Foster CN, PS Barton, JT Wood and DB Lindenmayer (2015) Interactive effects of fire and large herbivores on web-building spiders. Oecologia (Online)

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Altered disturbance regimes are a major driver
of biodiversity loss worldwide. Maintaining or re-creating
natural disturbance regimes is therefore the focus of many
conservation programmes. A key challenge, however, is
to understand how co-occurring disturbances interact to
affect biodiversity. We experimentally tested for the interactive
effects of prescribed fire and large macropod herbivores
on the web-building spider assemblage of a eucalypt
forest understorey and investigated the role of vegetation
in mediating these effects using path analysis. Fire had
strong negative effects on the density of web-building
spiders, which were partly mediated by effects on vegetation
structure, while negative effects of large herbivores
on web density were not related to changes in vegetation.
Fire amplified the effects of large herbivores on spiders,
both via vegetation-mediated pathways and by increasing
herbivore activity. The importance of vegetation-mediated
pathways and fire?herbivore interactions differed for web
density and richness and also differed between web types.