Over the last few years, members of the Arachnology unit of the Agricultural Research Council – Plant Health and Protection have been working closely with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Threatened Species Unit to evaluate all the South African spider species for placement on the IUCN Red List. This project was possible due to the arachnid groundwork and the guidance of Dr Ansie Dippenaar, who started the National Collection of Arachnida (non-Acari). Throughout her career, Dr Dippenaar made massive contributions to the field of African Arachnology. This includes her book ‘African Spiders: An Identification Manual’, which was co-authored with Dr Rudy Jocque; the many papers that she has published; and the key role she played in the South African National Survey of Arachnida (SANSA) project. This work was done while contributing to the establishment and growth of the National Collection on of Arachnida (non-Acari) throughout her 46 year career at the ARC.

Due to the SANSA project, it was possible to compile all the information needed for the Red Listing project. This project was a massive undertaking with more than 2200 species individually assessed according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. The ARC and SANBI worked with a number of arachnid specialists from various institutions to evaluate and assess each species according to this international standard. In order to do these assessments, data associated with the National Collection of Arachnida database and the published spider records in the SANSA database were used. This data comes from the National Collection of Arachnida, one of the national assets that the ARC-PHP is responsible for.

Based on the assessments of the South African spiders, 3% are considered Threatened, 32% are Data Deficient, 3% are Near Threatened or Rare and the remaining 62% are consider of Least Concern, meaning they have wider distributions with little or no known threats (Foord et al. 2020)

As part of this, South African spider species that are of concern according to the IUCN Categories and Criteria, have been included in the Species Environmental Assessment Guideline. This document is the guideline for the implementation of the terrestrial fauna and terrestrial flora species protocols for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in South Africa. This means the spider biodiversity in a given area needs to be included in every EIA that is done. This document was produced for the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries by the South African National Biodiversity Institute and BirdLife South Africa.

Furthermore, the spider assessments are also included in the National Screening that is used by EIA practitioners. It is a web based Environmental Screening Tool that is a geographically based and web-enabled application which allows a proponent intending to submit an application for environmental authorisation in terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations 2014. This tool is amended to screen their proposed site for any environmental sensitivity. This screening tool can be accessed at https://screening.environment.gov.za/screeningtool/#/pages/welcome.
The Screening Tool also provides site or locality specific EIA process and review information, for example, the Screening Tool may identify if an industrial development zone, minimum information requirement, Environmental Management Framework or bio-regional plan applies to a specific area.

Background of collection focused on:

The South African National Collection of Arachnida (excluding the Acari) was established in 1976 under the Biosystematics Programme at the ARC-Plant Health and Protection.  The National Collection is one of the most comprehensive and fastest growing collections of arachnids in South Africa. It contains 60,165 accessions represented by approximately 180,495 alcohol preserved specimens sampled mainly in South Africa. It serves as an invaluable scientific reference source and research tool as well as an archive of South Africa’s arachnid biodiversity. Collection manager: Petro Marais


Foord, S.H., Dippenaar-Schoeman, A.S., Haddad, C.R., Lyle, R. Lotz, L.N., Sethusa, T. & Raimonda, D. 2020. The South African National Red List of spiders: patterns, threats, and conservation. Journal of Arachnology, 48:110-118.

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). 2020. Species Environmental Assessment Guideline. Guidelines for the implementation of the Terrestrial Fauna and Terrestrial Flora Species Protocols for environmental impact assessments in South Africa. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Version 1.2020.