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Environmental suitability of new reported localities of the funnelweb spider Macrothele calpeiana: an assessment using potential distribution modelling with presence-only techniques

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Abstract Aim 

The funnelweb spider Macrothele calpeiana is endemic to the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula, but recent occurrence records from localities in Spain, North Africa and other regions of Europe, which are distant from its native populations, suggest human-mediated dispersal, probably associated with the commercial export of olive trees. The main goal of this study was to assess the environmental suitability of these new records and to discuss the spider’s potential to become an invasive species, mainly in new regions across Central Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Location 

Central Europe, Mediterranean Basin. Methods 

Using presence points from the Iberian native populations of M. calpeiana and a set of climatic variables, four presence-only algorithms (BIOCLIM, DOMAIN, GARP and Maxent) were applied to model the potential distribution of the spider. The models were transferred to Central Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, and the locations of the new records in both the occupied and potential environmental spaces were screened. Results 

The four models were generally congruent in predicting the existence of a suitable climate for the species across the Mediterranean Basin, although BIOCLIM and DOMAIN yielded more constrained predictions than GARP and Maxent. Whereas the new records from Central Europe were located far from the occupied and potential climatic spaces, those from the Iberian Peninsula were not. Main conclusions 

Climatic suitability together with propagule pressure owing to human activities will certainly enhance the opportunities for M. calpeiana to colonize new areas across the Mediterranean Basin. The species has invaded areas beyond its native range, and those new locations located in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa show environmental suitability for the spider and deserve long-term monitoring. Although the new locations in Central Europe were not predicted by the climate models and the persistence of the species seems improbable, the possibility of rapid evolution or phenotypic plasticity processes raises the need for caution over the possibility of a future spread of M. calpeiana across Europe. Stronger controls over the transport of trees must be applied, and further studies on the ecology of the spider are imperative to assess the possible impact on the invaded ecosystems.
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Keywords: Araneae; Central Europe; Iberian Peninsula; Macrothele calpeiana; Mediterranean Basin; environmental suitability; invasive species; population expansion; species distribution modelling; spiders

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Department of Biology, Ghent University, K. L. Ledeganckstraat 35, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium 2: Biodiversity Research Institute & Department of Animal Biology, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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