Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Good news for Highland biodiversity as rare spider is discovered at estate earmarked for rewilding

The silky gallows spider has been found at Dundreggan Estate. Picture by Alan Watson Featherstone
The silky gallows spider has been found at Dundreggan Estate. Picture by Alan Watson Featherstone

A recently-discovered resident on the Dundreggan Estate is good news for biodiversity and efforts to save the ancient Caledonian forest.

Maybe less so for wood ants.

The rare ‘silky gallows spider’ has been confirmed to exist on the Trees for Life estate near Loch Ness.

It is one of only a few places in Scotland to find the species which is restricted to areas of Caledonian pine forests.

Efforts are now being made to increase its habitat as part of rewilding plans at the estate.

Spider highlights woodland quality

The tiny arachnid, measuring only about 1cm long, punches above its weight, eating ants twice its size.

It entangles its prey in a little web then bites them at the base of their antennae to inject a toxin which immobilises them.

The spider hangs the ants on a thread of silk awaiting consumption, giving the species its common name.

Doug Gilbert, Dundreggan’s conservation manager, believes the spider’s presence is important for the estate and wider conservation issues.

He said: “It tells us that the woodland at Dundreggan is an ancient woodland of a quality that encourages these species.

The rare spider was found at the Dundreggan Estate

“Because of the biodiversity crisis we’re in, and the impact of climate change, we need all the biodiversity we can get.

“Discoveries like this helps to identify the good places we need to protect.

“Our fragment of pinewood at Dundreggan is not that big.

“But it shows that even a few pine trees in an old forest can be really important and we need to protect and expand that habitat.”

So far just two silky gallows spiders have been found at Dundreggan.

Ants on the move to create new colonies

But there are hopes that planting new native trees to expand the woodland will help increase numbers.

However, there first have to be wood ants to feed on.

A project, in partnership with the James Hutton Institute, is looking at transferring ants, including queens, to create new colonies.

“A lot of newly-planted woods won’t have ants in them for decades as they are quite slow to disperse,” said Doug.

“The spiders can only follow the ants.

“So we are looking at the potential to translocate wood ants into newly-planted, or relatively newly- planted, areas of Scots pine where the habitat is right to accelerate things.”

A rare mining bee found on the estate

Rebecca Lewis, conservation officer with Buglife, carries out surveys at Dundreggan.

She added: “The main issue for invertebrates is data deficiency.

“They are a crucial part of our ecology yet there is so much we still need to know.

“Distribution varies between the ones I surveyed for.

“But it’s important to keep in mind that local disappearance can signal a failure in the system to support.

“When this happens it can signal a decline in habitat quality, which can be brought on by a number of factors.

Surveys helps conservations efforts

“This decline may also result in the loss or decline of other species as well.

“Of course, equally, local occurrence can signal that we are doing well and the habitat quality remains intact enough to support the species.

“Surveys like these help us build a picture allowing us to focus our conservation efforts.”

The silky gallows spider is one of a number of rare species discovered at Dundreggan.

Previous finds at Dundreggan have added to the estate’s reputation as a biodiversity-rich ‘lost world’.

They include several never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland.

Other rare species found at Dundreggan include this sawfly

Among them are a rare money spider, a non-biting midge, three sawflies, a mining bee, dragonfly, golden horsefly, a waxfly, three fungus gnats, and a mite.

Conservation charity Trees for Life is protecting and expanding fragments of the ancient Caledonian Forest on the estate.

It has already seen the regeneration of some trees species such as birch, juniper, cherry alder and rowan.

A £5.5 million education and research hub is being built and will become the world’s first rewilding centre.

The rewilding centre, due to open in late 2022, will allow visitors to learn about the estate’s 4,000 plant and animal species.

Need to protect ‘our Amazonian rain forest’

Doug said: “Forest restoration and expansion is about resilience.

“The bigger and more ecologically functioning it becomes, the better chance there is to get the right conditions for these species.

“But the smaller and more fragmented it gets, the more vulnerable it becomes.

“This is our Amazonian rain forest really and we need to protect it and expand it.

The planned rewilding centre will be an education and research hub

“People like to see capercaillie, wildcat and pine marten, but they are no more or less important than the tiny little species.

“They are the fabric that all these bigger things live upon.

“So it’s really important that we keep that fabric as intact as possible.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]