colgregg (CC BY 2.0)
British Wildlife 29.6 August 2018

Spiders in the grass: the effect on upland spider communities of grazing

Upland calcareous grasslands are well known for their botanical interest, but they also support a diverse community of invertebrates, including a number of scarce and endangered spiders. While grazing is common in these habitats, there has, until recently, been little information available on how this affects spider communities. Ashley Lyons, Paul Ashton, Ian Powell and Anne Oxbrough explain how and why grazing intensity influences the distribution of spiders in upland calcareous grasslands.

Inception of the Upland Calcareous Grassland Project was inspired by a moment’s rest atop a stile over a drystone wall that separates two fields at Great Asby Scar NNR, in Cumbria. On one side there is a field grazed at low intensity by cattle; on the other, a field left without grazing for more than a decade. After taking a moment to appreciate the stunning view, it is impossible not to notice the difference in the vegetation on each side of the wall.

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