The following is an interview with Elizabeth Lowe, PhD Candidate. Lowe, from the Integrative Ecology Lab and the University of Sydney, conducted research how spiders are flourishing in cities, drawn by the atmosphere and temperature of urban living. The researchers found female spiders living in cities having larger pregnancies. You can learn more here.
What about cities are attracting spiders?
We found associations with size and hard surfaces and lack of vegetation. Hard surfaces include roads, buildings, concrete. These surfaces retain heat, leading to the urban heat island effect. This increase in temperatures could be what is leading to increased growth of the spiders. It could also be more prey, or less predators and parasitoids.
Does an increase in city spiders mean a decline in rural spiders?
As with most animals some spiders do very well in urban areas but there are many others which are not able to survive in cities. I have other research coming out later this year which discusses the numbers of different species in urban and rural areas.
How is a lack of biodiversity in cities affecting spiders?
These spiders are benefiting because there is more of their prey, they don’t really care about biodiversity as long as they have something to eat. The reduction in birds could be benefiting them.
What positive impact do spiders have on city life which likely goes unnoticed by people?
They eat flies and other herbivorous insects, which if left unchecked could become pests and destroy large areas of vegetation.
How can city people make life better for spiders?
I think people should be aware of making cities better for biodiversity in general, keeping remnant patches of vegetation is vital and more green space in urban areas would definitely help.