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5 February 2021 Effects of Surveying for the Federally Endangered Spruce-Fir Moss Spider (Microhexura montivaga Crosby & Bishop) on its Bryophyte Habitat
Corinne A. Diggins, W. Mark Ford
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Microhexura montivaga (Spruce-fir Moss Spider) is a federally endangered arachnid endemic to high-elevation montane conifer forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains. The spider is cryptic and difficult to monitor because this species lives in the interface between the bryophyte mat and the rock surface. Since temporary removal of the bryophyte mat is necessary to monitor the spider, surveyors may negatively impact the spider's habitat during monitoring. To help inform survey protocol for this endangered species, we studied reattachment rates of bryophyte mats to rock surfaces after their removal. In 2017, we surveyed sixty 10 cm × 10 cm plots, assigning a plot to either control or treatment (i.e., application of water post-reattachment). We monitored plots for 1 year post-survey to determine reattachment rates. The majority of plots (70%) reestablished after 1 year, whereas 15% did not reattach or showed substantial prolonged (e.g., ∼1 year) desiccation and 15% completely fell off or had 100% prolonged desiccation and were chlorotic. We found that mat depth and overstory canopy cover had no effect on mat reestablishment, although bryophyte type did. We found no difference between treatment and control plots, suggesting that no treatment is needed for mats to reestablish under the conditions described. Rock slope significantly influenced reestablishment rates, highlighting that surveying bryophyte mats on slopes >80% may diminish or destroy habitat. Further research is needed to determine long-term monitoring effects on the spider and its habitat, especially in relation to disturbance regimes and ecological restoration of Picea rubens (Red Spruce).

Corinne A. Diggins and W. Mark Ford "Effects of Surveying for the Federally Endangered Spruce-Fir Moss Spider (Microhexura montivaga Crosby & Bishop) on its Bryophyte Habitat," Southeastern Naturalist 20(1), 77-91, (5 February 2021).
Published: 5 February 2021
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