Ecosystem functions and services
Several ecosystem functions provide essential services for people. Our team is especially interested in pollination, biological control, soil fertility, and drug production by medical plants, all are supporting key needs of the society, like food security.
We study the effects of land-use, agricultural management and invasive plant species on managed and wild pollinators, including especially wild bees and hoverflies in Hungarian and Romanian areas. Our research includes field surveys and experiments in arable fields, semi-natural grasslands and orchards, analyses of plant-pollinator networks and study of pollinator behaviour. We also focus on the status and trends of beepastures within Hungary from the beekeepers perspective. In 2020 we established the Kiskunság Wildflower Fields Experiment in 16 landscape windows with newly established native flower fields with a special focus on the landscape scale enhancement of pollinator communities.
Several herbivores are considered as major pests of agricultural and forestry production systems. Our group studied the possibility of caterpillar control in temperate forests using birds as biocontrol agents. We applied dummy caterpillars to measure predation rate in different forests. Another field of our interest is on biocontrol potential in agricultural systems, and measured aphid abundance and their control in wheat fields. The Kiskunság Wildflower Fields Experiment will provide a great opportunity to see how diverse wild plant fields can contribute to increased pest control in nearby areas.
DECOMPOSITION AND SOIL RESPIRATION
Decomposition in soil is an essential ecosystem function. We are interested in how invasive plants influence decomposition processes in the soil, and how dung of different livestocks are decomposed by dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae, Aphodiinae, Geotrupidae). We investigate which factors regulate the assemblages of dung beetles.
A field experiment was established in 2019 to manipulate permanent grassland productivity and biodiversity. In the Kiskunság Oldfields Overseeding Experiment we used a seed mixture of native local plants, mainly Leguminosae (legumes) to improve soil properties via N fixation, thus contributing to higher production. This should be beneficial for biodiversity and for farmers. We monitor its development via measuring soil respiration, which informs us on biological activity of soil organisms.
Ecosystems provide a large variety of services and goods for the society, including plant drugs of medical herbs. These are widely used in health, cosmetics and food industry, but rarely considered within the ecosystem services framework. We are highlighting these knowledge gaps, and conducted mesocosm experiments to link plant drug production with below ground processes.