The South African National Red List of spiders: patterns, threats, and conservation
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Triage in conservation biology necessitates the prioritization of species and ecosystems for conservation. Although highly diverse, ecologically important, and charismatic, spiders are rarely considered. With 2,253 known species, South Africa's spider diversity is among the highest in the world. A 22-year initiative culminating in a national assessment of all the South African species saw a 33% increase in described species and a 350% rise in specimen accessions of the national collection annually. Endemism is high, at 60% of all South African species. Levels of endemicity are particularly high in Fynbos, Succulent Karroo and Forests. Relative to its area, Forests have three times more endemics than any of the other biomes, followed by the Indian Ocean Coastal Belt. A total of 127 species (5.7%) are either rare or endangered. Threats to these species are largely linked to habitat destruction in the form of urbanization and agriculture. The bulk (62.8%) of taxa are of least concern, but many species are data deficient (27%). Predicted large-scale diversity patterns are confounded by the localised nature of distribution records. Best estimates of compositional turnover point to an east-west bias in our understanding and conservation of spiders in the country, a bias that is most acute in the north-western parts of the country because this region has seen less collecting and has fewer conservation estates. In general, rare and threatened species are mainly ground-dwelling taxa that are either relictual or have poor dispersal abilities. Complemented with long-term surveys that will provide insights into population dynamics of spiders, exploring the use of species traits in predicting extinction probability could provide additional criteria for conservation prioritization. Based on these assessments, targeted species-level interventions might provide a platform for more public awareness and institutional involvement.
- RESEARCH: Foord, S