Summary for Midia midas (Araneae)
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About this speciesRecorded altitude range
91m to 91m
In Britain this species has been recorded from Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Donington Park in Leicestershire, Epping Forest and Hainault Forest in South Essex and Windsor Forest in Berkshire. In Europe it has been recorded from Fortunes Indelukke State Forest in Denmark, the Trebon Basin in the Czech Republic, Germany, Swietokrzyskie National Park in Poland, Fontainebleau Forest and most recently in the Department of the Haute Vienne (Duffey 2000) in France.
Habitat and ecology
The species appears to be confined to ancient trees where it has been taken in a range of microhabitats including accumulations of litter from the base of hollow oaks and beeches, bird nests (including those of pigeons, jackdaws and thrushes) and squirrel dreys. The more recent records in Britain include those from litter in hollow oaks and beeches in Sherwood Forest (1979-80), Donington Park (1971-1979) and Windsor Forest (1978), from bird nests in Sherwood Forest (1980) and Epping and Hainault Forests (1980) and from squirrel dreys in Epping Forest (1980) (Crocker & Daws 1996). A semi-systematic survey in Epping Forest in 1980 involved hand-sorting 53 samples of litter (both from hollow trees and the crowns of pollarded hornbeam and oak), bird nests (pigeon and sparrow) and squirrel dreys collected between 10 May and 13 July (Russell-Smith 2002). A total of 5 male and 13 female M. midas were collected from sites in the central forest area (within one mile radius of Loughton), but none was found in either the north (Wintry Wood) or further south (Upper Walthamstow). In Epping, this species appears to be more common in bird nests (56% of 9 samples) and squirrel dreys (28% of 18) than in accumulations of litter (4% of 26) possibly because Collembola (principally Orchesella sp.), which are potential prey items, were particularly abundant in nests and dreys. Intensive surveys by groups of experienced workers in both Sherwood and Windsor Forest have revealed only isolated individuals. Adults of both sexes have been recorded between May and August, a female also in September.
UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. This is an extremely rare species recorded from just two locations since 1992. It is associated with ancient trees, with an apparent decline in area of occupancy from 4 hectads before 1992 to just one since that date.
All the British sites from which this species is known are SSSIs and Sherwood Forest is a Country Park where the conservation importance of over-mature trees is fully recognised. Threats include the loss of ancient woodland to other land-uses such as intensive forestry and agriculture, and the removal of over-mature trees from existing ancient woods and parks. For much of the twentieth century, ancient pollard trees were removed in Epping Forest out of a mistaken belief that woodlands should be 'vigorous'. These ancient pollards form favoured sites for birds nests and squirrel dreys which appear to be especially attractive to M. midas. Further loss was caused by the wind throw of top-heavy pollarded hornbeams during the hurricane of 1987, a result of the discontinuation of active pollarding in the forest after World War II. In Windsor Forest, large areas of the ancient woodland were converted to intensive conifer production in the 1940s and 1950s with concomitant loss of ancient trees. Current use of much of this forest for public recreation brings the threat of removal of ancient trees for safety reasons. The single remaining oak in Donington Park where this species is known to occur is no more than a stump, following extensive wind damage.
Management and conservation
At Windsor Forest, the importance of ancient trees is now recognised and taken into account in management plans (Merrett 1991). In Epping Forest, pollarding of trees has re-commenced on an experimental basis but it will probably be many years before it is known whether M. midas can re-colonise the newly pollarded trees. At Donington Park, there are plans to plant oak and lime saplings but this may be too late to ensure continuity of over mature trees.
Text based on Dawson, I.K., Harvey, P.R., Merrett, P. & Russell-Smith, A.R. (in prep.). References
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