Native grasslands are among the most imperiled of the North American ecosystems, but abandoned agricultural areas may provide suitable habitat for animal taxa that are endemic to grasslands. We studied how species diversity of orb-weaving spiders was influenced by secondary succession of a grassland plant community by monitoring the abundance and species diversity in study plots that were cultivated at 6-yr intervals and left uncultivated in the interim. We tested the hypothesis that local abundance and species diversity of spiders would be positively associated with time since cultivation because plant communities in older habitats would be more architecturally complex. Local abundance of spiders in general was not associated with time since cultivation, but abundance of Mangora gibberosa (Hentz) was positively associated with the abundance of perennial plants. Species richness and diversity of spiders also were positively associated with the abundance of perennial plants and reached a threshold a few years after cultivation. Species diversity of orb-weaving spiders seems to be strongly influenced by species composition of the plant community. Therefore, effective restoration of the structure and function of endemic communities of orb-weaving spiders may depend on preserving endemic grassland plant communities.
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