abundance of insects and other terrestrial invertebrates. Many lineages of spiders have evolved to utilise the terrestrial habitat niches where their food is found, some in quite specialist ways.
For the 2018 Cooloola BioBlitz, we utilised techniques to target ground-running and arboreal spiders. To achieve consistency of future sampling, our methods could be duplicated , producing results easily compared with our data. Methods were used in the following sequence:
- careful visual study of bush, leaves, bark and ground, to see movement, spiders suspended on silk, or spiders on any surface
- shaking foliage, causing spiders to fall onto a white tray or cloth
- scraping and brushing bark
peeling bark (utilised minimally so as to leave habitats relatively undisturbed)
- turning logs and rocks (returning them to their initial position)
- transferring leaf litter into bags, then sifting though a handful at a time
- sitting beside grass tussocks and waiting (watching for movement of Peacock Spiders).
1 https://goo.gl/Q7zGLw Google Scholar resources for spiders biodiversity.