In this study our objectives were to describe the diversity and characteristics of spider families occurring in a range of habitat types within a typical savanna ecosystem, to assess the influence of habitat type and seasonality on spider diversity and to determine levels of similarity between habitat types based on species composition. The study was conducted at Makalali Private Game Reserve, Northern Province, South Africa. Five different habitat types were sampled using four trapping techniques (sweeping, beating, active searching and pitfalls). A total of 4832 individuals including 268 species from 38 families were sampled during the study. Families showed varying degrees of habitat fidelity with some being widespread and abundant while others were restricted to a single site and were locally rare. Sites with similar habitat types showed a similarity in spider family composition. All sites have unique species compositions and overall diversity, evenness and richness of spiders do not differ with habitat type. However, analyses of functional groups, e.g., web builders and plant wanderers, showed the positive influence of structural complexity of the habitat. The presence of unique species in all habitats highlights the importance of conserving as wide array of representative habitats within ecosystems. The appearance of strong seasonal patterns in species composition also has important implications for the development of protocols for sampling species diversity. The savanna has a surprising diversity of spiders when compared to other biomes surveyed in South Africa. Factors influencing this diversity beyond the broader habitat variables measured in this study need to be investigated.
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