Conference abstracts

 

 

 

Talks and posters

 

of the

 

4th SCCS Europe

 

 

 

Tihany, Hungary

4 – 8 September 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Talks

 

 

Comparison of tree dwelling caterpillars populations between urban and forest habitats

Péter Bubla

University of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Ecology

Urbanization is claimed to be one of the biggest threats to biodiversity. Urban environment provides different conditions to living creatures, thus some species may go extinct in cities, whereas others may thrive. In our study, we attempted to compare the caterpillars of forests and urbanized areas from an ecological standpoint.

We collected larvae from trees of two forest and two urban habitats of Veszprém County, Hungary, from late spring to the start of summer in 2017. After creating a species list of the four sites, we compared the abundance and average sizes of caterpillars between the two habitat types. We also tried to find possible reasons to what makes certain species capable of living in urban areas by studying some of their ecological and life history traits.

Out of the total collected caterpillars less than 4% were from urban samples, and we found that there is no evidence of any difference in the average sizes of larvae between the two habitat types. There were roughly three times as many caterpillars in forests than cities, with only two of them not being found in forests. We also found a significant difference in the length of annual larval state of species, it being longer in urban areas.

The higher abundance of larvae in forests corresponded well with the results of previous studies of caterpillar biomass. We found that the difference in caterpillar biomass is likely due to the difference in their abundance rather than in the size of individuals. We also found a difference in one studied trait, which poses other questions. A profound understanding of the ecologocal needs of species could contribute to reforming our cities in a more environment friendly way.


 

Determining borders for seed transfer zones in Hungary based on floristic, vegetation and geographic maps

David Cevallos

Eötvös Loránd University

To handle the problems of regional genetic variation and provenance during ecological restoration, seed transfer zones (STZ) were established by several countries, however in Hungary regulation is based on administrative regions. In this study we aim to develop a STZ map for Hungary based on biogeographical and vegetation maps.

The polygon boundaries of four existing maps were merged into 6-8 potential STZ by the use of the Potential Vegetation Model that is based on the occurrence of the major habitats within 35 ha hexagons. Data of hexagons were compared by clustering based on Euclidean similarities in ESRI ArcGIS 10.2 geoinformation software using Spatial \""K\""luster Analysis by Tree Edge Removal implemented in its Grouping Analysis function.

The different clusterings resulted in 12 maps that were checked for validation. Most clusterings agree in a few remarkable features: a) the Trans-Danubian region is separated from Eastern Hungary, b) the latter showed more biodiversity based on the number of clusters, c) the Kiskunság and Nyírség region is separated from the rest of the Great Plain. The results show that the NUTS2 administrative units are not compatible with vegetation zones.

The seed zone delineation should be based on sound science and not on administrative borders. Legislation based on such STZ map can avoid the transport of regional ecotypes to other regions, can handle provenance problems during restoration interventions and the development of green infrastructure.


 

Loops in the food webs              

Anett Endrédi

MTA Centre for Ecological Research

Network analysis is often used to quantify the relative importance of species and find keystone species within ecosystems. However food webs seem to be strictly hierarchical, food web models often contain so-called ‘loops’. The biological/methodological reasons and consequences of these cycles’ occurrence, frequency and distribution are still unclear, although, they probably have a strong impact on the structure of the network and the importance of the species estimated by network analysis.

We analyzed the frequencies, sizes, distributions, and compartments of the loops in 93 aquatic food web models to map their features and estimate their impact on the structure of the food web and the estimated structural importance of the functional groups.

Our results show that 1) most of the food webs (62%) contain at least one loop and 2) the features of the loops are affected by the size and aggregation level of the given food web. 3) Moreover, we estimated the impact of loops on the structural importance of different functional groups.

Loops can be found in most of the food web models and can affect the results of network analysis thus it is necessary to consider them while using these approaches to quantify the relative importance of species within ecosystems.


 

Bat responses to transitional organic farming and landscape complexity in Mediterranean orchards

Penelope C. Fialas

University of Goettingen

Bats have suffered severe population declines during the 20th century due to agricultural intensification causing loss of roosting and foraging habitats.To mitigate these negative effects,the agri-environmental schemes were developed,such as organic farming. Therefore, this study aims to assess the effects of farming system taking into account transition organic farming, landscape and habitat structure on the activity and species richness of bats in Mediterranean citrus orchards.

I applied a pair-wise design, consisting of 22 matched organic (certified and transitional) and conventional citrus orchards plots in Cyprus. I used passive acoustic sampling to record bats and then conducted field surveys to document habitat structure variables. To extract landscape characteristics, I used ArcGIS and FRAGSTAT. For the analysis of the echolocation calls I used BatSound software. As for the statistical analysis I used a series of Generalized Linear Mixed-Effect models with R.

The main results showed that both farming system and landscape characteristics affect bats, however the effects are scale-dependent and species-specific.Total bat activity, mid-range echolocators and long-range-echolocators were significantly less active in organic-transitional citrus orchards than in conventional and organic-certified ones.Farmland heterogeneity at 1km radii was positively related to total bat activity. However, heterogeneity at 3km was negatively related to P. pipistrellus

Due to bat decline and their potential role in the suppression of insect pests in agricultural ecosystems, providing effective management  recommendations that benefit bats in orchards is needed urgently.Future schemes should incorporate multi-scale management planning paying special attention to transition phase.This study is of high relevance not only for bat conservation but also for farmers/agricultural policy maker,to mitigate and prevent the negative effects of organic transitional farming.


 

Ecosystem engineering by foxes is mediated by the landscape context – A case study from steppic burial mounds

Laura Godó

University of Debrecen, Department of Ecology

Kurgans are especially favoured by burrowing animals. We aimed to reveal either the changes in the habitat properties and their effect on vegetation composition. Our study questions were the following: (1) How do fox burrows and landscape context affect the habitat properties of grasslands situated on kurgans? (2) Do the fox burrows support the establishment of grassland species or rather hotspots for weed infestation? (3) Is the effect of fox burrows mediated by the landscape context?

We surveyed the vegetation of fox burrows and that of the surrounding grassland on five kurgans situated in cleared landscapes surrounded by arable lands, and five kurgans in complex landscapes surrounded by grazed grasslands. We recorded the percentage cover of vascular plants, the amount of litter and soil moisture content in twelve 0.5m×0.5m plots per kurgan, in a total of 120 plots.

Red foxes can change the vegetation composition and the structure of the community through transforming the habitat conditions and creating microhabitats for plant establishment. Foxes increased the soil nutrient content and reduced the accumulated litter on their burrows. These sites predominantly were characterised by weeds, but patches also provided opportunity for the recruitment of specialist species. Landscape context has significantly influenced the vegetation patterns of burrows.

Kurgans play a crucial role in preserving grassland vegetation, thus are the object of special concern and their conservation take priority. For their effective protection, it is important to know the processes which shape their vegetation composition. Ecosystem engineering by animals has long been studied but we provide data about this complex process in a different context. We proved that the transformed environment and a stochastic event can heavily alter the vegetation dynamics of kurgans.

 


 

Landscape scale crop heterogeneity and crop identity affect pollinators, their pollen diets and pollination services

Annika Hass1, Péter Batáry1,2, Yann Clough3, Teja Tscharntke1

1 Agroecology, University of Goettingen, Grisebachstr. 6, 37077 Goettingen, Germany; 2 MTA ÖK Landscape and Conservation Ecology Research Group, Alkotmány u. 2-4, 2163 Vácrátót, Hungary; 3 Centre for Environmental and Climate Research, Lund University, Sölvegatan 37, 22362 Lund, Sweden

Agricultural intensification is one of the main causes for the current biodiversity crisis. While reversing habitat loss is challenging, increasing the farmland configurational heterogeneity (higher field border density) and farmland compositional heterogeneity (higher crop diversity) might counteract some habitat loss. Here, we tested whether increased farmland configurational and compositional heterogeneity promote wild pollinators and plant reproduction in 94 landscapes located in four western European agricultural regions. Additionally, we investigated how farmland heterogeneity and the landscape cover of oilseed rape and maize affect pollen diversity collected by Bombus terrestris bumble bee colonies and their colony performance in 20 landscapes in Central Germany. High field border density consistently increased wild bee abundance and seed set of radish (Raphanus sativus). By contrast, high crop diversity reduced wild bee abundance, probably due to an increase of crop types with particularly intensive management like maize. Bumble bee colonies were neither affected by farmland heterogeneity nor by oilseed rape cover, but high maize cover decreased the pollen diversity they collected leading to decreased colony growth. Our results demonstrate that small-scale agricultural systems can boost pollinator abundance and plant reproduction, probably through enhanced connectivity. Furthermore, intensively managed crops like maize can have detrimental effects on pollinators by decreasing their food resource diversity. Therefore, we highlight the importance of considering crop identity when higher crop diversity is promoted. Future agri-environmental policies should aim to halt and reverse the current trend of increasing field sizes and to reduce the amount of crop types with particularly intensive management.


 

Influence of the spatial characteristics of semi-natural habitat patches on insect pollinators of sunflower

Lajos Károly

Szent István University Department of Zoology and Animal Ecology     

My talk addresses the decline of insect pollinators, preliminary bee species, observed in the last few decades. This is an alarming process, since the pollination of crop as well as wild plants is one of the most important ecosystem services provided by insect pollinators. The decline addressed above can be traced back predominantly on the activities of humans like habitat destruction and fragmentation, land use changes or pollution of habitats with toxic substances.

My current PhD research focuses on the possible influences of spatial characteristics of nearby semi-natural habitats in agricultural landscapes on the species composition, richness and abundance of pollinators occurring in sunflower fields. I use the free software QGIS, FRAGSTATS and R to calculate landscape metrics of semi-natural habitat patches and to carry out correlation analyses to reveal possible relationships between the metrics and the faunistical data of the pollinator groups.

Among the different pollinator groups only the honeybees showed statistically significant correlations with landscape metrics of semi-natural grassland patches. In case of the grassland patches, however, 11 out of the 17 analysed landscape metrics had a significant correlation at least at one of the 8 scales analysed (between 150 and 500 m). The results also indicate that an increasing degree of weed cover and cloudiness may have a reducing effect on the honeybee abundance in sunflower fields.

The results of my research can help to reveal which constellation of spatial characteristics of semi-natural habitats in agricultural landscapes provides optimal conditions for a great number of, preliminary wild, pollinator species. The final goal would be the protection of populations of wild pollinators as well as ensuring a high rate of pollination success regarding crop plants. This way both nature conservation and sustainable agriculture would benefit from the results of my research.


 

Enhancing biodiversity conservation through scenario and modelling \"Nature Futures\" with IPBES

HyeJin Kim

iDiv German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research

To date, most scenarios for global environmental assessments have explored impacts of society on nature, but have largely undermined the role of nature in socioeconomic development. Led by the IPBES, the new Nature Futures scenarios will shift traditional ways of forecasting impacts of society on nature to more integrative, nature-centred visions and pathways that will integrate socio-ecological feedback loops across divers, biodiversity, ecosystems, and nature’s contributions to people.

The methods include visioning the positive outlook on nature through stakeholder engagement, identifying pathways building on existing innovative practices for regime shifts, translating visions into scenarios with quantitative modelling and integration of multiple systems of knowledge, examining policy and management relevance in decisions for conservation and development, and bridging scientific communities and stakeholder groups through science communications.

As initial steps towards Nature Futures, on the modelling side, my research focuses on the model intercomparison of metrics on biodiversity and ecosystem services using harmonized input data from IPCC’s SSP and RCP scenarios. On the narrative side, I am conducting cross-cutting analysis on the new visions, comparing against existing scenarios. Both modelling and narratives research have been and are being drafted as manuscripts and the results will be presentable at the conference.

With increased awareness of nature’s role in sustainable future, such as in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we are at an opportune era in history where the value of biodiversity can be better acknowledged through the global governance of human and societal development. This next generation of scenarios will explore alternative visions to reach intertwined global targets, including potential synergies and trade-offs between nature conservation and other development goals.


 

Using NDVI as a proxy of food availability for Lesser Kestrel (Falco naummani): an overview on how climate affects productivity over the last 15 years

Joana Marcelino

CEABN-InBIO Research Network in Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Lisbon, Portugal

Responses of bird species to climate include shifts in behaviour, distribution ranges, and demography. In Southern Europe, within the Mediterranean climate, herbaceous vegetation has a growth pick in late spring followed by a three-month drought, limiting trophic abundance and availability, hence pushing Lesser Kestrels to adjust its behaviour, potentially failing to breed at the time of maximal food abundance, and consequently affecting its productivity.

To determine how climate indirectly affects productivity we: (1) accessed the relationship between the satellite-derived normalized vegetation index (NDVI) and 4-year information on Orthoptera abundance around Lesser Kestrel colonies, (2) accessed the historical fallow distribution around colonies given that is the preferred hunting area for this species, and (3) related NDVI values in fallow areas around colonies with observed annual breeding parameters (laying date, clutch size).

We found that NDVI can be used as a proxy of Orthoptera abundance, allowing us to use historical satellite images to predict the abundance of grasshoppers and relate it with 15-year productivity data of Lesser Kestrels. Historical fallow distribution was successfully predicted over the last 15 years using maximum entropy modelling. Sites and years with higher quality habitat are expected to have better breeding performance.

Although Mediterranean farmland birds are adapted to periods of low food availability and high temperatures, present and predicted climate will likely impact species inhabiting these areas. Understanding the underlying mechanisms by which climate change affects the behaviour and population dynamics of farmland bird populations is crucial for their conservation and adaptive management.


 

Protected areas mismatch spatial conservation priorities of amphibians and reptiles in the Balkan Peninsula – the Balkan Herps project

Edvárd Mizsei

University of Debrecen, Department of Ecology              

The Balkan Peninsula is a historical speciation centre, refugia and currently a hotspot for biological diversity in Europe. It has more than 120 species of amphibians and reptiles with high level of endemism. Therefore, protection of the Balkans is a high priority and requires effective protected area coverage. The aim of the Balkan Herps project is to assess the representation of the regional herpetofauna under the current protected area network and reveal potential shortfalls.

We created the most comprehensive database of distribution records of amphibians and reptiles on the Balkan Peninsula holding more than 40 thousand records (openbiomaps.org/projects/balkanherps). We built 1km resolution species distribution models using the Biomod2 package, applied several modelling on a unbiased subset of distribution records, with the Bioclim and Envirem predictor variables. We used the systematic conservation planning tool Zonation to identify spatial conservation priorities.

Generally, conservation values were highest in the Adriatic Coast, Peloponnese, Thrace and Danube Delta and lower in the Central Balkans. We identified the top 17% of the region and calculated the extent of coverage by protected areas. We found one-third coverage with important gaps occurring in non-European Union countries, but we also found gaps in the EU, mostly in the southern Balkans.

It is promising that many deficiencies can be solved by the designation of new Natura 2000 areas in EU candidate countries. There are still gaps in the Balkan Herps database, we hope that the ongoing collaboration will lead to a cross-border conservation plan in the Balkan Peninsula for an effective protection of herpetological diversity.

 


 

Landscape effect on the Dusky Large Blue butterfly and its host’s distribution in upland grasslands of the Thuringian Forest, Germany

Antonio J. Pérez-Sánchez

Thünen Institute of Biodiversity

Upland grasslands of Central Germany are declining due to cessation of traditional farming practices along with woody plant encroachment and the conversion to forest. The subsequent loss of connectivity may affect the occurrence of grassland specialists such as the Dusky Large Blue butterfly, Maculinea nausithous. Hence, we evaluated how landscape configuration drives not only M. nausithous but their host species (Sanguisorba officinalis and Myrmica rubra) in the Thuringian Forest grasslands.

A total of 30 extensively managed grasslands characterised by different landscape context were investigated along an elevation gradient. Patch distribution of host plant S. officinalis was assessed following the Braun-Blanquet method, M. nausithous abundance was recorded using Pollard transects (50x5m), and the host ant (M. rubra) density was estimated by a nest-area search procedure per grassland. Grassland abiotic and landscape features were calculated to explain the butterfly distribution.

A metapopulation of M. nausithous was detected with 47 individuals distributed among 11 grasslands (1-8 ind. per site). Sixty three (63) nests of M. rubra were recorded in 19 grasslands. The host plant S. officinalis was present in all grasslands but showed a heterogeneous distribution (cover ranging from >1 to 95%). Overall, the aspect of the grassland sites and M. rubra density were the most important variables determining the butterfly distribution according to CART models (R2= 0.92).

The Dusky Large Blue butterfly is an umbrella species of extensively managed grasslands in Europe. In grasslands of the Thuringian Forest Nature Park, the presence of M. rubra along with landscape properties are key explaining the butterfly distribution rather than the host plant cover. In this sense, grasslands with east-facing slopes and host ant densities higher than 2 nests/ 100 m2 must be considered as priority in order to preserve the remaining populations of M. nausithous in the region.


 

How do different out-of-field agri-environment schemes influence ground-dwelling predatory arthropods in cereal fields?

Sandra Schweiger1, Julia I. Piko1, Péter Batáry1,2

1 Agroecology, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany; 2 Landscape and Conservation Ecology Research Group, Centre for Ecological Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Vácrátót, Hungary

Agri-environment schemes (AES) are thought to be effective measures to counteract the massive decline of farmland biodiversity. However, their effectiveness might depend on various factors. We studied how three types of out-of-field AES (perennial flower strip, annual flower strip or hedgerow) affect the activity density of ground-dwelling predatory arthropods distributed in six conventional winter wheat fields compared to fields with grassy margins in Lower Saxony (Germany). We captured carabid beetles and spiders in pitfall traps on transect pairs for 5-6 days. Within each pair, the interior transect was located inside the wheat fields (ca. 15 m from field edge). The marginal transect was located 1 m from the field edge within the adjacent boundary vegetation, which consisted of an AES or a conventional grassy field margin (N = 40 transects). We recorded 942 spider individuals and 3979 carabid individuals. We used linear mixed-effects models to determine whether boundary type, transect position (margin or interior) and their interactions affected predator activity density. Within the wheat field, neither spider nor carabid density were significantly influenced by any factor. In the marginal transect, annual flower strips significantly increased the activity density of carabids compared to all other boundary types. We also observed this pattern for Pterostichus melanarius, one of the most frequent predatory carabids. Conclusively, effects of AES are taxon-specific and seem to be restricted to the margin. More knowledge is required within predator guilds to combine AES and support ecosystem services like biological control even in intensively used agroecosystems.

 


 

Long-term effect of mowing on the restoration success of Pannonian sand steppe at clear-cut Robinia pseudo-acacia plantation 

Bruna Paolinelli Reis1, Anna Kövendi-Jakó2, Katalin Szitár2, Katalin Török2, Melinda Halassy2

1 Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Plant Taxonomy, Ecology and Theoretical Biology Pázmány P. stny.  1/C, 117, Budapest, Hungary; 2 Centre for Ecological Research, Institute of Ecology and Botany Alkotmány u. 2-4, 2163 Vácrátót, Hungary

Invasive species are among the main threats to biodiversity, and nature conservation seeks best methods to eliminate invasive species and to restore natural habitats. We studied the long-term effect of mowing on the recovery of Pannonian sand steppe after elimination of an invasive species, black locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia). Three stands of ca. 1 ha were selected in the sand dune area of Kiskunság, Hungary. The stands were clear-cut in the winter of 1994-1995 followed by chemical application on tree trunks. Mowing was applied as management to assist steppe recovery twice a year in 1995-2001 in six 10 m by 10 m parcels and its success was compared to unmown control and semi-natural reference. Vegetation was sampled in June and August yearly in 1995-1999 and re-sampled six times until 2017. Treatment’s trajectory is moving towards the reference, but control’s trajectory is moving in divergent direction according to PCoA analysis. In the lack of mowing, a dense shrub cover (cc. 30%) developed mainly of Crataegus monogyna. Mowing resulted in a relative cover of target species (50-70 %) from 2007 on, but from 2005 the invasion of alien species is considerable reaching a relative cover of 30% by 2017. Treatment trajectory was satisfactory in the initial years of monitoring, but the long-term monitoring revealed that the recovery process was slow, and the system was not resistant to invasion. Mowing alone is insufficient to restore Pannonian sand steppe after eliminating black locust, further management (e.g. seeding) is needed to enhance resistance to invasion pressure.


 

The state of climate connectivity across the tropics

Rebecca A. Senior

University of Sheffield

To survive in a warming world the range of many species will shift polewards or upwards. Tropical rainforests harbour most of the world’s remaining terrestrial biodiversity, including thermally restricted forest specialists. Despite this, we currently lack a pantropical assessment of the potential for tropical species to reach climate analogues within existing forest cover – ‘climate connectivity’. Moreover, no study to date has tested how recent deforestation has impacted this connectivity.

We combined global temperature and forest cover datasets to quantify climate connectivity across the tropics in the present day (year: 2012) and in the recent past (year: 2000). Climate connectivity was calculated based on the maximum temperature difference that could be achieved by traversing a gradient of hotter to cooler adjacent forest patches.

Across the tropics, climate connectivity was poor and most tropical forests will not facilitate range shifts to analogous future climates. Climate connectivity was particularly low in the Afrotropical and Indomalayan realms. In only 12 years, forest cover change has caused severe loss of climate connectivity in some places – particularly the Southern Amazon, Congo Basin and Southern New Guinea – whereas connectivity gains have been limited.

Range shifts are a crucial mechanism by which species avoid warming under climate change, but loss and fragmentation of tropical forests makes range shifts alone an increasingly inadequate solution. To maintain and enhance climate resilience, changes in forest cover and forest protection should be considered in the context of climate gradients that species would need to follow to avoid the negative effects of future climate change.

 


 

Food for Pollinators in Towns and Cities

Nicholas Tew

University of Bristol       

Insect pollinators are declining due to a variety of anthropogenic factors, among which the loss of floral resources associated with land use change is thought to be the most significant. In the United Kingdom, the widespread conversion of semi-natural habitat to intensively-managed farmland has led to a major reduction in the availability of wildflowers, and hence the nectar and pollen upon which pollinators feed. Recent work from the University of Bristol has shown that towns and cities can contain surprisingly large and diverse pollinator communities, including a higher bee richness than surrounding farmland.

At present, little is known about the floral resource value of urban areas, which often contain an artificially high abundance and diversity of ornamental flowering plants. Flowers differ hugely in the quantity of resource they provide, so empirical data are needed to assess habitat-level forage for pollinators. My PhD project aims to quantify and enhance nectar supply in towns and cities, and to date I have measured the nectar productivity of >200 species of common garden plants. I am using this data to quantify the sugar available in different urban habitats and will subsequently develop methods to increase its supply, focussing particularly on temporal gaps in availability. 


 

Land use effects in riverscapes: diversity and environmental drivers of stream fish communities in protected, agricultural and urban landscapes

Rita Tóth

University of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Ecology, Budapest, Hungary

Increasing agriculture and urbanization inevitably lead to changes in the biodiversity of stream ecosystems. However, few studies examined comprehensively how biodiversity is distributed within and among protected, agricultural and urban land use types in streams.

We studied environmental characteristics of streams and patterns of species richness and other community attributes of stream fish communities in these three characteristic land use types in the catchment of the Danube River, Hungary. We used different statistical methods (ordinations, linear model, rarefaction analysis) to discover the patterns of environmental and community variables.

Land use separated streams to some degree based on their environmental characteristics. However, both between stream environmental and fish community variability were comparable to land use type level differences in case of many streams. In fact, a variety of environmental gradients influenced fish community structure rather independently of land use type, which was also influenced by spatial drivers.

We found that even intensively managed areas (i.e. agricultural and urban) can contribute to the maintenance of fish diversity in this biogeographic region, or at least their potential can be comparable to those streams which flow in protected areas. Thus, conservation management should focus on maintaining streams in more natural condition in protected areas and/or use the potential of non-protected agricultural and urban streams in maintaining fish diversity in human modified landscapes."

 


 

Successful disinfection of common toad (Bufo bufo) tadpoles against Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis with elevated temperature

János Ujszegi1, Márk Z. Németh2, Márk Szederkényi1, Attila Hettyey1

1 Lendület Evolutionary Ecology Research Group, Plant Protection Institute, Centre for Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Herman Ottó út 15, Budapest, 1022, Hungary; 2 Department of Plant Pathology, Plant Protection Institute, Centre for Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Herman Ottó út 15, Budapest, 1022, Hungary

Emerging diseases are among the main causes of global amphibian decline. The fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has been spread due to human activities and contributed to population declines and extinctions all over the world. Bd is cold adopted hence thermal tolerance mismatch between the fungus and its host can be utilized for disinfection purposes. We collected common toad (Bufo bufo) eggs and raised group of tadpoles at standard quarantine laboratory conditions. Tadpoles were fed with spinach and we changed water twice a week. We inoculated their water with Bd after every water-change. After one month, we exposed them to 20, 28, 30 and 32 °C individually for six days. Metamorphosed individuals were euthanized and infection intensities were quantified using qPCR. Elevated temperature to 28 °C significantly reduced Bd load. Furthermore, elevated temperature to 30 °C and above fully cleared Bd from 100 % of the infected individuals during six days. However, 32 °C caused malformations in some cases. Thermal tolerance mismatch between Bd and toad tadpoles was utilized successfully for disinfection. Elevated temperature to 30 °C caused no malign effects to tadpoles, but entirely cleared Bd in all cases. Hence this would be an effective disinfection method against Bd in laboratories and facilities without side effects, which often occur in case of chemicals.

 


 

Venomous snakes of Iran under climate change

Yousefi Masoud Yousefi1,2*, Anooshe Kafash1,2

1 Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran. 

2 Ecology and Conservation Research Group (ECRG), Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, yet its potential impacts on biodiversity is unknown in Iran. Iran is home to 79 snakes, most of them are ecologically unknown. Venomous snakes face severe threats that make them highly vulnerable to extinction in Iran. The aim of present study was to assess the potential impacts of climate change on distributions of four venomous snakes in Iran.  Distribution records obtained from fieldworks and published resources. An ensemble approach was applied using three algorithms: Generalized Boosted Models, Maximum Entropy modelling and Generalized Linear Models. Two general circulation models (GISS-E2-R and CCSM4) and two scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5) for each models were used. We found that Naja oxiana and Gloydius halys will lose their habitats however habitats of Echis carinatus and Walterinnesia morgani will increase under climate change. These results showing heterogeneous responses of venomous snakes to climate change. Results of this study can be useful for conservation of snakes’ biodiversity in Iran. Keywords: Climate change, Conservation, Species distribution modeling, Iran.

 


 

Factors associated with the decline of European hamster (Cricetus cricetus) range in Poland.

Aleksandra Zarzycka

Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw, Żwirki i Wigury 101, 02-089 Warsaw, Poland

European hamster belongs to the most endangered mammals on our continent. In Poland its range has declined by over 75% since 1970. According to the current research there are two main drivers of this decline: intensification of the agriculture and climate change. However, it is unknown to which extent particular factors are affecting this species. I am trying to answer this question by studying spatial and temporal patterns hidden in existing distribution data both current and historical.

I have prepared a review of available data sources on European hamster distribution in Poland, as well as on variables associated with climate, agriculture and soil properties. I digitalized and georeferenced all of the collected data to create a database. In the initial phase I have used descriptive statistics to look for patterns and to select factors for further analysis. Afterwards the methods of spatial analysis where applied, among them Environmental Niche Factor Analysis.

During this study it was possible to gather information on distribution of European hamster in Poland in several points of time: year 1971, 1983, 1998 and 2007. Certain important patterns of agricultural development have been revealed, such as substantial change of the wheat to rye ratio. By comparing following years to the base year of 1971 it was proven that both climatic and anthropogenic factors are playing a role in the decline of C. cricetus range.

My project is a first attempt to incorporate spatial statistics methods into studying the historical changes of European hamster range in Poland. Research results will increase existing knowledge on C. cricetus ecology in the changing anthropogenic environment and on factors influencing its decline in range. In the future these results can be helpful in revising existing conservation strategies and making better, data-based decisions to prevent this species from extincion in Europe.


 

Survival estimation of breeding eastern imperial eagles in Hungary based on genotypes determined from naturally shed and chick feathers

Bernadett Zsinka1, Szilvia Kövér1, Szilvia Pásztory-Kovács1, Nóra Vili1, Krisztián Szabó1, Imre Fatér2, Márton Horváth2  

1 Conservation Genetics Research Group, Department of Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, 2 MME BirdLife Hungary

The eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) is a globally endangered, large-sized, territorial and socially monogamous raptor species. A significant part of its European population breeds in the Carpathian Basin. The size of the Hungarian population is constantly increasing due to the species conservation projects. In order to evaluate the success of the HELICON Life project (2011–2016) we estimated the survival probabilities of the Hungarian breeding pairs for the years 2011–2017.

A capture-recapture method (CJS model) was used to estimate survival probabilities. Individual identification was based on DNA profiles determined from naturally shed feathers collected at the nest sites and feathers pulled from chicks. Capture histories for 395 breeding individuals were constructed. When we could not sample a breeding bird in a particular year, we used the samples of the chicks from the same year to identify the missing bird, thus gaining additional estimated presence data.

The QAICc-based model selection resulted in three best supported models: (i) constant 90,3% survival over the study period, (ii) sex-dependent survival, with males having lower, 88,6% survival compared to females with higher, 90,9% survival, (iii) time-dependent survival with a 4,2-8,6 percentage point lower survival for the interval 2011–2013 compared to the following years. The additional estimated presence data reduced the uncertainty of the estimates of survival, especially for males.

Slightly lower male survival can be explained by the different behaviour of the sexes: the males face more danger as they spend more time hunting and protecting the territory. The lower survival for 2011–2013 may be in connection with the high poisoning rates at that time. The higher survival rates of the later years show the successfulness of the HELICON Life project.

 

 

 

 

 

Posters

 


 

The effects of three invasive plants on soil activity as an ecosystem service

Barbara Dorottya Becker

Eötvös Loránd University

In our research we would like to find out if invasive plants Asclepias syriaca, Aster sp., and Solidago gigantea have any impact on the natural condition of soils, that would be revealed in the reduction of soil activity. This topic adresses the promlem of invasive species and their effects on natural environments, as well as the importance of ecosystem services.

The method to measure the soil activity was Bait lamina test and litter bag method, both of them contained either standard organic material-mixture or the dried and powdered parts of the invasive plants. We also made investigations on soil samples in laboratory to get information about the physical characterictics of soil of the research areas (including colonised and natural habitats).

We suppose that the research will indicate significant effect of invasive plant species on soil activity of those fields where abundance of the investigated plant species is over 50 %. Such result would imply that the colonisation of habitats by invasives leads to the reduction of biodiversity of soil organisms.

The results of the research could highlight the dangers of invasively spreading species, their effects on natural habitat\'s ecosystem functions (for example soil functions) and also emphasize the importance of conservationist management (e.g.: cutting down such plants on colonised fields) that helps to maintain habitats in natural condition.

 


 

Effects of an invasive plant species, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) on pollinator communities

Boglárka Berki, Viktor Szigeti2, Annamária Fenesi3, Anikó Kovács-Hostyánszki2

1 University of Veterinary Medicine, Hungary; 2 Institute of Ecology and Botany, MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Hungary; 3 Hungarian Department of Biology and Ecology, Babeş-Bolyai University, Romania

The extremely quick expansion of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) is a serious conservation problem in Hungary. Invasive plant species can be dominant after establishment, decreasing the diversity of vegetation, pollinator’s food resources, and diversity and abundance of pollinators. In our research we study the difference in the abundance of pollinators between semi-natural habitats and areas invaded by milkweed. We worked on ten pairs of highly invaded (>30% of milkweed coverage) and control (<5%) sites. We sampled floral resources and pollinators (honeybees, wild bees, hoverflies) along two 100m transects, during 20 minutes, before and during the flowering of milkweed. We found that the abundance of flowers was higher during the flowering of milkweed both in the control and invaded sites. The number of hoverflies increased by flower abundance. Hoverflies were more abundant during the flowering of milkweed, and showed no difference between control and invaded sites. The abundance of wild bees and honey bees increased by flower abundance only in the control sites. They were the most abundant during the flowering of common milkweed in the invaded sites. Our results on pollinator abundance suggest lower effect of common milkweed on pollinators than it was shown in the case of other invasive plant species in our studies. Further analyses are coming on species richness, diversity and species composition of the pollinator groups. Furthermore species composition of the vegetation will be analysed to assess the changes in grassland vegetation because of milkweed invasion.

 


 

Howling tests as a method of monitoring the reproduction of grey wolf (Canis lupus L.)

Dina Botta1, Vedran Slijepčević1, Hubert Potočnik2

1 Karlovac University of Applied Sciences, Department of Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation, Croatia, 2 Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Department of Biology, Slovenia

The main aim of this research was to demonstrate the effectiveness of howling tests as a method of determining the presence of wolves and their reproduction in a particular area. Howling test is based on persuading wolves into howling using human voice and listening to the response. It is an invasive indirect vocal method that „provokes" wolves into responding in an antagonistic way used in communication between the packs.

The method is very simple to conduct, the person doesn't need to have any particular specialist or technical skills, it is (relatively) inexpensive and (if the wolves respond) the results are known immediately. On the other hand, the method can be invasive, it is weather-dependent, human factor can have a tremendous effect on howling tests and there is an uncertainty if wolves don't respond (lack of a response doesn't give a firm and concrete information).

Considering all, howling tests can be an effective method and useful tool for confirmation of the individuals or a pack in the area, locating the pack and estimating the minimal number of wolves, confirmation of reproduction and locating the rendezvous place (useful for conducting other research).

Howling tests can provide valuable data about wolves in a certain area but this method should not be the only way to determine the presence of the pack and its reproduction in an area and should definitely be complemented by other methods and sources of information.

 


 

Validation of morphological sex identification of Eastern Imperial Eagle nestlings by molecular methods

Péter Kacz

University of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Ecology

In many species sex identification in field can be problematic, for example in case of birds with sexually-monomorphic plumage. In case of predatory birds where sexual dimorphism appears in body size even in nestlings, we can use non invasive methods like morphological sex identification.

We studied the Hungarian population of Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) and achieved 90% accuracy with morphological sex determination of the nestlings.

We studied more then 600 nestlings between 2012 and 2018. For accurate sex determination we collected DNA from armpit feathers and measured different body size variables at annual ringings. We estimated the development stages of the nestlings based of the color of plumage of down- and juvenile feathers.

For the analysis we used 3 different statistical methods: Random Forest, Linear Discrimination Analysis and Classification and Reggression Trees.

We achieved ~90% accuracy with our morphological sex determination compared to our results of molecular sexing.

In many species molecular methods are used for sex determination. For this DNA samples are taken and in many cases with invasive methods. With precise morphological methods we can reduce the use of invasive sampling and the level of stress caused to the chicks.

 


 

Predicting impact climate change on endemic lizards in Iranian Plateau along elevational gradients

Anooshe Kafash1, Sohrab Ashrafi1*, Annemarie Ohler2

1 Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran; 2 Institut de Systématique, Évolution, Biodiversité, ISYEB—UMR7205—CNRS, MNHN, UPMC, EPHE, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Sorbonne Universités, Paris, France

Iran covers 164.8 million hectares, located in the Palearctic region at the crossroads of three biogeographic realms; Afrotropic, Palearctic and Indomalaya. Iran host more than 240 reptiles, many of them are endemic to the country.  In the present research we explored impacts of climate change on two endemic lizards (Bunopus crassicuda and Apathya yassujica) in Iran along elevational gradients. We used five distribution modeling methods; Random Forest, Generalized Boosted Models, Generalized Additive Model, Maximum Entropy modelling and Generalized Linear Models and then ensample of above mentioned methods to develop distribution models for the two species. To measure the predictive performance of models following indices were used; the true skills statistic (TSS), area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) and the Boyce index. We found that the two species will lose considerable proportions of their current distribution ranges under future climate changes. Our results also revealed that their distribution ranges will move to higher elevations in the future.

Keywords: Climate change, Reptiles, Protected areas, Conservation.

 


 

The soil seed bank in changing climate and it’s role in restoration

Réka Kiss

University of Debrecen, Department of Ecology

The climate change is a global phenomenon. First-order effects of climate change are the temperature- and precipitation changes, which change the frequency, intensity and durability of disturbances, representing the second-order effect of climate change. We wanted to connect the effects of climate change to the grasslands soil seed bank and to learn about the changes in seed banks composition. We also wanted to know the restoration potential of soil seed bank in future restoration projects.

We searched online literature for articles about the soil seed bank of grasslands and wetlands and their implication in restoration projects. We selected researches which presented qualitative or quantitative data about the total seed bank density and species richness or those of functional groups and studied the first- or second-order effects of climate change.

We revealed that the knowledge about the climate changes effects on soil seed bank is sparse, including both first- and second order effects. The main driver of seed bank changes will be the change in precipitation regimes. Temperature and precipitation changes leads to changes in disturbance regimes and these changes trigger the directional and irreversible changes in the structure of grassland and wetland communities.

Restoration can be based in soil seed bank in habitats where disturbances are unpredictable and frequent, while in historically stable habitats active restoration by propagule introduction is needed. We suggest to take into consideration climate change in coming restoration projects and to use native species already adapted to the forecasted changes.

 


 

Human-dispersed seeds can survive and disperse after the laundry cycle

Katalin Lukács1, Réka Kiss1, Balázs Deák2, Katalin Tóth2, Laura Godó1, Tamás Miglécz1,4, Judit Sonkoly3, Szilvia Radócz1, András Kelemen1,4, Péter Török3, Béla Tóthmérész1,2, Orsolya Valkó1

1 University of Debrecen, Department of Ecology; 2 MTA-DE Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Research Group; 3 MTA-DE Lendület Functional and Restoration Ecology Research Group; 4 MTAs Post-Doctoral Program

The human-mediated seed dispersal plays an increasing role in seed dispersion. During human-mediated dispersal, seeds are exposed to physical and chemical factors that affect their germinability and establishment. We studied the germination of 13 species, which have morphological adaptations for epizoochory and are commonly dispersed by people. We tested six treatments (washing with water, washnut or detergent, at 30°C or 60°C) compared to an untreated control. Our results showed that washing temperature was the most significant factor affecting germination; and it is likely that hydration status, seed shape and seed-coat thickness of seeds explained specific responses. Washing at 30°C did not suppress germination of any of the studied species, but it increased the seedling number of Geum urbanum. Washing at 60°C supported the germination of two species (Agrimonia eupatoria and Tragus racemosus), but suppressed six species. Physocaulis nodosus did not germinate at all after washing at 60°C. The intensive washing treatments at 60°C decreased significantly the synchrony of germination. Our measurements showed that more than 70% of the attached seeds remain on our clothes for more than 8 hours and can enter to the laundry cycle. 64% of washed seeds fall down from clothes during drying, thus, they have a chance for establishment in an urban or rural environment. The remaining 36% of washed seeds can further disperse over a long distance.

 


 

Long-term land cover changes analysis in the transboundary region of Romania and Hungary based on LUCAS points

Lăcrămioara-Mihaela Maghiar1, Mircea Alexe2, Marianna Biró3

1 Faculty of Geography, Babeș-Bolyai University, 400006, 5-7 Clinicilor Street, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; 2 Faculty of Geography, Babeș-Bolyai University, 400006, 5-7 Clinicilor Street, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 3 MTA Centre for Ecological Research, GINOP Sustainable Ecosystems Group, 8237 Tihany, Klebelsberg Kuno u. 3., Hungary

European landscapes have been shaped by several ecological, environmental and socio-economic drivers such as urban and infrastructure development, agricultural expansion and intensification. The dynamics of grasslands under different political and institutional drivers can be better understood from a historical perspective. We examined the effects of ten driving forces that could have influenced the changes of the natural grasslands between 1940-2010 in Romania and Hungary.  A point database containing 505 LUCAS 2012 points at the two side of the Hungarian-Romanian border was prepared using historical maps, topographic maps, CORINE Land Cover data, orthophotos and satellite images from 1780s, 1860s, 1940s, 1980s, 2000s and 2010s. For each LUCAS point, a land cover category was identified: artificial lands, channels, croplands, grasslands, wooded areas, shrubs, wetland&water. By calculating the relative frequencies, we found that Romanian and Hungarian sides of the borderline have experienced different land cover trends since the 1780s. Understanding the processes resulted from our results requires the understanding of the underlying driving forces. Logistic GLMs were used in order to examine the relationship between the variables we hypothesized to influence the loss of grasslands, but also to determine which of the hypothesized variables are statistically significant predictors for the studied process. We expect that soil type, distance to paved road and distance to the nearest settlements would have had major effects on the evolution of grasslands in the study area.

 


 

New microsatellite markers for a protected raptor species, Falco vespertinus

Nora Magonyi

University of Pécs, Doctorial School of Biology and Sportbiology            

The Red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus) is a colonially breeding, migratory raptor. Despite of the fact this is a well-studied species for a while, its genetic mating system and the population structure are hardly known. There were no reliable and polymorph markers to study the genetic structure of colonies and implement kinship analyses. To enlarge the previous marker set developed for other related species, we characterized 11 new microsatellite markers.

We used molecular genetics methods to develop a new marker set. We extracted DNA from feathers and blood, then PCR and fragment analyeses were done. We tested 44 primer pairs on independent males and females (n=20) and 11 of them were polymorph.

As a result, we developed 11 new species specific microsatellite markers and cross-species amplification were executed on seven related species, too. We hope that our marker set will be powerful tool for the conservation of these species.

Since Hungary is the westernmost border of its distribution the population is highly protected in the Carpathian Basin. This study was supported by the Conservation of the Red-footed Falcon in the Carpathian Basin (LIFE11/NAT/HU/000926), so the results will help us to answer many questions. "

 


 

Effects of chlorpyrifos on the early development of agile frogs

Zsanett Mikó1, Veronika Bókony1, Nikolett Ujhegyi1, Edina Nemesházi1, Viktória Verebélyi1,2, Réka Erős1, Attila Hettyey1

1 Lendület Evolutionary Ecology Research Group, Plant Protection Institute, Centre for Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Herman Ottó út 15, Budapest, 1022, Hungary; 2 Institute for Biology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Rottenbiller u. 50, 1077 Budapest, Hungary

The widespread application of pesticides makes it important to understand the impacts of these chemicals on natural communities. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide which can have harmful effects on aquatic organisms.

To investigate how environmentally relevant, sublethal concentrations of chlorpyrifos affects growth, development and sexual development (sex ratio) of the agile frog (Rana dalmatina), we reared tadpoles at three concentrations (0, 0.5 and 5 μl chlorpyrifos / L) until metamorphosis. We measured body mass at metamorphosis, time until metamorphosis, duration of metamorphosis and sex ratio of the froglets.

We found that chlorpyrofos significantly decreased body mass at metamorphosis and the lower concentration slightly increased the duration of metamorphosis. We did not observe significant effects on the time until metamorphosis or sex ratio.

Our results suggest that chronic exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of chlorpyrifos can negatively affect the growth and development of agile frog tadpoles, which in turn can result in lowered fitness of individuals and, ultimately, in population decline.

 


 

Needles in a haystack: looking for molecular sex markers in amphibians

Edina Nemesházi*, Nikolett Ujhegyi, Viktória Verebélyi, Bálint Üveges, Zsanett Mikó, Veronika Bókony

Lendület Evolutionary Ecology Research Group, Plant Protection Institute, Centre for Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Herman Ottó út 15, 1022 Budapest, Hungary

Molecular sexing of amphibians is a great challenge, because their sex chromosomes are often homomorphic and recombination can occur between them, and the type of sex determination can differ between closely related species or even between populations of the same species. We aimed to find sex-chromosome-linked molecular markers and develop a PCR-based method for molecular sexing in Hungarian populations of agile frog (Rana dalmatina) and the common toad (Bufo bufo). We developed sex-linked molecular markers by two methods: AFLP and sequencing. Based on potentially sex-chromosome-linked loci previously identified in a Swiss agile frog population and novel sequences from Hungarian common toad populations, we were looking for SNPs fitting either male or female heterogametic system in randomly sequenced fragments from across the genome. AFLP resulted in two male-specific fragments in the agile frog, while we found no sex-specific fragment in the common toad. We found three sex-linked SNP markers in the Hungarian population of the agile frog. Our results suggest female-heterogametic (ZW/ZZ) sex determination in the common toad and male-heterogametic (XY/XX) system in the agile frog. Molecular sex markers are valuable for detecting sex reversals that occur in nature due to the presence of certain pollutants in breeding habitats or global climate change. Moreover, molecular sexing could replace destructive sexing methods which are commonly used for individual sexing of premature specimens in laboratory research.

 


 

Developing an effective protocol for butterfly monitoring in West African Savannah Regions

Agyemang Opoku1, 2, Samuel T. Ivande1, Oskar Brattström1, 3

1 A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, Nigeria; 2 Department of Conservation Biology & Entomology, University of Cape Coast, Ghana;

3 Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK

Butterflies are key biodiversity indicators, and they are therefore often used as a monitoring target group for conservation assessments. Guidelines have been suggested for comparative butterfly monitoring from many parts of the world. However, survey methodology recommendations are currently lacking for tropical savannah regions. In view of this, we conducted comparable butterfly monitoring in four study areas (two pairs of protected and unprotected sites) on the Jos Plateau, Nigeria, to investigate the effect of two bait types, and two sampling strategies, with the aim to develop a standardised protocol for butterfly bait trap monitoring in West Africa savannah regions. Banana-palm wine and fish baits were investigated to evaluate their effectiveness, and two different methods to select trapping locations (strategic and random) were compared. In total, 1,343 individual butterflies belonging to 51 species from four families were collected. Traps with banana-palm wine bait attracted a significantly higher number of individuals compared to the fish bait, but the two bait types tended to catch different types of species. There was also a significant impact from temperature and surrounding vegetation. Comparing the two sampling strategies, random trap placement attracted more species and at a faster rate compared to the strategic sampling.  Protected areas showed a significantly higher diversity and abundance of butterflies.

This is, to our knowledge, the first standardised survey of butterflies in African savannah regions and will hopefully serve as a guideline for future regional butterfly monitoring efforts.

 

 


 

How can biotic interactions for pest control be enhanced in dynamic landscapes?

Christine Scheiner

Julius-Maximilians-University Wuerzburg, Institute of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology

The decline of species and functional diversity, caused by a decreasing landscape heterogeneity, endangers the provision and stability of important ecosystem services, like natural pest control. Pest suppressive landscapes, naturally harboring fewer pests, are one option to reduce chemical input while maintaining high yields. In this study we tested the influence of spatiotemporal landscape heterogeneity of the non-crop (semi-natural habitats) and crop area (crop rotations and changes in % host crop) on the abundance and seasonal variability of cabbage pests, parasitoids and natural pest control rates. Further, we analyzed if stable populations translate into stable and high provision of pest control (predation and parasitism), leading to reduced herbivory and increased yields. We found semi-natural habitats to support effective natural pest control with reduced pest pressures. Diverse crop rotations benefitted leaf-chewing pests, whereas they were less abundant when host crop had increased from year to year suggesting a dilution effect. Aphids were more abundant in those landscapes supporting a resource concentration hypothesis. The parasitism rate was positively correlated with all our landscape measures, which in turn correlated with higher yields but lower quality. Further, our study revealed that stable populations were not connected to a higher or less variable provision of natural pest control. Those findings highlight the importance of more natural areas and show that, although arable diversity was not clearly related to reduced pest pressure, managing the diversity of arable land might be an additional way to influence species occurrences, without converting fertile land.

 


 

Skin coloration as a possible non-invasive biomarker for sex identification and for chemical contamination in the common toad (Bufo bufo)

Nikolett Ujhegyi, Viktória Verebélyi, Edina Nemesházi, Bálint Üveges, Attila Hettyey, Veronika Bókony

"Lendület" Evolutionary Ecology Research Group Plant Protection Institute, Centre for Agricultural Research Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Environmental pollution can disrupt sexual development in amphibians. Detecting such effects is difficult, because phenotypic sexing is often not possible without invasive or lethal measures. We investigated whether body coloration can be used for sex identification in juvenile common toads.

We raised 416 toadlets in the lab for half a year. During their larval development, we exposed them to two chemicals that can affect sex: a glyphosate-based herbicide and ethynil-estradiol.

We photographed each toadlet in a standardized way and quantified the average dorsal coloration (hue, saturation, brightness) in Adobe Photoshop, and we determined their sex by dissection. We used linear mixed effect models to test whether each color variable differed between sexes and/or treatments.

Four animals, treated with 1 ng/l ethynil-estradiol or 3 ug/l glyphosate, had intersex gonads (both male and female tissue). Males had significantly higher hue (whitch are yellower or greener) than females or intersex individuals (whitch are redder). Intersex individuals had lower saturation and darker than males and females. There was no significant effect of treatment on hue, saturation, or brightness, and the treatment × sex interaction was non-significant. However, all individuals exposed to 1 ug/l ethynil-estradiol became females.

We found that sexual dichromatism in common toads develops prior to the first winter: The contraceptive ethynil-estradiol causes sex reversal but results in normal female coloration. Thus, skin color of toadlets can indicate their sex and related anomalies (intersex) and thereby may be used as biomarker for pollutants that affect sex ratios or sexual development.

 


 

Proboscis length influences flower visits on a flower species with long corolla in Clouded Apollo butterflies

Flóra Vajna1, Viktor Szigeti2, János Kis1

1 University of Veterinary Medicine, Deptartment of Ecology; 2 Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Ecological Res., Inst. Ecology and Botany

Most butterflies consume nectar and select among flower species. Selection can be influenced by many factors, e.g. corolla and proboscis length ratios.

The protected Clouded Apollo Parnassius mnemosyne spend much time on feeding and visit some flower species frequently, others less often. Sticky Catchfly Silene viscaria is one of the Apollos' nectar sources, with high nectar yield. Its corolla length is similar to the Apollos' proboscis length, the longest among those observed being visited. Annual visit rates varied considerably in another location.

We studied proboscis lengths' relationship to Sticky Catchfly visit frequency and annual variation in proboscis and corolla lengths for better understanding plant-pollinator relationships and a sound basis for conservation management.

We recorded individually marked butterflies' feeding visits in a colline meadow, 2014–2018, Hungary. We measured proboscis and corolla length of living specimens on photomacrographs.

We found individual differences in both lengths. Proboscis length varied across years. Our results imply that corolla length may also vary, although our methods were inappropriate to claim this. Other important nectar plants varied throughout this period. We found that proboscis length influenced flower choice: Apollos with longer proboscis were more likely to visit and more frequently observed visiting Sticky Catchflies.

Some nectar resources are not available for all individuals due to individual variation in proboscis length. Annual variation on proboscis and corolla lengths may influence resource use, i.e. plant-pollinator relationships across years. Since foraging success is supposed to influence fitness, understanding trophic and morphological relationships can be important for effective conservation plans.

 


 

The effects of invasive Aster species on pollinator communities

Márton Vörös1, Viktor Szigeti2, Anikó Kovács-Hostyánszki2, Annamária Fenesi3

1 University of Szeged, Hungary; 2 Institute of Ecology and Botany, MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Hungary; 3 Hungarian Department of Biology and Ecology, Babeş-Bolyai University, Romania

Plant invasion in Hungary (or elsewhere in the world) causes huge problems in agriculture and conservation. Our study focuses on the harmful effects of plant invasion, especially on pollinator diversity and abundance, which may cause serious global economic and environmental problems. We studied the effects of plant invasion by Aster species. These usually have dominant presence in their habitat that can result in a decline in richness and cover of native plant species and consequently decrease the pollinator richness and abundance. Moreover, Aster species could have different effects before and during its flowering. We compared highly invaded (>50% Aster coverage) and uninvaded control (<5%) areas. Two 50-meter-long transects were selected in each invaded and non-invaded site. Alongside these transects we sampled pollinators (honey bees, wild bees and hoverflies) before and during the flowering of Aster species. In addition, we estimated the flower abundance at species level in five 1 *1 meter quadrats along each transect. Because of late flowering of Aster species, results are available from the first sampling period so far. Our first results show that the native wild flower and the pollinator abundance was lower in the invaded sites than in control sites before the flowering of Aster species. There was a positive correlation between flower resources and pollinator abundance. The highest pollinator abundance was found in control sites where the flower abundance was higher than 100 (number of flower units).


 

Farmland bird activity and arthropod biomass and diversity in three differently managed types of flower strips – a study in the district of Göttingen, Lower Saxony; Germany

Andreas Wiedenmann

Georg-August-University Göttingen

Programme: Integrated bi-national Master of International Nature Conservation (M.Sc./M.I.N.C.)- Georg-August-University Göttingen / Lincoln University

First supervisor: Dr. Eckhard Gottschalk, Department of Zoology

Second supervisor: Dr. Péter Batáry, Department of Agroecology

 

The agricultural policy in EU member states is coordinated through the Common Agricultural Policy since the 1960s. This policy was set in place to ensure a protected market and guaranteed prizes. It led to an intensification of agricultural practice in the EU which in turn resulted in significant declines of birds inhabiting agricultural landscapes (BUTLER et al. 2010). Since the 1990s agri-environmental schemes (AES) have been implemented to improve conditions for species inhabiting agricultural landscapes and to halt the decline of biodiversity. The effectiveness of AES is a cause for debate among scientists. Especially uncommon and threatened species don’t seem to benefit from the measures as it would be desirable (KLEIJN et al. 2006). The effectivity of AES to increase farmland bird populations in particular has been debated as well (PRINCÉ et al. 2012).

Flower strips are a measure within AES that is widely used. Several studies support the positive effect of this measure regarding higher insect abundances and diversity within flower strips when compared to crop land (HAALAND et al. 2011). They also have been shown to positively effect farmland bird territory densities. The effectiveness of this measure depends, however, on specific factors such as the age of flower strips (ZOLLINGER et al. 2013). It is therefore important to closely monitor the effects of measures within AES on farmland bird populations and diversity to adapt and improve them according to monitoring results (BAKER et al. 2012).

In my study three different management treatments for flower strips and a control treatment of winter grain are compared. The first management treatment is annual flower strips. The second management treatment is a flower strip where 50 to 70 % of the area is plowed and freshly sown each year while the remaining area remains unplowed and is left to natural succession. Perennial flower strips are the third management option for flower strips. A seed mixture of fixed composition is sown in the first year of the duration of the scheme. After that no plowing is allowed for five years.

The study will assess the effectiveness of these three different treatments regarding their usefulness as habitat for farmland bird species and for ground-dwelling arthropods as a food resource. The research questions are the following: Which management treatment for flower strips attracts most birds regarding individual numbers and species diversity? Which treatment for flower strips hosts the highest arthropod biomass and diversity on order level?

The study area lies in central Germany in the federal country of Lower-Saxony. Of each treatment eight plots are chosen for sampling, adding up to 32 plots in total. The area of the plots varies between 0.5 and 1.5 ha. Farmland birds are sampled using the point count method. For a period of half an hour all birds that are seen flying into, out of or overhead of the plot are counted form one location. The species and the number of individuals is recorded for each observation. Furthermore, it is noted whether the observed birds have a spatial reference to the plot. A spatial reference is recorded if birds show foraging, resting or breeding behaviour within the plot borders. For the sampling of arthropods, a STIHL shredder vacuum SH58 is utilized at full engine power and the suction tube is pressed firmly on the ground for one second. This is repeated every meter on a straight transect line. For the sampling of arthropod biomass one sample contains ten of these subsamples. Arthropod diversity is assessed using twenty subsamples within one sample. The transect lines are placed five meters away from the edge of the plot to minimize both the edge effect and possible disturbance for breeding birds. Arthropod samples are frozen until they are sorted to remove plant and soil particles. The specimens within each sample are then identified to order level. To assess the arthropod biomass the samples are dried in an oven.

AES may serve as an important tool to improve living conditions of animal and plant species that are endangered by the intensification of agricultural practice. As these measures are linked to financial subsides and result in a loss of productive area, it is important to assess their effectiveness to ensure the continued support by all involved stakeholders. The importance of this study lies in the assessment of the effectiveness of three different management treatments for flower strips to provide habitat for farmland birds and arthropods as food resource. The results of this study may help to decide whether one type of management should be prioritized over others. The study may therefore contribute to improvements of conservation policy within the Common Agricultural Policy.