Habitat structure modified by an invasive grass enhances inundation withstanding in a salt-marsh wolf spider
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Biological invasions. - Dordrecht
, p. 3219-3226
University of Antwerp
Vegetation and underground structures are known to influence flood avoidance and flood resistance in invertebrates. In bimonthly-flooded European salt marshes, recent invasions by the nitrophilous grass Elymus athericus strongly modified usual habitat structure, notably by the production of a deep litter layer. Consequently, invaded habitats provide more interstitial spaces that may act as a refuge during flood events. By using both controlled and field designs, we tested whether invaded habitats may change the ability to resist flooding by the creation of new refuges during tides for a groundliving, predatory arthropod. The wolf spider Arctosa fulvolineata was employed as a model species since it occurs abundantly in both invaded and uninvaded saltmarsh habitats. In the field, its abundance strongly decreased (divided by three) after tidal flooding in uninvaded habitats by but did not change in invaded patches. Under controlled laboratory conditions, ten times more individuals withstood simulated flooding in the presence of litter and less decided to float. The presence of litter did not influence flood resistance, i.e. survival underwater. Our results show that habitat structure (i.e. the presence of litter) influences floodavoiding behavior of A. fulvolineata, by providing more refuges. As the invasion of E. athericus alters salt-marsh habitat structure, it may enhance population size of a rare predatory spider by changing its behavior during flooding and resulting in less deleterious impacts of tides. Yet biological invasions are detrimental for biodiversity conservation, our study shows that an invasive species might indirectly benefit a few mobile rare species in a flood-disturbed habitat.