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Spiders top of the list in soil fauna counts in Dutch gardens

9 December 2021
According to the head counts made on the Soil Animal Days, in which VU Amsterdam participates, spiders and other arachnids were the most common soil-dwelling animals found in Dutch gardens, parks and school grounds this year.

Participants found spiders in 86% of the gardens in which counts took place. Woodlice were found in 85% of the gardens in question, followed by earthworms in 82% of them. A total of 1,666 participants were involved. Together they found more than 13,000 soil animals. Snails and slugs came in fourth: they were found in around three quarters of the gardens searched.

Cooler and wetter summer
“This summer was considerably cooler and wetter than last year”, says initiator Gerard Korthals, coordinator of the Centre for Soil Ecology, a cooperation between the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and Wageningen University & Research. That could explain why spiders have ended at the top of the list this year. He thinks that most soil animals benefited from this and that spiders may have had more insects to eat as a result. Matty Berg, co-organiser of the Soil Animal Days and Full Professor in Soil Fauna at VU Amsterdam continues: “A lot of the spiders observed were wolf spiders; they were present in large numbers because of the late spring and cool summer.” The dry weather also meant that the spiders were easy to count during the observation period.

Woodlice in second place again
This is the second time in a row that woodlice have ended in second place. “Woodlice are terrestrial crustaceans, which makes them very interesting. And they fulfil an important role in the recycling of dead wood and leaves, including in gardens”, adds Berg, who carries out a lot of research on these animals. Woodlice are still in the lead if you add up all the observations of the last seven years. Earthworms were the most common soil animals counted in gardens last year. 

About the Soil Animal Days:
The Soil Animal Days are organised annually by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and the Centre for Soil Ecology. They do so with the aid of researchers from VU Amsterdam and Wageningen University & Research and a growing number of partners. This was the seventh edition of this annual citizen science project.