NKFIH K 119225 (2016-2020)
How can plant ecology support grassland restoration?
Project leader: Péter Török

Traditionally managed species-rich landscapes in Europe and elsewhere are facing a large-scale degradation nowadays, largely caused by changes in the intensity of agricultural land-use, such as intensification or abandonment. For the conservation of biodiversity in such agriculture-driven landscapes, dry and mesic grasslands have an outstanding importance. In the last few decades most of the grasslands were subjected to degradation, which resulted in the loss of biodiversity and other ecosystem functions and services. The recovery of grassland biodiversity by practical habitat restoration, therefore, became a top priority both in scientific research and practice. However, there is a conspicuous gap between the theory- and practice-driven approaches between biodiversity conservation science and policy highlighted in some recent studies. On one hand there are various theories and tools developed in plant ecology to understand the species assembly, dispersal and establishment processes in a wide range of habitats over the world. On the other hand, during practical grassland restoration a set of measures were used for recovering grassland vegetation and assessing restoration success during which huge amounts of evidence-based knowledge have been accumulated. A unified framework linking theoretical plant ecology with the practical implemented restoration is still lacking. In our research we aimed to explore how theoretical findings can support a cost-effective and successful grassland restoration in agriculture-driven landscapes. This approach in restoration is very novel and well connected to the mainstream of restoration ecology and theoretical plant ecology research.

 

NKFIH KH 129483 (2018-2020)
Effect of grazing on functional diversity of grasslands
Project leader: Péter Török

To sustain the traditional land use and landscape-sca le biodiversity extensive pastoral and free grazing are vital and effective management options. Although the traditional livestock breeds are increasingly considered in grassland management and biodiversity conservation practice, the direct effects of these breeds on the species composition and richness of subjected communities are rarely studied. The planned research aims to study the intensity dependent effects of livestock grazing on the studied grassland communities by using a complex sampling of vegetation, soil and soil seed bank. For the first work package altogether 72 stands of alkali short-steppes, loess grasslands, alkali and non-alkali wet grasslands grazed in varying intensity prevailingly by Hungarian grey cattle were selected in order to study the change in the functional diversity of the vegetation induced by grazing. In the second work package, we aimed to study the vegetation and seed banks of typical physiognomically distinct vegetation units in 10 sites of wood pastures in Hungary and Romania. In the third work package we compared the vegetation composition and biomass production of alkali dry short-grass steppes, loess grasslands, alkali and non-alkali wet grassland grazed by sheep or cattle using a complex vegetation sampling. In the three work packages, by addressing 9 particular research questions we aim to answer how grazing with different intensity, also considering livestock identity, affects the vegetation, species composition, the soil and the density and composition of soil seed banks in the studied grassland communities.

 

LP2017-22/2017 (2017-2022) Lendület II. project
New frontiers in restoration: Ecological theories provide strong support to develop and sustain green infrastructure
Projekt leader: Péter Török

To sustain human well-being and the quality of life, it is essential to develop and support green infrastructure (i.e. strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services). For developing and sustaining green infrastructure the conservation and restoration of biodiversity in natural and traditionally managed habitats is crucial. Species-rich landscapes and natural habitats are facing large-scale degradation caused by the intensified land-use. The loss of biodiversity also strongly affected the landscape functionality via the decreased levels of pollination and biological pest control. Habitat restoration is a powerful tool to counteract degradation by the recovery of former species richness and area of natural habitats and by creating a habitat network and connectivity in landscapes dominated by human influence. Thus, habitat restoration has a top priority both in scientific research and in practice. There is a strong demand to seek cost-effective habitat management and recovery strategies, because of the high costs of technical restoration. Incorporating findings of theoretical ecology into practical restoration can address this request. Our ultimate goal was to develop and test ways to link biodiversity conservation, sustainable management and restoration in order to meet the major challenges related to land use, climate change adaptation and human well-being.

 

NKFIH KH 130320 (2018.12.01.-2020.12.31.)

Role of functional plant traits in grassland dynamics and restoration

The main aim of the project was to examine the ecological processes of grasslands in Central and Eastern Europe and the related rules of community organization and association on a functional trait basis. The studies aimed to analyse the processes of plant propagation, seed bank formation and community resistance and resilience through the study of plant characteristics. Another important goal was to create an open-access plant trait database, which contains local measurement data for the fullest possible range of Hungarian flora species.

NKFIH FK 132142 (2019-2023)
Benthic algal composition-extreme climatic events’ relations in the Carpathian Basin

In Hungary, extreme weather events resulted a perennial-intermittent shift in small watercourses. Benthic algae including diatoms play essential role in food web and energy transfer in these watercourses, and their assemblages indicate effectively the changes in environmental conditions. However, only a little information is available how drought and flash floods modify community structure and function in biofilm, especially in the continental region. Thus the main aim of our project is to highlight the organizing force of extreme climatic events-induced changes in the water regime of streams to the compositional characteristics of benthic diatom assemblages, e.g: diversity, succession, spatial dispersal, both at species and trait level.

NKFIH PD 132131 (2019-2022)
Novel aspects of the ecosystem engineering effects of woody plants

The research focuses on two aspects of the ecology and conservation of woody-grassy habitat mosaics: (i) Using grazing exclosures, we study the effects of solitary mature trees on the biomass production, functional composition and species diversity of the herb layer and on soil properties including water balance, carbon sequestration and seed bank. (ii) We also study the regional hydrological effects of natural woody and grassy communities and tree plantations in forest-steppe ecosystems.