Valentin Cabon, Hervé Quénol, Vincent Dubreuil, Aurélien Ridel, Benjamin Bergerot

Urban Heat Island and Reduced Habitat Complexity Explain Spider Community Composition by Excluding Large and Heat-Sensitive Species

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change

Along with worldwide urbanization, upheavals in habitat and temperature are major threats for biodiversity. However, due to their interdependence, their relative roles as drivers of animal community composition remain entangled. Here, we investigated how taxonomic and functional compositions of arthropod communities were related to uncorrelated habitat and temperature gradients, and compared landscape (i.e., urbanization, Urban Heat Island (UHI)) to local variables (i.e., vegetation height and cover, near-ground temperature). We sampled 20,499 spiders (137 species) on 36 grasslands in Rennes (northwestern France). Unlike rural areas, urban sites were characterized by short vegetation and intense UHI, hosted species-poor communities, and were composed of small thermophilic species. UHI intensification and local loss of habitat complexity (short and dense vegetation) were associated with declining large and heat-sensitive species. These results highlight the prevalent role of urban warming, rather than land cover change, as an urban filter. Further, we show that landscape-scale UHI, not local temperature, filters species according to their functional attributes. UHI can therefore be considered as a thermal barrier, filtering species according to their physiological capacity to cope with urban thermal conditions. Finally, to counterbalance biotic homogenization, we argue for the importance of implementing complex habitat structures at the local scale within urban green infrastructure.

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