Indexed on: 26 Jun '20Published on: 28 Jul '19Published in: PeerJ
The effect of reindeer L. grazing on the ground-dwelling spider assemblage in Northern Finland was studied. Changes in species richness, abundance and evenness of spider assemblages were analyzed in relation to changes in vegetation and environmental factors in long term grazed and ungrazed sites as well as sites that had recently switched from grazed to ungrazed and vice versa. Grazing was found to have a significant impact on height and biomass of lichens and other ground vegetation. However, it seemed not to have an impact on the total abundance of spiders. This is likely caused by opposing family and species level responses of spiders to the grazing regime. Lycosid numbers were highest in grazed and linyphiid numbers in ungrazed areas. Lycosidae species richness was highest in ungrazed areas whereas Linyphiidae richness showed no response to grazing. Four Linyphiidae, one Thomisidae and one Lycosidae species showed strong preference for specific treatments. Sites that had recovered from grazing for nine years and the sites that were grazed for the last nine years but were previously ungrazed resembled the long term grazed sites. The results emphasize the importance of reindeer as a modifier of boreal forest ecosystems but the impact of reindeer grazing on spiders seems to be family and species specific. The sites with reversed grazing treatment demonstrate that recovery from strong grazing pressure at these high latitudes is a slow process whereas reindeer can rapidly change the conditions in previously ungrazed sites similar to long term heavily grazed conditions.