They may be creepy-crawly, but spiders are a bellwether for a healthy environment. And their numbers are in decline.
Spiders are in decline around the world as a result of human activities.
Spiders are important predators and good bellwethers for the health of the environment.
Compared to tigers and other charismatic creatures on the threatened lists, spiders and other creepy-crawlies are usually overlooked and often scorned.
But a new study suggests that spiders, too, suffer from human activities around the world. In areas where people cut down trees, use pesticides or graze farm animals, among other activities, spider numbers drop.
Besides calling into question the myth of infinite resilience among spiders, the study offers a rare opportunity to point out how important spiders actually are -- as both important predators of pest insects and indicators of environmental health.
"I am sure most of us have heard the story that if a new island raises above the sea, there will be spiders on it within three days," said Marcos Méndez, an ecologist at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain. "Spiders have been considered as very good colonizers, even of inhospitable habitats. Our study provides a very different picture."