News & Events
Uninvited guests, successful conquerors
Problems of biological invasion and possible solutions
An event of "The Garden on the Cube", a joint awareness-raising program series of the Centre for Ecological Research and the National Botanic Garden, was organized in Vácrátót last Saturday. The programs focused on the problems of biological invasion and their possible solutions.
Several group members participated as moderators and organizers in children's activities and interactive scientific programs. Our group, in collaboration with the Landscape and Conservation Ecology group, presented an interactive simulation game about the relationship between the sizes of flowers and the tongue of pollinators, as well the strong impact of invasion on the plant-pollinator systems.
The emergence and spread of alien species in Hungary are a source of numerous ecological, economic, and social conflicts. In many cases, invasive species can invade and rapidly transform native ecosystems. The evening talk explored the evolvement of problems caused by invasive species and their management options through various examples including invertebrates, game birds, mammals, and different plant species.
For more information in Hungarian, click here.
Fluctuations and trends in spatio-temporal patterns of plant species and diversity in a sandy pasture
The relative importance of species within an ecosystem shows spatio-temporal variability related to both the terrain features and numerous rapidly changing factors. Accordingly, functional and species patterns may show some level of persistence, or, due to various disturbances, fluctuations. Communities with high species richness were found to maintain a higher degree of stability than species-poor or perturbed vegetations, however, diversity and its stability may be spatio-temporally variable. Based on these considerations, our aim was to assess the responses of a sandy pasture, both species-wise and at the community-level, to the relatively invariant habitat, and to the more rapidly changing environmental conditions.
Terrain features of the study area within less than 1.5 m elevation differences created considerably heterogeneous conditions for a high number (114) of plant species with different ecological needs to co-occur. The stability of the diversity was found to show terrain-relatedness, that is spatial, as well as temporal patterns compared to the null model of spaito-temporal independence, and the ecosystem functions followed these patterns.
For more information visit: https://doi.org/10.1111/jvs.13190
One-day excursion to Pap-hegy (Szokolya)
On a one-day trip, we discovered some of the less-known trails of the Börzsöny Mountains in Northern Hungary. The early spring aspect of the forest gave a perfect background to our informal meeting. Current group issues, as well as personal experiences, were brought up in a lively discussion. Our mosquito expert was eager to collect samples from small ponds and puddles. It was a nice and easy hike with beautiful weather and good company.
The role of non-English-language science in informing national biodiversity assessments
Consulting the best available evidence is key to successful conservation decision-making. While much scientific evidence on conservation continues to be published in non-English languages, a poor understanding of how non-English-language science contributes to conservation decision-making is causing global assessments and studies to practically ignore non-English-language literature. By investigating the use of scientific literature in biodiversity assessment reports across 37 countries/territories, we have uncovered the established role of non-English-language literature as a major source of information locally. On average, non-English-language literature constituted 65% of the references cited, and these were recognized as relevant knowledge sources by 75% of report authors. This means that by ignoring non-English-language science, international assessments may overlook important information on local and/or regional biodiversity. Furthermore, a quarter of the authors acknowledged the struggles of understanding English-language literature. This points to the need to aid the use of English-language literature in domestic decision-making, for example, by providing non-English-language abstracts or improving and/or implementing machine translation. (This abstract is also avaialble in 21 other languages in Supplementary Data 4).
For more information visit: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-023-01087-8
Escape from the garden: spreading, effects and traits of a new risky invasive ornamental plant (Gaillardia aristata Pursch)
Ornamental plants constitute a major source of invasive species. Gaillardia aristata (great blanketflower) is planted worldwide and its escape has been reported in several European countries without ecological impact assessment on the invasive potential. As there is a markedly spreading population with invasive behaviour in Hungary, we aimed to reveal the distribution, impacts and traits of G. aristata. We gathered occurrence data outside the gardens in Hungary, based on literature, unpublished observations by experts and our own records. We investigated the impacts of an extended population, where the species invaded sandy old-fields within a 25 km2 area. Here, we compared the species richness, diversity, community composition and height of invaded and uninvaded vegetation. Furthermore, we evaluated the traits potentially associated with the invasiveness of G. aristata in comparison with other herbaceous invasive species in the region. We found that G. aristata occurred mostly by casual escapes, but naturalised and invasive populations were also detected in considerable numbers. G. aristata usually appeared close to gardens and ruderal habitats, but also in semi-natural and natural grasslands and tended to spread better in sandy soils. We found lower plant species richness and Shannon diversity in the invaded sites and the invasion of G. aristata significantly influenced the composition of the plant community. The trait analyses revealed that the invasive potential of G. aristata is backed by a wide germination niche breadth, extremely long flowering period, small shoot-root ratio (large absorption and gripping surface), large seeds (longer persistence) and dispersal by epizoochory of grazing livestock (mostly by sheep), probably helping the species’ survival and spreading in the disturbed, species-poor, sandy, open habitats. These functional traits, as well as the ornamental utilisation, may act together with the aridisation of the climate and the changing land-use practices (e.g. abandoned, disturbed sites) in the success of G. aristata. We raise awareness of the rapid transition of G. aristata from ornamental plant to casual alien and then to invasive species in certain environmental conditions (i.e. sandy soils, species-poor communities, human disturbances), although it seems to be not a strong ecosystem transformer so far. Nonetheless, banning it from seed mixtures, developing eradication strategy and long-term monitoring of this species would be important to halt its spreading in time.
For more information visit: https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.83.97325
Trait-based effects of plant invasion on floral resources, hoverflies and beas
Plant invasions can lead to homogeneous communities with decreased functional diversity. However, invasive plants, with various morphological and phenological traits, may drive pollinator communities in a less predictable, more complex way. They can promote pollinators compatible with their floral traits, while leaving others without foraging resources. Our observational study on 10 invasive herbaceous species applied a trait-based approach to investigate plant invasion-driven changes in floral resources, hoverfly and bee communities. We sampled invaded and non-invaded (control) sites before and during the flowering of the invasive plants. We analysed the differences in floral traits between invasive and native plants, functional diversity and trait distributions of flower and pollinator communities between the invaded and control sites. Five invasive plant species differed from natives in floral traits. Plant invasion caused species-specific changes in functional diversity and trait distributions of communities. For instance, invaded sites had a decreased functional diversity of hoverflies before flowering of invasive species, and larger hoverflies during flowering of invasive species compared with control sites. Smaller bees were associated with invasive plants with shallow flowers, while larger and long-tongued bees were associated with two invasive species with restricted floral access. Similar to previous studies, pollinator traits showed mixed or neutral responses to plant invasion. This is probably due to the high integration capability of invasive plants into plant-pollinator systems, or limitations in sampling, trait resolution, and unrevealed environmental factors. We provide recommendations for future studies to better understand the trait-based community composition of flowering plants and pollinators.
For more information visit: https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12640
No consistencies in abundance-impact relationthips across herbaceous invasive species and ecological impact metrics
The general shape (from linear to complex curve), direction (negative and positive) and strength (steepness of the slope) of abundance–impact relationships for different impact metrics are poorly known, despite their importance in understanding and predicting ecological repercussions of invasive species. It is also an open question how the functional traits of invasive species may influence the abundance–impact relationship.
We studied 11 widespread herbaceous invasive alien species of East-Central Europe and their 16 impact metrics (resident plant communities' ecological characteristics, trait composition, functional diversity and soil parameters) by sampling invaded and similar, uninvaded sites (space-for-time substitution method). Our aim was to (1) investigate the detailed ecological impacts of invasive plants on native plant communities; (2) explore the type of cover–impact relationships across impact metrics and their consistency across species and (3) study whether the cover–impact relationship depends on functional traits of invasive species.
When considering all invasive species together, we found that invaded plant communities were less species rich and less functionally even but showed higher values of Rao's Q diversity index, and higher nitrogen, phosphorus and organic carbon soil nutrient content compared to uninvaded communities. However, the species-wise analyses revealed strikingly different impacts among the 11 invasive species and also among impact metrics.
Regarding the type of cover–impact relationships, we found no consistencies across invasive species and impact metrics. Still, nonlinear relationships prevailed when species were analysed together and linear relationships when species were studied individually. The functional traits of the invasive species explained only a small part of this response heterogeneity; mostly, the small-seeded perennial invasive species affected the cover–species richness relationship.
Synthesis: Herbaceous invasive plant species have a cover-dependent impact on resident plant communities, but there are no consistent patterns across impact metrics and invasive species. Specific traits or trait syndrome of invasive species may affect the heterogeneity of cover–impact relationships, but that would need further study. We highlighted the importance of impact assessments involving invasive species' abundance to unmask cryptic impacts for species that show contrasting effects along an abundance gradient.
For more information visit: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.14085
András Báldi was elected Head of the Section of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology of Academia Europaea
András Báldi, research professor of the Centre for Ecological Research and a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, has been elected Head of the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Section of the Life Sciences Division of the Academia Europaea, a leading European research community.
Founded in 1988, the Academia Europaea (AE) (European Academy of Sciences) has around 5,000 members, including 83 Nobel laureates. The AE’s objectives include promoting and disseminating the results of European research, fostering interdisciplinary and international research cooperation, and raising public awareness of scientific results.
“The Academia Europaea resembles the academies of the old days, the “learned societies”. It has a staff of just a few people, so every activity initiated and carried out by its members. A series of seminars, conferences and peer-reviewed papers are indicative of this. The Section of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology is one of the smallest, with 139 members. However, it has a total of eight distinguished Hungarian members from several institutions in the country” – told András Báldi to mta.hu.
András Báldi’s term of office is three years from 1 January 2023. He said that his election was partly due to his experience in leading international societies and partly to the fact that has practice in mediating between science and policy. The latter is also important because one of the main objectives of the section is to provide useful advice to EU decision-makers.
“To this end, my aim is to complement the membership by involving European leaders in highlighted research field,” he said. “In addition to professional excellence, we also take into account the need to strike the right balance between gender, countries and disciplines. In other words, it is not mechanistically the science metrics that matter, but whether the candidate excels in their particular situation.”
András Báldi said there is a sense that climate change and the crisis of biodiversity loss are increasing the weight of ecology, both in scientific research and in international scientific organisations.
He cited as an example the fact that the Global Risks report for the World Economic Forum in Davos included climate change and biodiversity loss among the six environmental problems that are estimated to be the greatest threats over the next 10 years. “A working group on environmental sustainability has also been set up within Academia Europaea.”
Our paper, "Serious mismatches continue between science and policy in forest bioenergy," was one of the top 10 most downloaded articles published in 2022.
GCB Bioenergy grows rapidly since the journal’s inception in 2009 and already competes at the level of more mature, established journals. The quality of submitted manuscripts is clearly evident in the ISI Journal Citation Reports for GCB Bioenergy. GCB Bioenergy’s 2021 Impact Factor is now 5.957. Our ISI ranking is 9/90 in Agronomy and 48/119 in Energy & fuels. GCB Bioenergy accepts Editorial Commentaries and Letters to the Editor in addition to Research Articles, Legislative Issues and Policy Developments, Reports, Technical Advances, Platforms, and Policy Commentaries.
The amazing world of pollinators living around us
Anikó gave a presentation (in Hungarian) about pollinators and the results of our monitoring study on bee pastures in the Hegyvidék Municipality.
For more information visit: A körülöttünk élő beporzók varázslatos világa
2022 év végén megjelent az Özönállatfajok Magyarországon című kötete a Rosalia kézikönyvek sorozat ötödik tagjaként.
A kiadványban 118 olyan idegenhonos inváziós állatfaj kerül bemutatásra, amelyek Európában már megtelepedtek és hazánkban is előfordulnak, illetve előfordulásuk potenciálisan várható. Az állatok beazonosíthatóságát fajonként legalább egy fénykép is segíti, amelyen jól látszanak a határozó bélyegek. Az egyes fajoknál tárgyalásra kerül mikor jelent meg (vagy várható a megjelenése ) a faj hazánkban, hol tart az inváziója (jelenlegi elterjedési térkép), mik az ökológiai igényei, milyen problémákat okoz vagy okozhat (gazdasági hatásai) valamint védekezési módszerekre is javaslatot ad.
For more information visit: https://www.dunaipoly.hu/uploads/2023-01/20230109120818-ozonallatfajok-magyarorszagon-magyar-oldalankent-1-o89cr9hf.pdf?1.22.3
Non-native tree plantations are weak substitutes for near-natural forests regarding plant diversity and ecological value
Tree plantations are regarded as simplified and species-poor ecosystems, but their functional and phylogenetic diversity and ecological value are still mostly unknown. In the present study, we investigated near-natural poplar forests and the three most common tree plantation types (native deciduous Populus alba, non-native evergreen Pinus nigra, and non-native deciduous Robinia pseudoacacia plantations) in the Kiskunság Sand Ridge, central Hungary. Based on naturalness indicator values, near-natural forests were the least degraded and Robinia plantations were the most degraded. Near-natural forests contained the most species of high conservation importance. Overall, near-natural forests proved to be much more valuable from an ecological and conservation perspective than any of the studied plantations; conservation and restoration programs should therefore focus on this type of habitat. Among the plantations, Populus alba plantations are the best substitute option in most respects, although they harbored a relatively high number of non-native species.
For more information visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112723000221
National Programme for Sustainable Development and Technologies
The national research programmes initiated by the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, supported by the governing bodies of the Academy, and approved by the Government operate in areas of national strategic importance for Hungarian society, economy and culture.
One of the three programmes is the National Programme for Sustainable Development and Technologies. The Centre for Ecological Research (CER) is the consortium leader of the Sustainable Technologies Sub-programme (STSP). The sub-programme will operate in a fairly broad multidisciplinary field, from water sciences to agricultural sciences and from the development of new-generation environmental monitoring systems to energy. These areas can only be addressed by exploring and understanding their mutual and multi-layered interdependencies.
The Centre for Ecological Research's sustainability research covers many aspects of the diverse professional work related to the programme. The CER is involved in two sub-projects of the STSP.
For more information visit: https://ecolres.hu/elindult-az-mta-fenntarthato-fejlodes-es-technologiak-nemzeti-programja/
Phenotypic senescence in a natural insect population
Senescence seems to be universal in living organisms and plays a major role in lifehistory strategies. Phenotypic senescence, the decline of body condition and/or performance with age, is a largely understudied component of senescence in natural insect populations, although it would be important to understand how and why insects age under natural conditions. We aimed (i) to investigate how body mass and thorax width change with age in a natural population of the univoltine Clouded Apollo butterfly (Parnassius mnemosyne, Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) and (ii) to assess the relationship of this change with sex and wing length. We studied a population between 2014 and 2020 using mark-recapture during the whole flight period each year. Repeated measurements of body mass and thorax width and single measurements of wing length were performed on marked individuals. We analyzed body mass and thorax width change with age (days since marking), wing length, and the date of the first capture. Both body mass and thorax width declined nonlinearly with age. Individuals appearing earlier in the flight period had significantly higher initial body mass and thorax width and their body mass declined faster than later ones. Initial body sizes of females were higher, but males' body sizes decreased slower. Initial thorax width showed higher annual variation than body mass. To our best knowledge, this is the first study that revealed phenotypic senescence in a natural butterfly population, using in vivo measurements. We found sexual differences in the rate of phenotypic senescence. Despite the annual variation of initial body sizes, the rate of senescence did not vary considerably across the years.
For more information visit: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/ece3.9668
Assessment of some invasive alien beepasture species based on interviews with sectoral experts
The studied invasive alien plant species, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) and the two invasive goldenrod species: the Canadian (Solidago canadensis L.)and the giant goldenrod (Solidago gigantea Ait), are excellent honey producers, and the importance of black locust for the forestry is also significant. However, due to their invasive nature in Central-Europe, they can cause serious damage to nature conservation andin the case of herbaceous speciesto agriculture. In our research, we conducted interviews with representatives of the four main sectors concerned: nature conservation, beekeeping (apiary), forestry and agriculture at national policy level in 2020. The focus of the research was to explore the four sectors' conflicting points and potential for cooperation related to honey producing invasive plant species. Interview summaries were subjected to qualitative analysis. Our results show that the distribution and trends of the studied species are perceived by the sectors partly in a different way. The most marked conflict between certain sectors is related to black locust. For the conservation sector, black locust is one of the most damaging species, for beekeepers it is the most important honey plant species, and for forest managers it is valuable as wood product, but its invasive character is not recognizedby some forestry experts. The mass presence of the common milkweed and the invasive goldenrod species causes high cost for both conservation and agriculture, due to the requirements to control them and the possibility of exclusion from subsidies if they are not controlled. For beekeepers, the common milkweed is steadily losing importance it had a few decades ago, due to a significant reduction inits nectar production capacity as a result of the drought caused by climate change. The importance of the goldenrod lies in the need to feed bee colonies, as it is crucial to replenish their storage with natural pollen, and it is the last significant honey plant of the year. Feedback from sectoralexperts suggests that most legislation and subsidies for the species under review is designed to help eradication. However, there are some subsidies that are more conducive to spread. Invasive species are valued differently by the sectors concerned, due to their different interests, but it is encouraging that there is a willingness and example of cooperation. Exploring sectoral views can provide an excellent basis for cross-sectoral discussion and identifying possible solutions.
For more information visit: http://journal.ke.hu/index.php/tl/article/view/3447/3765
National Laboratory for Health Security
On 3 November, the establishment of the National Laboratory for Health Security was announced in Szeged, with the participation of 16 research and educational institutions, and currently a total of 110 excellent researchers from a wide range of fields. Its main objectives are the prediction, prevention and mathematical modelling of epidemics, the identification of ecological risks associated with pathogens and invasive species, and the analysis of digital data.
The National Laboratory for Health Security carries out its research and professional activities in 4 divisions: epidemiology, invasion biology, epidemiological ecology and data-driven health. Research is carried out under the leadership of the Centre for Ecological Research in the Division of Invasion Biology and Epidemiological Ecology.
An invasion - a sudden mass influx of a living organism into an area - can have a very negative, sometimes catastrophic, impact on native wildlife, destroying our most valuable animals and plants and destroying entire communities. Understanding the processes and drivers of invasion is therefore of paramount importance and will be the task of the Invasion Biology Division of the National Laboratory. In addition, invasive species can not only destroy nature, but can also degrade the quality of life of humans through the spread of new allergenic substances, for example, and reduce agricultural productivity.
The work of the National Laboratory of Epidemiological Ecology and the Invasion Biology Divisions are so closely linked that they will work together as a joint health security laboratory. But we must also rethink our understanding of health security to meet the challenges of the coming decades.
We retreated to Békésszentandrás for some work and teambuilding
Late November we spent three days in Békésszentandrás. We worked on the projects managed by the group, were informed about the personal progress of the group members and also divided the workload for next year.
Threats and benefits of invasive alien plant species on pollinators
Invasive alien plant species are usually disliked due to their high pressure on native communities. However, their ecological effects on pollinators are complex: some species provide abundant floral resources, boosting the number of pollinators, while they often disrupt plant-pollinator interactions by outcompeting native plants. Our direct knowledge is mainly based on single-species studies, while understanding the mechanism of these complex ecological interactions needs multi-species field-based approaches. It is also imperative to clarify the pros and cons of invasive plants and drivers of invasion from the perspective of pollinators. We conducted a standard protocol-driven regional study in Central and Eastern Europe, comparing 6-7 invaded and non-invaded sites of 12 herbaceous invasive plant species. We sampled floral resources, bees, and hoverflies before and during the flowering of the invasive plants. We analysed the effects of plant invasion at the invasive plant species level and in combined analyses, and tested whether the life span (perennial vs. annual) and flowering time (early-, middle-, and late-flowering) of invasive plants affect the abundance, species richness, diversity and species composition of native plants and pollinators. The combined analyses showed lower abundance and species richness of flowering plants and pollinators before, and higher abundance of both during the flowering of invasive plants in invaded sites. However, invasive plants had significant species-specific effects. Perennial invasive plants had a stronger negative impact on floral resources and pollinators already before their flowering compared to annuals. Flowering time of invasive plants affected the pollinator guilds differently. We suggest that in certain critical time periods of the year, invasive plants might provide the dominant foraging resources for pollinators in an invaded ecosystem. But, they also often cause significant losses in native floral resources over the year. Instead of simple eradication, careful preparation and consideration might be needed during removal of invasive plants.
For more information visit: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2022.07.003
New job for our colleague, Sándor in York, UK
From September Sanyi will be based in the Department of Biology at the University of York with Elva Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Ecology, in the coming year.
We wish him a lot of success.
New job for our colleague, Ágnes in Montreal, Canada
From August Ági is going to undertake research with Professor Elena Bennet and her ResNet team at McGill University, Canada in the next two years.
We wish her a lot of success.
Overcoming language barriers in academia: Machine translation tools and a vision for a multilingual future
Having a central scientific language remains crucial for advancing and globally sharing science. Nevertheless, maintaining one dominant language also creates barriers to accessing scientific careers and knowledge. From an interdisciplinary perspective, we describe how, when, and why to make scientific literature more readily available in multiple languages through the practice of translation. We broadly review the advantages and limitations of neural machine translation systems and propose that translation can serve as both a short- and a long-term solution for making science more resilient, accessible, globally representative, and impactful beyond the academy. We outline actions that individuals and institutions can take to support multilingual science and scientists, including structural changes that encourage and value translating scientific literature. In the long term, improvements to machine translation technologies and collective efforts to change academic norms can transform a monolingual scientific hub into a multilingual scientific network. Translations are available in the supplemental material.
For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biac062
Cultural ecosystem services in European grasslands: A systematic review of threats
The degradation of ecosystems threatens the provision of ecosystem services and limits human well-being. This systematic literature review evaluates the threats surrounding cultural ecosystem services (CES), namely recreation and landscape aesthetics in European permanent grasslands. We identified underlying causes, direct threats, consequences and suggested solutions for threat mitigation. The most common threats were land-use and management change processes, followed by social attitude, industrial developments and natural threats. However, recreational activities also created negative feedback, affecting the ecosystem, biodiversity and CES, most frequently in the form of various touristic activities. Suggested solutions were most commonly socio-economic and institutional measures to enhance rural communities, as well as improving communication with relevant stakeholders. CES play a crucial role in reconnecting people with nature, and their consequent acknowledgement and incorporation into future ecosystem service frameworks and agri-environmental policy developments are key elements in supporting future sustainable grassland management.
For more details visit: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13280-022-01755-7
Improving ecosystem services in farmlands: beginning of a long-term ecological study with restored flower-rich grasslands
Biodiversity declines in an unprecedented way, mostly due to land use change. Restoration interventions proved to be one of the most effective tools to halt the decline, especially in ecosystems such as agricultural fields. Evidence-based, locally adapted recommendations on grassland restoration, however, are often missing, so we present a novel approach for such interventions that can be implemented anywhere and that are based on scientific rigor. In a recently started long-term field ecological study, we established 0.5 ha wildflower parcels, using a diverse local seed mixture of 32 insect-visited plant species in Central European agricultural landscapes in 2020. Our focus is on the landscape-scale effects of this ecological intensification on ecosystem services such as crop yield, pollination and pest control, and the long-term monitoring of the successional processes. The aim is to showcase an effective restoration protocol that could serve as a model for future farm management, and provide much-needed evidence for policy on landscape ecological restoration of international relevance.
For more details visit: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/20964129.2022.2090449
Value transfer in economic valuation of ecosystem services - Some methodological challenges
The concept of ecosystem services (ESs) was developed to demonstrate the complexity of the goods and benefits to society derived from ecosystems, and which need to be taken into account in decisions related to environmental management, including land use planning and policy. The economic valuation of ESs is intended to assist decision-making processes by assessing the value of the ESs in monetary terms and including the values in cost-benefit analyses and ecosystem accounting. However, scientific debate about the ethical and methodological issues related to the economic valuation of ESs is still ongoing (Gomez-Baggethun and Martin-Lopez, 2015). In this commentary, we would like to raise some of the methodological issues in detail and also refer to the ethical aspects of economic valuation.
For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212041622000390?via%3Dihub
Video reportage of Climate and Biodiversity event of 28 March is now available on-line
András was an invited panelist at "THE CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITY NEXUS: INTERDEPENDENT CHALLENGES AND RESPONSES", organised by Brussels Dialogue on Climate Diplomacy, which is an informal network for the exchange of information and the promotion of cooperation among European institutions, international organisations, NGOs and think-tanks active in the nexus between climate change and international, national, human and environmental security.
IPBES Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Regional Assessment - Europe and Central Asia - Summary for Policymakers - Hungarian edition
After great efforts, the Hungarian edition of the Summary for Policymakers of the Regional Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Europe and Central Asia was finally published last week. The publication was supported by the ED_18-1-2018-0003 IPBES 2.0 project funded by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office. The booklet can be downloaded in electronic form. The printed version is also available at request in a limited number.
Assessing ecosystem condition at the national level in Hungary - indicators, approaches, challenges
The availability of robust and reliable spatial information on ecosystem condition is of increasing importance in informing conservation policy. Recent policy requirements have sparked a renewed interest in conceptual questions related to ecosystem condition and practical aspects like indicator selection, resulting in the emergence of conceptual frameworks, such as the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting - Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EA) and its Ecosystem Condition Typology (ECT). However, while such frameworks are essential to ensure that condition assessments are comprehensive and comparable, large-scale practical implementation often poses challenges that need to be tackled within stringent time and cost frames.
We present methods and experiences of the national-level mapping and assessment of ecosystem condition in Hungary. The assessments covered the whole country, including all major ecosystem types present. The methodology constitutes four approaches of quantifying and mapping condition, based on different interpretations of naturalness and hemeroby, complemented by two more using properties that ‘overarch’ ecosystem types, such as soil and landscape attributes. In order to highlight their strengths and drawbacks, as well as to help reconcile aspects of conceptual relevance with practical limitations, we retrospectively evaluated the six mapping approaches (and the resulting indicators) against the indicator selection criteria suggested in the SEEA-EA. The results show that the various approaches have different strengths and weaknesses and, thus, their joint application has a higher potential to address the specific challenges related to large-scale ecosystem condition mapping.
For more details visit: https://oneecosystem.pensoft.net/article/81543/
András Báldi has been elected as one of the new corresponding members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Out of one hundred and ten researchers on the joint list of academic candidates, the Assembly of Academicians elected the new full-time, correspondent, external and honorary members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, May 3rd. The new academics were also presented at the 195th General Assembly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences after the election.
For more details visit: https://mta.hu/kozgyules2022/bemutatjuk-a-magyar-tudomanyos-akademia-uj-tagjait-112124
The intensively raised goat and the organic cabbage – can we have our cake and eat it? New report on regenerative agriculture presented at MTA by the European Academies' Advisory Council
Agriculture is one of the most environmentally damaging of human activities, fundamentally changing the appearance and ecological structure of the landscape, including the composition of ecosystems, and is responsible for emitting huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Despite this, transforming agriculture is, believe it or not, a task even more difficult than industrial reform, as the importance of food production makes it virtually untouchable in the eyes of many, and current large-scale producers often see ecologists as adversaries rather than partners. Yet, according to the latest report of the European Acacemies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC) on regenerative agriculture, not only is ecologically sensitive agriculture not an enemy of food production but, due to climate change and environmental degradation, it will, in a few short decades, represent our only chance of being able to feed humanity. To explore the background of the report presented at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on Wednesday 6th of April, we interviewed two Hungarian members of the scientific community who were behind it – Orsolya Valkó and András Báldi.
For more details visit: https://mta.hu/english/the-intensively-raised-goat-and-the-organic-cabbage-can-we-have-our-cake-and-eat-it-new-report-on-regenerative-agriculture-presented-at-mta-by-the-scientific-advisory-board-of-the-european-academies-112084
Democratic directionality for transformative food systems research
Effective interfaces of knowledge and policy are critical for food system transformation. Here, an expert group assembled to explore research needs towards a safe and just food system put forward principles to guide relations between society, science, knowledge, policy and politics.
Transformations towards sustainable food systems are required as part of the pressing challenge to keep humanity within a safe and just operating space. Research and innovation policies are key to such transformations insofar as effectiveness and the legitimacy of policies are linked to the quality of the knowledge they use. Research and innovation have the power to drive knowledge production and its application to well-defined pathways with the narratives, priorities, rules, organizational patterns and financial resources that related policies provide. Towards this end, we argue that one key modality of engagement remains the science–policy interface. However, recent calls for new science–policy interfaces for food systems, as well as the integration of ‘stakeholders’ across the policy cycle, have raised important questions and concerns about the role of science and scientists, while illuminating some of the politics and power involved.
For more details visit: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-022-00479-x
SELINA (Science for Evidence-Based and Sustainable Decisions about Natural Capital)
The Horizon Europe Call for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Ecosystems and their Services for an Evidence-Based Policy and Decision-Making programme has awarded the SELINA (Science for Evidence-Based and Sustainable Decisions about Natural Capital) project for funding. The implementation of the project will start in June 2022 and will last for 5 years. Its main objective is to provide methodological support to EU Member States in implementing the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030. Through the supported programs, the European Commission aims to ensure that Member States integrate biodiversity and natural capital into their decision-making processes at all levels. This requires raising awareness of, and attitudes towards, biodiversity, ecosystems and the social and economic values they provide. The Commission also aimed to achieve the EU's objective of restoring damaged ecosystems and, in this context, to develop definitions, indicators and criteria for achieving or maintaining good ecosystem status. In this way, a deeper understanding of the state of ecosystems and the services they provide can be achieved at EU level, which can be reflected in future policy decisions that affect the state of the environment.
In line with these main objectives, SELINA has undertaken the following activities:
Detect and answer concrete questions on evidence-based decision-making from stakeholders from science, policy, business and the society;
Propose and develop indicators and quantification methods for BD, EC and ES to establish effective and traceable criteria of EC and restoration standards;
Assess how known pressures on ecosystems (i.e. land-use change, BD loss, pollution) interact with pressures of increasing importance (i.e. climate change and invasive species);
Identify opportunities for how to overcome barriers to effectively implement legislation and policies to reduce pressures and improve EC and sustainable supply of multiple ES;
Demonstrate through a process of iterative knowledge co-creation and integration, to efficiently inform private and public decision-making; and
Make the Project outcomes and knowledge generated available open access
The SELINA consortium consists of 45 partner organizations, involving all EU Member States and some international and non-EU partners. Hungary is represented by the Centre for Ecological Research.
For more details visit: https://www.obi.ecolres.hu/node/15920
Disentangling the ecosystem service ‘flood regulation’:
Mechanisms and relevant ecosystem condition characteristics
Riverine floods cause increasingly severe damages to human settlements and infrastructure. Ecosystems have a natural capacity to decrease both
severity and frequency of floods. Natural flood regulation processes along freshwaters can be attributed to two different mechanisms: flood prevention that takes place in the whole catchment and flood mitigation once the water has accumulated in the stream. These flood regulating
mechanisms are not consistently recognized in major ecosystem service (ES) classifications. For a balanced landscape management, it is important to assess the ES flood regulation so that it can account for the different processes at the relevant sites. We reviewed literature, classified them according to these mechanisms, and analysed the influencing ecosystem characteristics. For prevention, vegetation biomass and forest extent were predominant, while for mitigation, the available space for water was decisive. We add some aspects on assessing flood regulation as ES, and suggest also to include flood hazard into calculations.
For more details visit: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13280-022-01708-0
National condition assessment of Hungarian ecosystems (A hazai ökoszisztémák állapota)
A new book was published on the methods and results of the national condition assessment of Hungarian ecosystems, coordinated by one of our group members, carried out in the frames of the KEHOP-4.3.0.-VEKOP-15-2016-00001 project. The availability of robust and reliable spatial information on ecosystem condition (EC) is of increasing importance in informing conservation efforts. The work presented in the book aimed to work out and apply methods to map and assess the condition of the major ecosystem types (grasslands, wetlands, forests, arable lands, water bodies) at the national level. The book contains both analyses and maps, and it can be downloaded from http://termeszetem.hu/files/download/documents/document_img/131/?2022-02-03%2008:41:16 .
Permanent grasslands in Europe: Land use change and intensification decrease their multifunctionality
A systematic review on selected ecosystem services of European grasslands reveals the multifunctionality of meadows, pastures, heaths and wooded pastures, and highlights the effects of land use and management on their functions. Permanent grasslands cover 34% of the European Union’s agricultural area and are vital for a wide variety of
ecosystem services essential for our society. We examined the effects of land use and management on 19 grassland ecosystem service indicators. Based on the evidence in 696 out of 70,456 screened papers, published since 1980, we found that both land use change and intensification of management decreased multifunctionality. Especially, the conversion of permanent grasslands to croplands endangered multiple ecosystem services, while lower management intensity was associated with benefits for biodiversity, climate regulation and water purification, but impacted the provision of high-quality animal feed. Our review covered many aspects of land use, management and ecosystem services, but we also identified areas with no or only few studies. The most prominent gaps were related to comparisons between permanent and temporary grasslands, and effects of management practices on the provision of cultural values, and on erosion and flood control. We suggest that, despite apparent changes in human dietary preferences, the protection of permanent grasslands in Europe must be prioritised. At the same time, considering the need to reduce ruminant livestock’s contribution to climate change, the time seems ripe to increase support for low-intensity grassland management to optimise the provision of essential ecosystem services from Europe’s permanent grasslands.
For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167880922000408?dgcid=raven_sd_via_email
Does liming grasslands increase biomass productivity without causing detrimental impacts on net greenhouse gas emissions?
Soil liming may be an effective method to overcome acidification and its negative impacts on grass biomass production and the decreasing potential of grasslands to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In a global review on the impacts of liming on soil pH, grass biomass production and total net GHG exchange (nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and net carbon dioxide (CO2)), we collected 57 studies carried out at 88 sites and covering different countries and climatic zones. Though liming of grasslands can increase net CO2 emissions, the impact on total net GHG emission is minimal due to the much higher global warming potential of N2O and CH4 compared to that of CO2. Liming grassland moderately delivers many potential advantages, as it ameliorates soil acidity, increases grass productivity, reduces fertiliser requirement and increases species richness. To realise the maximum benefit of liming grassland, we suggest that acidic soils should be moderately limed within the context of specific climates, soils and management.
For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749122002135
First Hungarian record of a beetle species: a specimen of Ripiphorus subdipterus Bosc, 1792 (Ripiphoridae) was found by Laci Somay in the Kiskunság
The first records of Ripiphorus subdipterus Bosc, 1792 (Ripiphoridae) and Stenoria analis Schaum, 1859 (Meloidae) from Hungary are provided.
For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.17112/FoliaEntHung.2022.83.13
Sanyi Piross, who joined our group last year, gave a seminar at the institute about his PhD studies on avian lice.
Avian Lice (Phthiraptera: Amblycera, Ischnocera) are common, low pathogenic ectoparasites of birds. Their long coevolutionary history with their hosts make them worthy subjects for studying the ecology and evolution of parasitism. Our studies aimed to investigate how individual traits of falcons affect their louse load at different stages of their life. We collected ectoparasite samples from Common Kestrels in Hungary. We sampled Red-footed Falcon nestlings in two and adults in one breeding season. We sampled Amur Falcons in Nagaland, India, at major roosting sites. We found age-dependent and female-biased infestation patterns, as well as connections with brood size and breeding stage.
Read the full studies here:
Compiling a high-resolution country-level ecosystem map to support environmental policy: methodological challenges and solutions from Hungary
High-resolution ecosystem maps increase the efficiency of policy implementation. The paper presents solutions to some typical challenges of national-scale ecosystem mapping through the new Ecosystem Map of Hungary, a comprehensive, spatially and thematically detailed map with a hierarchical typology. The mapping methodology combined several novel elements from the integration of various large-scale databases in a (theoretical) data cube to the use of image-based predictive mapping (with a Random Forest classifier, using Sentinel-1 and -2 and environmental data). A participatory method was used for validation. Besides the original objective of supporting conservation-related decision-making, further uses merged from a variety of fields including spatial planning, education and recreation.
For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1080/10106049.2021.2005158
Application of Sentinel-1 radar data for mapping ice disturbance in a forested area
In 2014 a catastrophic ice storm occurred in the forests of Börzsöny Mts., Hungary. In this study the potential of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data was analyzed in the mapping of such events, complemented and compared with optical imagery. Great emphasis was put on using detailed reference data. Four classifications with different set-ups were carried out by applying the eXtreme Gradient Boosting method. Combinations of radar backscatter coefficients, polarimetric descriptors, interferometric coherence, and optical data variables were tested. All classifications were suitable for identifying uprooted trees properly (1–11% underestimation), but none of them could detect crown loss accurately (55–58% overestimation), based on the validation of the most damaged area.
For more details visit: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/22797254.2021.1982407
Selection criteria for ecosystem condition indicators
The UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) aims at regular and standardised stocktaking of the extent of ecosystems, their condition, and the services they provide to society. Recording the condition of ecosystems is one of the most complex pieces in this exercise and needs to be supported by consistent guidelines. SEEA EA defines the condition of an ecosystem as its overall quality, measured in terms of quantitative metrics describing its abiotic and biotic characteristics. One of the key challenges lies in identifying the most appropriate metrics for each ecosystem type that capture these essential characteristics.
The objective of this paper is to create a well-defined framework for transparent and operative development of ecosystem condition indicators, which can be used in ecosystem accounting and ecosystem assessment studies. Starting from the SEEA EA documentation and a small targeted systematic review, we identified 12 key criteria, which we grouped according to their roles during the indicator development process. Five conceptual criteria (intrinsic relevance, instrumental relevance, sensitivity, directional meaning, and framework conformity) outline the priorities for identifying relevant characteristics of the ecosystems. Five practical criteria (validity, reliability, availability, simplicity, and compatibility) provide guidance on identifying concrete quantitative metrics for the selected characteristics. Finally, two ensemble criteria (comprehensiveness, and parsimony) ensure the completeness and complementarity of the final set of metrics.
To tackle the climate and biodiversity crises, the condition of ecosystems needs to be better recognized in national economic planning. The proposed framework supports the selection of a concise set of salient and credible ecosystem condition indicators through a transparent, repeatable and scientific process. This can make the compilation of ecosystem condition accounts more accessible and more standardised on a global level, which is a key prerequisite for the success of SEEA EA. Additionally, the framework presented in this paper may be useful in other contexts where ecological, environmental, or sustainability indicators need to be identified.
For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1470160X21010414
Conservation biology research priorities for 2050: A Central-Eastern European perspective
One of the main goals of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 is to avoid further loss of biodiversity and to restore ecosystems. These efforts can be facilitated by compiling the main research topics related to conservation biology to provide new evidence for the most urgent knowledge gaps, and publicise it to researchers, research funders and policy makers. We used the possible future statements from the Hungarian Environmental Foresight Report for 2050 which identified region-specific problems. To highlight likely future environmental and conservation questions, in this study we asked researchers from the fields of ecology and conservation to define research questions addressing these future statements in line with international research trends and challenges. The study resulted in fourteen priority research topics, split into seven clusters relevant to biological conservation that should be targeted by stakeholders, primarily policy makers and funders to focus research capacity to these topics. The main overarching themes identified here include a wide range of approaches and solutions such as innovative technologies, involvement of local stakeholders and citizen scientists, legislation, and issues related to human health. These indicate that solutions to conservation challenges require a multidisciplinary approach in design and a multi-actor approach in implementation. Although the identified research priorities were listed for Hungary, they are in line with European and global biodiversity strategies, and can be tailored to suit other Central and Eastern European countries as well. We believe that our prioritisation can help science–policy discussion, and will eventually contribute to healthy and well-functioning ecosystems.
For more details visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320721004481
We retreated to the High Tatras, Slovakia to work and do some teambuilding activity.
In Mid-October we spent four days in the field station (Vychodna) of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. We worked on the projects managed by the group, were informed about the personal progress of the group members and also divided the workload for next year. On the last day the challenge was to hike to a 2000 m peak.
András Báldi was selected as one of the 10 Best Editors in 2021
To acknowledge his professional and responsible editorial services, he was selected as one of the 10 Best Editors in 2021. EHS is hoping to have his continuous support and contribution in the future.
Tapping into non-English-language science for the conservation of global biodiversity
The widely held assumption that any important scientific information would be available in English underlies the underuse of non-English-language science across disciplines. However, non-English-language science is expected to bring unique and valuable scientific information, especially in disciplines where the evidence is patchy, and for emergent issues where synthesising available evidence is an urgent challenge. Yet such contribution of non-English-language science to scientific communities and the application of science is rarely quantified. Here, we show that non-English-language studies provide crucial evidence for informing global biodiversity conservation. By screening 419,679 peer-reviewed papers in 16 languages, we identified 1,234 non-English-language studies providing evidence on the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation interventions, compared to 4,412 English-language studies identified with the same criteria. Relevant non-English-language studies are being published at an increasing rate in 6 out of the 12 languages where there were a sufficient number of relevant studies. Incorporating non-English-language studies can expand the geographical coverage (i.e., the number of 2° × 2° grid cells with relevant studies) of English-language evidence by 12% to 25%, especially in biodiverse regions, and taxonomic coverage (i.e., the number of species covered by the relevant studies) by 5% to 32%, although they do tend to be based on less robust study designs. Our results show that synthesising non-English-language studies is key to overcoming the widespread lack of local, context-dependent evidence and facilitating evidence-based conservation globally. We urge wider disciplines to rigorously reassess the untapped potential of non-English-language science in informing decisions to address other global challenges.
For more details visit: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3001296
New group member
We welcome Gabriella Süle as assisstant research fellow to our group.
I am interested in the forest-steppe vegetation, including connections between the microclimate, the environmental and fuctional variables and the vegetation structure. This topic is my PhD dissertation.
Recently I am working on Safeguard project.
We welcome Etienne Lantuejoul from Ostfalia University
As a student, I am currently enrolled at the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in Lower Saxony. During my 3-month internship, I help with the evaluation of national maps and gain as much experience as possible.
New group member
We welcome Tünde Kelemen as assisstant to our group.
New group member
We welcome Imre Demeter as junior researcher to our group. Happy paper writing!
I am interested in pollination. In the recent years I have researched competition between honey bees and wild bees, furthermore the effects of landscape context and anthropogenic effects on wild bees. My current research field is about pollinator community monitoring in Hungary and Romania.
The contribution of insects to global forest deadwood decomposition
The amount of carbon stored in deadwood is equivalent to about 8 per cent of the global forest carbon stocks1. The decomposition of deadwood is largely governed by climate2,3,4,5 with decomposer groups—such as microorganisms and insects—contributing to variations in the decomposition rates2,6,7. At the global scale, the contribution of insects to the decomposition of deadwood and carbon release remains poorly understood7. Here we present a field experiment of wood decomposition across 55 forest sites and 6 continents. We find that the deadwood decomposition rates increase with temperature, and the strongest temperature effect is found at high precipitation levels. Precipitation affects the decomposition rates negatively at low temperatures and positively at high temperatures. As a net effect—including the direct consumption by insects and indirect effects through interactions with microorganisms—insects accelerate the decomposition in tropical forests (3.9% median mass loss per year). In temperate and boreal forests, we find weak positive and negative effects with a median mass loss of 0.9 per cent and −0.1 per cent per year, respectively. Furthermore, we apply the experimentally derived decomposition function to a global map of deadwood carbon synthesized from empirical and remote-sensing data, obtaining an estimate of 10.9 ± 3.2 petagram of carbon per year released from deadwood globally, with 93 per cent originating from tropical forests. Globally, the net effect of insects may account for 29 per cent of the carbon flux from deadwood, which suggests a functional importance of insects in the decomposition of deadwood and the carbon cycle.
For more details visit: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03740-8
András won the award of the Hungarian Ecological Society. The photo features (from the right) Erzsébet Hornung the past president, Zoltán Botta-Dukát the vice-president, Peter Ódor the current president of HES and the award winner at the Hungarian Ecological Congress.
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.
The role of politics in the life of a conservation incentive: An analysis of agri-environment schemes in Hungary
State-financed financial incentives are an increasingly popular tool for conservation on private lands. From policy and conservation perspectives, questions remain around the sustainability and longevity of behavioural changes associated with undertaking conservation work in exchange for payment. Further under-examined factors include inquiry into the role of the state as regulating agency, primary negotiator and enforcer, and how its politics and street-level relations influence participation. During 2015–6 a unique opportunity arose to investigate these issues as the Hungarian government unexpectedly cancelled its national agri-environmental programme to farmers. Through agricultural land use data, interviews and surveys (n = 260), we analysed the consequences of the cancellation of cash payments on i) land use change, ii) farmers' maintenance of conservation activities and iii) farmers' relations with conservation actors. We demonstrate that withdrawal of conservation payments resulted in farmers cropping more intensively, with consequences for conservation agencies' relationships with farmers. Many farmers maintained a number of individual conservation rules despite not receiving payment. Measures associated with highest financial burdens and least apparent benefits were most likely to be broken, and several socio-ecological factors, including land use type (grassland or arable), farm size, and additional legal obligations (other subsidies and land leases) influenced farmers who desisted with specific conservation rules. Adherence arose from technological lock-in, perceived surveillance by state agencies, fear of retrospective sanction, and intention to re-apply. The Hungarian context underscores the relevance of accounting for the ways in which multi-level politics influence farmer-public agency relations in the day-to-day management of conservation incentive schemes.
For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109172
New group member
We welcome Sándor Piross as junior researcher to our group. Happy paper writing!
Community assembly in grassland ecosystems: We study how local and landscape-scale effects govern community assembly and how we can improve ecosystem services and local conservation measures.
Topology and dynamics of biological networks: In the Centre for Ecological Research, We investigated how well simple analyses can identify key species and important direct and indirect interactions.
Ecology and evolution of avian lice: In collaboration with the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, we investigated the ecology and evolution of bird lice. We focused on vertical transmission and the evolution of louse body size and sexual size dimorphism.
Conservation biology and ecology of Red-footed Falcons: In collaboration with BirdLife Hungary, we investigated a wide range of topics concerning the ecology and conservation of Red-footed Falcons (Falco vespertinus).
Freshwater systems and ecosystem services: Challenges and chances for cross-fertilization of disciplines
Freshwater ecosystems are among the most threatened in the world, while providing numerous essential ecosystem services (ES) to humans. Despite their importance, research on freshwater ecosystem services is limited. Here, we examine how freshwater studies could help to advance ES research and vice versa. We summarize major knowledge gaps and suggest solutions focusing on science and policy in Europe. We found several features that are unique to freshwater ecosystems, but often disregarded in ES assessments. Insufficient transfer of knowledge towards stakeholders is also problematic. Knowledge transfer and implementation seems to be less effective towards South-east Europe. Focusing on the strengths of freshwater research regarding connectivity, across borders, involving multiple actors can help to improve ES research towards a more dynamic, landscape-level approach, which we believe can boost the implementation of the ES concept in freshwater policies. Bridging these gaps can contribute to achieve the ambitious targets of the EU’s Green Deal.
For more details visit: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-021-01556-4
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
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
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
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
He won the 2021 Tibor Jermy Award of the National Academy of Sciences.
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
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
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
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.
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
The effect of woody plant encroachment and wildfire on plant species richness and composition: Temporal changes in a forest-steppe mosaic
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?
Sand forest–steppe in Kiskunság, Central Hungary.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Nesting activity of cavity‐nesting bees and wasps is lower in small‐scale apple orchards compared to nearby semi‐natural habitats
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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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
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
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”!
His paper in Global Change Biology Bioenergy is among the top downloaded papers from 2018-2019.
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)
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
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
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
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/
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
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
A critical analysis of the potential for EU Common Agricultural Policy measures to support wild pollinators on farmland
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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