News & Events

April 2021

New publication

Using ecological and field survey data to establish a national list of the wild bee pollinators of crops

The importance of wild bees for crop pollination is well established, but less is known about which species contribute to service delivery to inform agricultural management, monitoring and conservation. Using sites in Great Britain as a case study, we use a novel qualitative approach combining ecological information and field survey data to establish a national list of crop pollinating bees for four economically important crops (apple, field bean, oilseed rape and strawberry). A traits data base was used to establish potential pollinators, and combined with field data to identify both dominant crop flower visiting bee species and other species that could be important crop pollinators, but which are not presently sampled in large numbers on crops flowers. Whilst we found evidence that a small number of common, generalist species make a disproportionate contribution to flower visits, many more species were identified as potential pollinators, including rare and specialist species. Furthermore, we found evidence of substantial variation in the bee communities of different crops. Establishing a national list of crop pollinators is important for practitioners and policy makers, allowing targeted management approaches for improved ecosystem services, conservation and species monitoring. Data can be used to make recommendations about how pollinator diversity could be promoted in agricultural landscapes. Our results suggest agri-environment schemes need to support a higher diversity of species than at present, notably of solitary bees. Management would also benefit from targeting specific species to enhance crop pollination services to particular crops. Whilst our study is focused upon Great Britain, our methodology can easily be applied to other countries, crops and groups of pollinating insects.

For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2021.107447

March 2021

New publication

Changing assembly rules during secondary succession: evidence for non-random patterns

Describing the rules of community assembly is a central topic of ecology. Studying successional processes through a trait-based null model approach can help to better understand the rules of community assembly.

According to theoretical considerations, at the beginning of succession - after getting over the dispersal limitation stage - community composition is primarily shaped by environmental filters (generating functional convergence), while in later stages limiting similarity (generating functional divergence) will be dominant. However, empirical evidence does not clearly support theoretical expectations.

Our aim was to detect the presence and changes of trait-based assembly processes during old-field succession based on twelve traits. Changes in vegetation composition were evaluated by a combination of time series and space-for-time substitution: conducting three resurveys of permanent plots on four old-field age-groups. The individual dispersion of traits was transformed into effect size (i.e. departure from null model expectation). The impact of time since abandonment on effect sizes was tested by generalized additive mixed effect models.

We detected a non-random pattern for each trait in at least some part of the succession. Departure from randomness did not change significantly over time for six traits: seed mass, lateral spread and pollination type were divergent, while leaf size, generative height and length of flowering were convergent. Six traits had changing patterns along the succession. Four of them showed increasing divergence (e.g. dispersal type, LDMC), which supports our hypothesis. While two (SLA, life form) displayed increasing convergence, contrary to expectations.

We confirmed the general hypothesis that convergence is predominant initially and that divergence can be detected later in succession for four traits. However, the large variation found in trait dispersion indicates that complex processes operate during succession.

For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2021.02.009

March 2021

New publication

COVID-19 and sustainable food systems: What should we learn before the next emergency

Three key transitions leading to a “safe and just” operating space, with a focus on food systems, emerged during the development of a Foresight study promoted by SCAR (Standing Committee on Agricultural Research1): (a) sustainable and healthy diets for all; (b) full circularity in the use of resources; (c) diversity as a key component of stable systems. As consequence of COVID-19, food emerged again as a central element of life, along with health, after decades in which food security was taken for granted, at least in most developed countries. The COVID-19 outbreak offered the opportunity for a reflection on the importance of resilience in emergencies. Sustainable and healthy diets for all, was shown, during the pandemic, to depend much more on social and economic conditions than on technical aspects of food production and processing. Agriculture and the agro-industry have now a potential to absorb, at least temporarily, workers laid out in other sectors; the pandemic could be an opportunity to re-think and re-value labor relationships in the sector as well as local productions and supply chains. A full circularity in food systems also would benefit from stronger links established at the territorial level and increase the attention on the quality of the environment, leading to the adoption of benign practices, regenerating rather than impoverishing natural resources. Diversity is a key component of a resilient system, both in the biophysical sphere and in the social sphere: new business models, new knowledge-sharing networks, new markets. The three transitions would operate in synergy and contribute to the resilience of the whole food system and its preparation for a possible next emergency. Science can support policy making; however, science needs to be better embedded in society, to have a clear direction toward the grand challenges, to address the social, economic, behavioral spheres, to aim clearly at the common good. We need to re-think the conundrum between competition and cooperation in research, devising ways to boost the latter without sacrificing excellence. We need to improve the way knowledge is generated and shared and we need to ensure that information is accessible and unbiased by vested interests.


For more details visit: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2021.650987/full

March 2021

New publication

Ecosystem Services Becoming Political: How Ecological Processes Shape Local Resource-Management Networks

While a landscape usually provides a wide range of benefits, the ecological and spatial entanglement of the processes behind ecosystem services does not allow maximizing benefits from all services at the same time. Different stakeholders relying on different services might therefore prefer different policies and management for the wider area where they operate. Trade-offs, disagreements and mutual interests are rooted in ecological processes but are manifested in the social sphere. Social networks were shown to have a significant impact on the management of ecosystem services. In this paper we show that ecosystem services also influence the structure of management-networks and power-relations among stakeholders, thus ecological factors set the stage for (local-regional) political discourse. We used social network analysis (SNA) to show how ecological processes become agents of social-ecological systems (SES), this method is also useful for finding those players who can adopt a mediator role in the social sphere, having a special position in the web of competing interests. Our research shows how mutual influence between social and ecological elements shapes management strategies in five protected areas in Central and Eastern Europe. The most voluminous and profitable ecosystem services (primarily timber production in our cases) define which stakeholders are the most powerful in management networks—this eminent position allows these players to make decisions unilaterally. Other, smaller players tend to negotiate with a diverse set of counterparts with whom they share and co-manage often multiple services. Power relations that emerge as a consequence of production differences among ecosystem services often do not allow participatory management methods. These situations lead to over-utilization of natural resources with a narrow interpretation of sustainability which decreases resilience for the whole social-ecological system. Our results contribute to the theoretical understanding of political discourses in SES and showcase how SNA can be applied as a tool to facilitate participatory landscape-management. We show how ecological factors co-create the social sphere where decisions are made about sustainable land-use.


For more details visit: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.635988/full

January 2021

Congratulations to

Zoltán Soltész

He won the 2021 Tibor Jermy Award of the National Academy of Sciences.

January 2021

New publication

Assessment in horizon scanning by various stakeholder groups using Osgood’s semantic differential scale – A methodological development

The interdisciplinary research group consists of professional futurists and ecologists carried out horizon scanning (HS) studies with the involvement of academic experts and practitioners under the umbrella of the Centre for Ecological Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). Its purpose was (1) to map the possible changes in natural and social systems until 2050 in the country in a complex manner and (2) to show possible interactions between the changes to enable formulation of research tasks useful for practice. For this purpose, the Horizon Scanning process had to be specified and our research team has decided to improve the HS methodology in two relations: (1) beside futures practitioners and ecologists, young business developers were also invited in the evaluation process because of their ability to help the realization of new research lines and the application of research results in business environment; (2) applying the Osgood’s semantic differential scale (i.e. to assess for each future statement its strength and type, like trend or hype, etc.) in questioning focus groups of three stakeholder groups to categorise the future statements, thus make the evaluation more complex. This paper gives an overview on these two lines of methodological changes and their results.

For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0016328720301683

January 2021

New publication

Wood Pastures: A Transitional Habitat between Forests and Pastures for Dung Beetle Assemblages

Wood pastures are home to a variety of species, including the dung beetle. Dung beetles are an important functional group in decomposition. Specifically, in terms of livestock manure, they not only contribute to nutrient cycling but are key players in supporting human and animal health. Dung beetles, however, are declining in population, and urgent recommendations are needed to reverse this trend. Recommendations need to be based on solid evidence and specific habitats. Herein, we aimed to investigate the role of an intermediate habitat type between forests and pastures. Wood pastures are key areas for dung beetle conservation. For this reason, we compared dung beetle assemblages among forests, wood pastures, and grasslands. We complemented this with studies on the effects of dung type and season at three Hungarian locations. Pitfall traps baited with cattle, sheep, or horse dung were used in forests, wood pastures, and pasture habitats in spring, summer, and autumn. Dung beetle assemblages of wood pastures showed transient characteristics between forests and pastures regarding their abundance, species richness, Shannon diversity, assemblage composition, and indicator species. We identified a strong effect of season and a weak of dung type. Assemblage composition proved to be the most sensitive measure of differences among habitats. The conservation of dung beetles, and the decomposition services they provide, need continuous livestock grazing to provide fresh dung, as well as the maintenance of wood pastures where dung beetle assemblages typical of forests and pastures can both survive.

For more details visit: https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/12/1/25

December 2020

New publication

How to diminish the geographical bias in IPBES and related science?

To tackle the current global environmental crisis, operational science-policy interfaces are needed. The Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) provides governments with policy advice via its assessment reports. To expand the evidence-base and to support the uptake of IPBES products, participation needs to be balanced across the globe. We found imbalance in authors’ distribution at both the UN regional and country level. It is more pronounced for IPBES-related scientific papers than for the IPBES global assessment. The more detached from politics the decision of getting involved is, the more imbalanced the representation of the regions becomes. To improve the IPBES’ geographical balance, a strategy to increase the number of active member states is called for. We argued that without explicit efforts to reach the balance—for example, providing an attractive research environment for excellent researchers in their home country, improving cooperation among countries across the UN regions, and granting publication opportunity for all authors—the idea of geographic equality diminishes.

For more details visit: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/conl.12786

December 2020

New task

András, our group leader was invited to chair the Danube Region thematic mission of the newly established Budapest Knowledge Hub of Academia Europaea

The study of the natural and social phenomena of the Danube region and the promotion of scientific co-operation within the region shall be an inherent mission of the AE Budapest hub. The Academia Europaea is a functioning European Academy of Humanities, Letters and Sciences. Current membership stands at around 4,500, amongst them are seventy-two Nobel Laureates.

https://mta.hu/english/academia-europaea-opens-new-knowledge-hub-in-budapest-opening-ceremony-on-video-111131

December 2020

New publication

Non-rotational set-aside fields improve reproductive success of cavity-nesting bees and wasps at the landscape scale, but have no effect on other wild bees and hoverflies in mid-summer

Wild bees, hoverflies and wasps are valuable ecosystem service providers in agricultural systems through pollination and biological control, and their species richness, abundance and reproductive success well indicate ecosystem health. However, they are often limited by foraging and nesting resources that are major drivers behind their steep decline. Although agri-environmental measurements improve resources for these groups, their wider landscape-scale impacts are basically unknown. Here, we questioned whether 2–3 years old, sown set-aside fields could have a potential in enhancing pollinator and predatory wasp communities at the landscape scale in a Central European agroecosystem. We measured reproductive success and parasitism of cavity-nesting bees and wasps by trapnests throughout the vegetation period, and sampled bee and hoverfly communities by colored pan traps in mid-summer, comparing landscapes with and without set-aside fields. We measured the effects of increasing distance from set-aside fields, the effects of share of different habitats and flower resources, and the effects of increasing set-aside field percentage area at landscape scale. The landscape scale effects of set-aside fields varied among taxa and/or at different time scales. Reproductive success of cavity-nesting bees and wasps was positively related to the presence of set-aside fields in the landscape and together with the number of cavity-nesting bee and wasp genera increased with the proportion of set-aside fields. Species richness or abundance of bees or hoverflies showed no difference between landscape plots with or without set-aside fields in the mid-summer period according to the pan trap samples, and flower abundance and distance from the set-aside fields had only a limited effect. Set-aside fields had no effect on either the most abundant wild bee species or on composition of species of intermediate abundance. Our results suggest that reproductive success of cavity-nesting bees and wasps can be enhanced by additional flower resources and nesting habitats through set-aside fields at the landscape scale. Other wild bees and hoverflies can be less sensitive to the presence of set-aside fields according to our results that might need different conservation approaches. But this might also suggest that such landscape-scale benefits of set-aside field management might be measureable only with samplings covering the whole vegetation period. We argue that well-defined measures specific to spatial scale and target groups are mandatory and should be adapted to the different histories and local contexts of agricultural landscapes in Europe to strengthen ecosystem service provider insects and have the highest benefit for agricultural production.

For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167880920304412

December 2020

New publication

The effect of woody plant encroachment and wildfire on plant species richness and composition: Temporal changes in a forest-steppe mosaic

Questions

Woody plant encroachment and wildfire may both have major effects on species richness and composition, yet studies that assess these two factors in combination are rare. We asked the following specific questions: (1) how did juniper cover change over a decade in the study area; what are the effects of juniper encroachment and subsequent wildfire on(2) plant species richness; and (3) vegetation composition?

Location

Sand forest–steppe in Kiskunság, Central Hungary.

Methods

We studied a juniper‐encroached grassland hit by a wildfire. We assessed changes in plant species richness and composition in burnt and unburnt grassland and juniper plots for 11 years following the wildfire. Yearly vegetation sampling was performed in permanent quadrats of 1 m2 and 25 m2 using visual cover estimation. Temporal changes in juniper cover and species richness were evaluated with generalized linear mixed‐effects models. Compositional changes were analysed by non‐metric multidimensional scaling and fidelity analysis.

Results

At the beginning of the study, the presence of individual juniper shrubs increased species richness, and did not alter species composition. However, microsites covered by junipers were extremely species‐poor. Juniper growth during the study period caused a sharp decline in species richness at the edge of juniper shrubs and a shift in species composition compared to grassland plots. Wildfire increased species richness both in grassland and juniper plots. It caused only transient compositional responses in grasslands, but converted juniper habitats back to the grassland state.

Conclusions

We conclude that neither moderate juniper encroachment nor wildfire have negative effects on plant species richness in the studied ecosystem. However, as juniper thickening may cause species loss and devastating fires, conservation management should prevent the development of dense juniper stands.

For more details visit: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/avsc.12546

November 2020

New publication

Measuring proboscis length in Lepidoptera: a review

Mouthpart morphologies relate to diet range. Differences among or within species may result in resource partitioning and speciation. In plant-pollinator interactions, mouthpart length has an important role in foraging efficiency, resource partitioning and pollination, hence measuring nectarivorous insect mouthparts’ morphological variation is important. Most adult lepidopterans feed on nectars and participate in pollination. Although a vast range of studies applied morphometric measurements on lepidopteran proboscis (tongue) length, general recommendations on methodologies are scarce. We review available proboscis length measurement methodologies for Lepidoptera. Focusing on how proboscides have been measured, how accurate the measurements were, and how were these constrained by sampling effort, we searched for research articles investigating lepidopteran proboscis length and extracted variables on the aims of measurements, preparation and measurement methodology, and descriptive statistics. Different methods were used both for preparation and measurements. Many of the 135 reviewed papers did not provide descriptions of the procedures applied. Research aims were different among studies. Forty-four percent of the studies measured dead specimens, 13% measured living specimens, and 43% were unclear. Fifteen percent of the studies used callipers, 9% rulers, 1% millimetre scales, 4% ocular micrometers, 3% drawings and 14% photographs; 55% were non-informative. We emphasise the importance to provide detailed descriptions on the methods applied. Providing guidelines for future sampling and measurements, we encourage fellow researchers planning measurements to take into account the effect of specimen preparation techniques on the results, define landmarks, consider resolution, accuracy, precision, choose an appropriate sample size and report details on methodology.

For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00435-020-00507-z

October 2020

New publication

Chapter Six - Transformation of agricultural landscapes in the Anthropocene: Nature's contributions to people, agriculture and food security

Multiple anthropogenic challenges threaten nature's contributions to human well-being. Agricultural expansion and conventional intensification are degrading biodiversity and ecosystem functions, thereby undermining the natural foundations on which agriculture is itself built. Averting the worst effects of global environmental change and assuring ecosystem benefits, requires a transformation of agriculture. Alternative agricultural systems to conventional intensification exist, ranging from adjustments to efficiency (e.g. sustainable intensification) to a redesign (e.g. ecological intensification, climate-smart agriculture) of the farm management system. These alternatives vary in their reliance on nature or technology, the level of systemic change required to operate, and impacts on biodiversity, landscapes and agricultural production. Different socio-economic, ecological and political settings mean there is no universal solution, instead there are a suite of interoperable practices that can be adapted to different contexts to maximise efficiency, sustainability and resilience. Social, economic, technological and demographic issues will influence the form of sustainable agriculture and effects on landscapes and biodiversity. These include: (1) the socio-technical-ecological architecture of agricultural and food systems and trends such as urbanisation in affecting the mode of production, diets, lifestyles and attitudes; (2) emerging technologies, such as gene editing, synthetic biology and 3D bioprinting of meat; and (3) the scale or state of the existing farm system, especially pertinent for smallholder agriculture. Agricultural transformation will require multifunctional landscape planning with cross-sectoral and participatory management to avoid unintended consequences and ultimately depends on people's capacity to accept new ways of operating in response to the current environmental crisis.

For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aecr.2020.08.002

October 2020

New publication

Flower choice in Clouded Apollo butterflies (Parnassius mnemosyne (LINNAEUS, 1758))

Animals choose among food resources according to their nutritional needs and opportunities. Butterflies are ideal model organisms to study resource use, since adults select among food resources, and are capable to adapt to dynamically changing supplies, although they usually feed regularly on the same plant species sequentially. Our aim was to study which plant species are visited by Clouded Apollo butterflies (Parnassius mnemosyne (LINNAEUS, 1758)) from all the available insectpollinated plants, and to understand which floral traits determine their choice. We monitored the butterflies by mark-resight for 5+2 years in two closely-situated meadows. We estimated flower abundance by scanning. Floral traits were collected from the Biolflor database. Annual visit ratios changed significantly among plant species. We found great variability in the traits of available flowers and in flower availability between the investigated meadows. Choice was influenced by flower abundance, colour and structure, and the importance of insect pollination in one meadow, and only by abundance and colour in the other. Floral traits influencing choice may be related to each other. Flower visit patterns imply strong selectivity, and the differences between meadows suggest environmental impact. Clouded Apollos probably visit the most beneficial nectar-sources the most often. The presence of larval host-plants is essential for a butterfly to occupy a habitat. We believe that the presence of nectar plants is also a must, at least for some butterfly species.

For more details (in Hungarian) visit: https://doi.org/10.20331/AllKoz.2021.106.1-2.1


October 2020

New research grant

Analysing spatial patterns of ecosystem services and condition under anthropogenic pressure and climate change

The preservation and restoration of ecosystem services (ESs) is one of the main objectives of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. Yet determining how to manage multiple ecosystem services across landscapes in a sustainable manner is still a key challenge. The main aim of the project is to generate new knowledge on the spatial patterns and interrelations of ESs and ecosystem condition (EC), in connection with anthropogenic pressure and climate change. In the first part we will explore how best to integrate ES and EC indicators in order to define ES bundles and delineate areas with similar structure. We suppose that the emerging spatial patterns can be used to identify focus areas for conservation and restoration. Then we will use climate projections to assess how vulnerable these areas are to climate change and how it may affect future conservation and restoration efforts. In the other main part we will explore the spatial patterns of indicators describing past and present anthropogenic pressure and their relations with present EC and ESs. We’ll describe past anthropogenic pressure based on the departure of the actual vegetation from the potential vegetation. We would mainly rely on the spatial patterns, but we would also explore the possibilities of extending our ESs and EC assessments towards a more temporally dynamic approach. Throughout the project we’ll rely on detailed maps, data and expertise created in a former project, which provide a unique opportunity to explore the patterns and interrelations of multiple ESs and EC for the whole area of Hungary at an unprecedented resolution. We expect that our study will efficiently inform state and EU level policy decisions.

October 2020

New publication

Foraging Activity of Woodpeckers on Various forms of Artificially Created Deadwood

Many woodpecker species rely on different forms of deadwood for nesting and foraging. However, the knowledge of the effect of enrichment of their habitat with different types on deadwood of this species group is lacking. Complex conservation-oriented management, including deadwood enrichment, was applied in a 20 ha even-aged oak-dominated woodland in Hungary. The foraging activities of woodpecker species were documented on selected treated trees over one, two and three years since these measures were implemented. The 109 individual oak trees examined represented five deadwood types: damaged-, girdled-, felled trees, and low- and tall stumps. We analysed the relationships between three variables (depth of foraging work, type of deadwood, and year) and foraging activity. Our results illustrated the prompt responses of woodpeckers to the treated trees. The woodpeckers used the five deadwood types in very different ways, and foraging activity was found to vary greatly in terms of depth of foraging and between years. More activity was carried out on both low- and tall stumps than on any other type one year after the treatment, whilst work on girdled trees and tall stumps predominated two and three years after the treatment. The utilisation of felled- and damaged trees by woodpeckers proceeded at a markedly slower pace than that of girdled trees and stumps, but the utilisation increased gradually. Most of the foraging activity was found to be on the outer bark, however, work on the inner bark and in the sapwood increased between the three years. The measures to conserve the woodpecker species should include the permanent creation and maintenance of various forms of deadwood to provide diverse and continuous foraging sites for woodpeckers.

For more details visit: https://bioone.org/journals/acta-ornithologica/volume-55/issue-1/00016454AO2020.55.1.007/Foraging-Activity-of-Woodpeckers-on-Various-forms-of-Artificially-Created/10.3161/00016454AO2020.55.1.007.full

October 2020

New publication

Urbanization alters the abundance and composition of predator communities and leads to aphid outbreaks on urban trees

Urbanization can affect arthropod abundance in different ways. While species with narrow habitat range and low dispersal ability often respond negatively to urban environments, many habitat generalist species with good dispersal ability reach high densities in city centers. This filtering effect of urban habitats can strongly influence predator-prey-mutualist interactions and may therefore affect the abundance of predatory and phytophagous species both directly and indirectly. Here, we assessed the effect of urbanization on aphids, predatory arthropods, and ants on field maple (Acer campestre) trees in and around the city of Budapest, Hungary. We used the percentage of impervious surfaces within a 500 m radius of each site as an index of the degree of urbanization. We found that the abundance of aphids increased with increasing level of urbanization. However, abundance of predatory arthropods and occurrence of poorly dispersing species within the predator community were negatively related to urbanization, and we identified these two independent factors as significant predictors of aphid abundances. The abundance of ants decreased with urbanization, and contrary to our expectations, did not affect the abundance pattern of aphids. Our results suggest that urbanization, by altering the abundance and composition of predator communities, can disrupt biological control of aphid populations, and thus may contribute to the aphid outbreaks on urban trees.


For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-020-01061-8

September 2020

New publication

Identifying Tree Traits for Cooling Urban Heat Islands—A Cross-City Empirical Analysis

Research Highlights: This paper presents a cross-city empirical study on micro-climatic thermal benefits of urban trees, using machine-learning analysis to identify the importance of several in situ measured tree physiognomy traits for cooling. Background and Objectives: Green infrastructure and trees in particular play a key role in mitigating the urban heat island (UHI) effect. A more detailed understanding of the cooling potential of urban trees and specific tree traits is necessary to support tree management decisions for cooling our progressively hot cities. The goal of this study was to identify the influence and importance of various tree traits and site conditions. Materials and Methods: Surface temperature, air temperature at 1.1 m and at tree crown height, as well as wet bulb globe-temperature of shaded and fully sun-exposed reference areas, were used to study the cooling effect of seven different urban tree species. For all 100 individuals, tree height, crown base, trunk circumference, crown volume, crown area, leaf area index (LAI) and leaf area density (LAD) were measured. Measurements were conducted in the cities of Dresden, Salzburg, Szeged, and Vienna as representatives for middle European cities in different climate zones. Results: Beside site conditions, tree species, height, height of crown base, as well as trunk circumference, have a great influence on the cooling effect for city dwellers. The trunk circumference is a very valuable indicator for estimating climate regulating ecosystem services and therefore a highly robust estimator for policy makers and tree management practitioners when planning and managing urban green areas for improving the availability and provision of ecosystem services.


For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.3390/f11101064

August 2020

New publication

Nesting activity of cavity‐nesting bees and wasps is lower in small‐scale apple orchards compared to nearby semi‐natural habitats

  1. Commercially reared cavity‐nesting bees have been studied mainly in large, intensively managed orchards. However, knowledge on wild cavity‐nesting bee and wasp communities and their potential limitations in smaller orchards remain insufficient.

  2. We compared the colonization rate of trapnests, nesting success, parasitism and response to flower resources of cavity‐nesting bees and wasps between apple orchards and nearby semi‐natural habitats (SNHs).

  3. Trapnests were placed in orchards and neighbouring SNHs. Colonization dynamics were studied and herbaceous flower resources were estimated. Furthermore, nest and brood cell quantity, number of alive offspring and nest parasitism rate were assessed.

  4. We found a higher colonization rate in the SNHs than in the orchards. Both bees and wasps made more nests, completed more brood cells and had a higher number of alive offspring in the SNHs. The number of bee nests in the orchards showed a positive correlation with the species richness of the flowering plants. The nest parasitism of wasps was higher in the SNHs.

  5. Apple orchards in the studied small‐scale system were generally less colonized by cavity‐nesting hymenopterans than nearby SNHs that can be important reservoirs of these ecosystem service provider hymenopterans. Our results highlight the importance of diverse flowering herbaceous vegetation in the understory that increased the number of bee nests in orchards and that could have a positive effect on the nesting activity of the bee species active in summer. Therefore, management practices that support flowering plant species in the understory vegetation are highly recommended in such orchards.


For more details visit:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/afe.12403

August 2020

New publication

Ecosystem service indicators along the cascade: How do assessment and mapping studies position their indicators?

As the mapping and assessment of ecosystem services (MAES) becomes a widely used tool in environmental governance, there is an increasing need for structure and standardization. In this study we present a systematic review of European MAES studies focussing on two important, but rarely documented aspects of ecosystem service (ES) indicators: (1) their ‘position’ with respect to the ecosystem service cascade model, and (2) their ‘position’ in geographical space, i.e. whether the maps are ‘anchored’ at the locations of their supply or their demand.

From the 82 papers reviewed we found 427 ES indicators, which represented 33 ES. Among these indicators there were 108 (25%) that were mapped. ES are quite different in terms of their relationship with the main conceptual model of ES assessment studies. Most ES are typically measured at a specific point in the cascade, which is more or less the same across the different studies. While some ES (including most of the regulating ES, e.g. bio-remediation, hydrological cycle maintenance, or soil fertility) can clearly be linked to the ‘natural’ endpoint of the cascade, some others (including all cultural and some provisioning ES, like cultivated crops, or wild animals) are more frequently measured as actual flows or benefits delivered to humanity. There are few ES that are markedly heterogeneous in their cascade levels (e.g. water provision, pest control) for which apparently different assessment approaches exist.

Considering spatial anchor, we have found that mapping at the source predominates in ES mapping studies: 91% of the mapped indicators are clearly linked to the source ecosystems. There were relatively few studies that applied a mixed approach, whereas indicators clearly anchored at beneficiaries were extremely rare.

These two aspects of ES indicators discussed in this paper are critical in the successful operationalization and standardization of MAES assessments, which have been neglected in the MAES literature so far, which might be seen as key components in the future standardization of mapping and assessment approaches.

For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1470160X2030666X

July 2020

Field work

Kiskunság Wild Flower Fields Experiment - 1st pan-trap field work (20-24 July 2020)

To sample pollinators in the heterogeneous landscapes of the Kiskunság at 576 points distributed along a grid on a total of 2000 ha was a brilliant idea... in the office. To reach all these coordinates of the grid, irrespective where it is and how you get there, however, was a great adventure.

July 2020

New publication

Neutral effect of an invasive plant species with specialized flower structure on native pollinator communities

Invasive plants modify native plant communities with serious consequences on plant-pollinator interactions. Invasion by common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) threatens natural and agricultural habitats in Europe, with unknown effects on pollinators. Its special flower structure, habitat requirements and phenology offer novel insights into pollination ecology aspects of plant invasion. We compared flowering plant and pollinator communities between invaded and control sites, and the flower visitors between native plants and common milkweed. Wild bees and hoverflies did not differ in abundance, diversity and community composition between the invaded and control sites. However, honey bees and bumble bees preferred milkweed above native plants during milkweed flowering. In contrast to many studies, our results suggest neutral effect of plant invasion on the sampled aspects of diurnal wild pollinator community, while providing resources for a few pollinator taxa. This neutral effect might be explained by the long-term, wide scale distribution of milkweed and/or its typically relatively low coverage compared to many other invasive plants, enabling the persistence of some native flowering species. However, its special flower structure offers nectar only for a few common pollinators, including honey bee, and it decreases abundance of native flowers in spring with unknown consequences on wild bees’ reproduction success. Despite the lack of direct negative effects on wild pollinators, restoration of invaded habitats to promote native floral communities is suggested to enable diverse, longer lasting foraging resources for wild pollinators and honey bees. Promoting actively wildflower habitats might be vital for beekeepers in the case of milkweed eradication.

For more details visit: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-020-02305-6

June 2020

New publication

Scale-dependent environmental filtering of ground-dwelling predators in winter wheat and adjacent set-aside areas in Hungary

Agricultural intensification may act as an environmental filter shaping invertebrate assemblages at multiple spatial scales. However, it is not fully understood which scale is the most influential. Therefore, we utilized a hierarchical approach to examine the effect of local management (inorganic fertilization and soil properties; within-field scale), habitat type (winter wheat field and set-aside field; between-field scale) and landscape complexity (landscape scale) on assemblage structure and functional diversity of two important groups of natural enemies, carabids and spiders, in a cultivated lowland landscape in Hungary. Environmental filtering affected natural enemies at different spatial scales; likely as a result of enemies’ different dispersal ability and sensitivity to fertilizer use. Carabids were strongly affected at the within-field scale: positively by soil pH, negatively by soil organic matter and fertilization. At the between-field scale, carabids had higher activity density in the set-aside fields than in the winter wheat fields and simple landscapes enhanced carabids diversity, species richness and activity density at the landscape scale. Spiders were more abundant and species-rich in the set-aside fields than in the winter wheat fields. Although highly mobile (macropterous) carabids might disperse to arable crops from greater distances, while spiders possibly depended more on the proximity of set-aside fields, the winter wheat fields (where pest control should be delivered) were utilized mostly by common agrobiont species. Increasing crop heterogeneity within arable fields could be a potential option to increase the diversity of carabids and spiders in the studied region.

For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-020-00249-9

June 2020

Congratulations

The EcoKarst project, completed with the active participation of our researchers, was nominated as a finalist of the European Natura 2000 Award, 2020 edition.

The Award is designed to reward excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites and showcase the added value of the network for local economies. The EcoKarst project addressed one of the main challenges in nature conservation, namely bridging the gap between the needs of biodiversity preservation and the improvement of the livelihoods of local populations. In order to do this, it brought together seven protected karst areas from across the Danube Region. Based on a participatory assessment of ecosystem services, it aimed to find ways of generating and supporting new business opportunities ('pro-biodiversity businesses'), which are in keeping with the extremely fragile karstic Natura 2000 habitats.

Out of the finalists, a high-level jury will chose 5 winners. You can also vote for the project and help us receive the “European Citizens’ Award”!

May 2020

Congratulations to

András Báldi

His paper in Global Change Biology Bioenergy is among the top downloaded papers from 2018-2019.

May 2020

New task

András Báldi represents Hungary in BiodivERsA

András, our group leader, was appointed by the Agricultural ministry to represent Hungarian research needs in BiodivERsA, and its planned successor, Rescuing Biodiversity to Safeguard Life on Earth. This European Partnerships aims to align and integrate European R&I efforts in developing and upscaling solutions to stop biodiversity loss and guide actions to protect, restore and sustainably manage ecosystems and natural capital. It will help mainstreaming of biodiversity and it represents an important contribution to a new deal for nature and people. (15 May 2020)

May 2020

New publication

The Role of Water Sciences in Sustainability

Water, especially fresh water, is the basis of life on Earth and one of our most important natural resources. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include the sustainable use of water aiming to maintain good/healthy water conditions for the future generations. The situation is made even more difficult by a number of social and environmental challenges. In the Carpathian Basin these are the overall rise of temperature, the heat extremes, and the transboundary nature of river basins. An interdisciplinary and holistic approach is required to achieve sustainable water management. The purpose of the Hungarian Water Science Programme of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences is to provide the scientific background and research evidence, so a multi-source program has been developed using an approach novel to Hungarian water sciences. The Program identified the knowledge gaps where scientific approaches and modern technical solutions could be used to prepare for extreme situations, to achieve sustainable water management and to preserve and improve water quality, and aquatic ecosystems. The Program also provides the scientific basis for the effective implementation of the National Water Strategy. The first issue focuses on drinking water, and is the subject of the ‘Clean Drinking Water: A Multidisciplinary Evaluation of Safe Supply from Source to Consumers’ project. In this study, the quality of water in the Danube and drinking water obtained from riverbank filtration wells as well as the factors influencing them are examined by research institutes, universities and practitioners. The meeting of science and innovation with basic societal expectations highlights other key issues for research as novel pollutants, like drug residues and microplastics; the ecological balance of large lakes, especially Lake Balaton; irrigation; and the potential use of smart devices to support sustainability.

For more details visit: https://mersz.hu/hivatkozas/matud_f41574#matud_f41574

May 2020

New publication

Are all butterflies equal? Population-wise proboscis length variation predicts flower choice in a butterfly

Intraspecific morphological variation fundamentally influences individual resource exploitation. In plant–pollinator systems, variation in floral morphologies and pollinator mouthparts may affect pollinators' resource use. This relationship has frequently been studied across species, but hardly ever at the intraspecific level in natural circumstances. We studied flower visits of clouded Apollo butterflies, Parnassius mnemosyne. (1) We investigated whether proboscis (mouthpart) length variability influenced individual nectar plant choice within a single population. We hypothesized that flower depths would constrain butterflies’ flower visits via their proboscis lengths. (2) We studied whether individual proboscis length constrained feeding on the sticky catchfly, Silene viscaria, a species with ample nectar and the deepest corolla among the plants visited. We hypothesized that individuals observed visiting S. viscaria had longer proboscides than those not observed on this nectar source. We captured clouded Apollos, then measured proboscis length. We surveyed the population daily, identified marked individuals and recorded feeding on nectar plant species. We compared proboscis length to the flower depth of the six most-visited nectar plants and investigated whether individual visits on flowering plants were related to proboscis length. We found large intrapopulation variation in proboscis length, and high intra- and interspecific variation in flower depth of the six nectar plants. Flower depth of S. viscaria largely overlapped with proboscis length, while the other five plants had shorter flowers. Individuals with longer proboscides visited S. viscaria flowers more often than those with short proboscides. These results indicate the importance of morphological variation in the interaction between plants and pollinators. We provide the first evidence that individual variation in mouthpart length affects lepidopteran foraging in natural circumstances. We suggest that interactions between species in plant–pollinator systems are partially based on individually different continuous traits, rather than on well-defined discrete traits of different taxa as implied by the pollination syndrome hypothesis.

For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2020.03.008

May 2020

New publication

Do biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments inform stakeholders how to simultaneously conserve biodiversity and increase ecosystem service provisioning in grasslands?

Two key stakeholders primarily important for nature conservation are farmers (and their lobby groups) and conservationists. Both have substantial inputs into environmental strategies and policies calling for biodiversity conservation aimed to directly increase ecosystem services. The scientific literature concurs that as biological diversity increases so do ecosystem functions and services in grasslands. While the evidence for this is strong, the majority comes from controlled small-scale biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) experiments. Thus, it is unclear whether the scientific basis for implementing BEF relationships into practice is sufficiently evidenced. Here we explore the applicability of findings from BEF experiments to the conservation and management of temperate grassland, a widespread and potentially highly biodiverse habitat. While we acknowledge that BEF research can reveal insights into fundamental mechanisms, the saturation of biodiversity effects at low levels and unrealistic (management) treatments widely impede the applicability of these experimental results to permanent grasslands. Additionally, the integration of BEF research results into practice is considerably hampered by experimental studies not answering stakeholders' crucial questions, e.g. is there evidence of biodiversity conservation potentials? Thus, stakeholders do not have a strong evidence base for taking decisions for the addressed management goals, except intensive production in (species-poor) temporary grasslands. If BEF work is to inform stakeholders future research needs to overcome unrealistic management, missing stakeholder involvement and ineffective communication. A new generation of applied BEF experiments employing applied, multi-actor approaches is needed to facilitate the relevance of BEF research for nature conservation, agriculture and land management.

For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108552

March 2020

New publication

Mixed effects of ecological intensification on natural pest control providers: a short-term study for biotic homogenization in winter wheat fields

Agricultural intensification is one of the major drivers of biotic homogenization and has multiple levels ranging from within-field management intensity to landscape-scale simplification. The enhancement of invertebrate assemblages by establishing new, semi-natural habitats, such as set-aside fields can improve biological pest control in adjacent crops, and mitigate the adverse effect of biotic homogenization. In this study we aimed to examine the effects of ecological intensification in winter wheat fields in Hungary. We tested how pests and their natural enemies were affected at different spatial scales by landscape composition (proportion of semi-natural habitats in the surrounding matrix), configuration (presence of adjacent set-aside fields), and local field management practices, such as fertilizer (NPK) applications without applying insecticides. We demonstrated that at the local scale, decreased fertilizer usage had no direct effect either on pests or their natural enemies. Higher landscape complexity and adjacent semi-natural habitats seem to be the major drivers of decreasing aphid abundance, suggesting that these enhanced the predatory insect assemblages. Additionally, the high yield in plots with no adjacent set-aside fields suggests that intensive management can compensate for the lower yields on the extensive plots. Our results demonstrated that although complexity at the landscape scale was crucial for maintaining invertebrate assemblages, divergence in their response to pests and pathogens could also be explained by different dispersal abilities. Although the landscape attributes acted as dispersal filters in the organization of pest and pathogen assemblages in croplands, the presence of set-aside fields negatively influenced aphid abundance due to their between-field isolation effect.

For more details visit: https://peerj.com/articles/8746/

March 2020

New publication

Berries, greens, and medicinal herbs—mapping and assessing wild plants as an ecosystem service in Transylvania

Wild plants for food and medicine

Wild edible plants as well as medicinal herbs are still widely used natural resources in Eastern Europe. Several members of the Lendulet ES group assessed the potential of different ecosystems to provide wild plants for food and medicinal use. We estimated the actual use of wild plants based on statistical data, and analyzed motivation of local people to collect wild plants with the help of questionnaires.

Broad-leaved forests and wetlands were assessed to be best for providing wild edible plants, while for medicinal herbs, orchards were rated best. We could find a multitude of motivations for gathering that could be grouped along four main lines corresponding to major dimensions of well-being (health, habit/tradition, nutrition/income, pleasure/emotional). Health reasons dominated the range.

Our case study - published in a D1 journal - provides an example on the importance of wild plants for locals from several points of view. Local stakeholder views need to be included in decision-making and ecosystem management, which can be achieved by the presented workflow for mapping and assessment of ecosystem services.

For more details visit: https://ethnobiomed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13002-020-0360-x


February 2020

New publication

Seed transfer zones based on environmental variables better reflect variability in vegetation than administrative units: evidence from Hungary

Ecological restoration is an increasingly important public issue as there are growing concerns about land degradation. In order to preserve the natural genetic pattern of species and to avoid the introduction of non-adapted ecotypes during restoration, seed transfer should be spatially restricted. However, instead of applying administrative borders in the absence of species-specific empirical data, biogeographical knowledge can be used as a proxy.

The aims of the study were (1) to produce an evidence-based seed transfer zone map applying a Multiple Potential Natural Vegetation model; (2) to assess the uncertainty of the resulting seed transfer zone map; (3) to compare the present seed transfer regulation based on administrative regions with the evidence-based seed transfer zone map.

Uncertainty analyses were used to provide a numerical comparison between the two approaches and the results demonstrated the inadequacy of defining administrative regions as seed transfer zones. The practical result of the study is the production of an evidence-based seed transfer zone map that could replace the administrative map currently used for regulation in Hungary.

For more details visit: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/rec.13150

February 2020

New publication

A critical analysis of the potential for EU Common Agricultural Policy measures to support wild pollinators on farmland

  1. Agricultural intensification and associated loss of high‐quality habitats are key drivers of insect pollinator declines. With the aim of decreasing the environmental impact of agriculture, the 2014 EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) defined a set of habitat and landscape features (Ecological Focus Areas: EFAs) farmers could select from as a requirement to receive basic farm payments. To inform the post‐2020 CAP, we performed a European‐scale evaluation to determine how different EFA options vary in their potential to support insect pollinators under standard and pollinator‐friendly management, as well as the extent of farmer uptake.

  2. A structured Delphi elicitation process engaged 22 experts from 18 European countries to evaluate EFAs options. By considering life cycle requirements of key pollinating taxa (i.e. bumble bees, solitary bees and hoverflies), each option was evaluated for its potential to provide forage, bee nesting sites and hoverfly larval resources.

  3. EFA options varied substantially in the resources they were perceived to provide and their effectiveness varied geographically and temporally. For example, field margins provide relatively good forage throughout the season in Southern and Eastern Europe but lacked early‐season forage in Northern and Western Europe. Under standard management, no single EFA option achieved high scores across resource categories and a scarcity of late season forage was perceived.

  4. Experts identified substantial opportunities to improve habitat quality by adopting pollinator‐friendly management. Improving management alone was, however, unlikely to ensure that all pollinator resource requirements were met. Our analyses suggest that a combination of poor management, differences in the inherent pollinator habitat quality and uptake bias towards catch crops and nitrogen‐fixing crops severely limit the potential of EFAs to support pollinators in European agricultural landscapes.

  5. Policy Implications. To conserve pollinators and help protect pollination services, our expert elicitation highlights the need to create a variety of interconnected, well‐managed habitats that complement each other in the resources they offer. To achieve this the Common Agricultural Policy post‐2020 should take a holistic view to implementation that integrates the different delivery vehicles aimed at protecting biodiversity (e.g. enhanced conditionality, eco‐schemes and agri‐environment and climate measures). To improve habitat quality we recommend an effective monitoring framework with target‐orientated indicators and to facilitate the spatial targeting of options collaboration between land managers should be incentivised.

For more details visit: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1365-2664.13572

February 2020

New publication

The IPBES Global Assessment: Pathways to Action

The IPBES Global Assessment released in the spring of 2019 is a significant milestone for the international scientific community; the critical challenge now is to disseminate and apply its findings at national and local scales where most policy and management decisions affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services are made.

Effective, enduring action from assessments requires collaborative, multidisciplinary science-policy processes that frame and cogenerate knowledge with decision makers and stakeholders from many sectors.

Examples of assessments driving policy responses to recover biodiversity and ecosystem services highlight the need for significant, long-term commitments by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, civil society, and the scientific community.

For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169534720300112?via%3Dihub

February 2020

New publication

Evaluation of Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) through the ‘pollinators’ eyes’

Now 22 experts from 18 European countries, including Anikó Kovács-Hostyánszki from the Lendület ES group aimed to evaluate EFAs options by a structured Delphi elicitation process to inform the post-2020 CAP, how different EFA options vary in their potential to support insect pollinators under standard and pollinator-friendly management. Life cycle requirements of key pollinating taxa (i.e. bumble bees, solitary bees and hoverflies), such as flower resources, bee nesting sites and hoverfly larval resources were considered.

The results suggest that EFAs are failing to provide all the resources insect pollinators require, therefore the CAP post-2020 should ensure such measurements that provide the variety of interconnected, well-managed habitats that complement each other in the resources they offer. The authors identified substantial opportunities to improve the quality of agri-environmental habitats by implementing pollinator-friendly management practices.

For more details visit: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.13572