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Web building flexibility of an orb-web spider in a heterogeneous agricultural landscape

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Intensification of land-use in agricultural landscapes is responsible for a decline of biodiversity which provide important ecosystem services like pest-control. Changes in landscape composition may also induce behavioural changes of predators in response to variation in the biotic or abiotic environment. By controlling for environmentally confounding factors, we here demonstrate that the orb web spider Araneus diadematus alters its web building behaviour in response to changes in the composition of agricultural landscapes. Thereby, the species increases its foraging efficiency (i.e. investments in silk and web asymmetry) with an increase of agricultural land-use at intermediate spatial scales. This intensification is also related to a decrease in the abundance of larger prey. A negative effect of landscape properties at similar spatial scales on spider fitness was recorded when controlling for relative investments in capture thread length. This study consequently documents the web building flexibility in response to changes in landscape composition, possibly due to changes in prey availability.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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