Post of the month 12/2020: The Seed Ecology Research Group

The Seed Ecology Research Group works in the Institute of Ecology and Botany, Centre of Ecological Research in Vácrátót, Hungary.

The focus of our group is on plant ecology, conservation biology and restoration ecology. Our model ecosystems are dry grasslands, which are outstandingly diverse and dynamic habitat types across Europe and cover 40% of the global land surface. This allows upscaling the findings validated in our research program. Our goal is to find solutions for restoring degraded ecosystems and maximise their resilience in order to sustain their biodiversity and the ecosystem functions and services they provide. We are a young and enthusiastic group. You can read about the particular research interest of the group members in our institutional homepage: Orsolya Valkó (full professor, research group leader), Balázs Deák (full professor), András Kelemen (post-doc researcher), Réka Kiss (post-doc researcher), Zoltán Rádai (post-doc researcher), Laura Godó (pre-doc researcher) and Katalin Lukács (pre-doc researcher).

Our group in a lab retreat in Hortobágy National Park, Hungary. Photo by: Sándor Borza.

Fire ecology is also in the focus of our scientific interest. We study the effect of wildfire and prescribed burning in grassland ecosystems. We evaluated the applicability of prescribed burning in European grasslands in a literature review (Valkó et al. 2014), and found that with carefully designed application circumstances, fire can be used for decreasing litter accumulation, protecting species of dry grasslands, maintaining landscape openness and fighting against invasive species. We also contacted Hungarian national parks and summarized their experiences about the effect of wildfire on Hungarian grasslands (Deák et al. 2014). In another study (Végvári et al. 2016) we found that the strictly protected Great Bustard (Otis tarda) can benefit from wildfires as they can provide optimal habitat condition for the mating of this steppic bird species. In a prescribed burning experiment, we found that dormant season, low intensity fires applied in small patches can increase the conservation values of alkali grasslands (Valkó et al. 2016). However, in another study we proved that too frequent fire and arson can decrease the species richness of grassland specialist plant species in foothill grasslands (Valkó et al. 2018).

If you are interested in our research, please visit our research blog, where you can read about our studies on grassland conservation, restoration, fire, seed ecology, and many more topics.

References of our fire-related publications

Deák, B., Valkó, O., Török, P., Végvári, Zs., Hartel, T., Schmotzer, A., Kapocsi, I., Tóthmérész, B. (2014): Grassland fires in Hungary – experiences of nature conservationists on the effects of fire on biodiversity. Applied Ecology and Environmental Research 12(1): 267-283.

Valkó, O., Kelemen, A., Miglécz, T., Török, P., Deák, B., Tóth, K., Tóth, J.P., Tóthmérész, B. (2018): Litter removal does not compensate detrimental fire effects on biodiversity in regularly burned semi-natural grasslands. Science of the Total Environment 622-623: 783-789.

Valkó O., Deák B., Magura T., Török P., Kelemen A., Tóth K., Horváth R., Nagy D.D., Debnár Zs., Zsigrai Gy., Kapocsi I., Tóthmérész B. (2016): Supporting biodiversity by prescribed burning in grasslands – a multi-taxa approach. Science of the Total Environment 572: 1377-1384.

Valkó, O., Török, P., Deák, B., Tóthmérész, B. (2014): Prospects and limitations of prescribed burning as a management tool in European grasslands. Basic and Applied Ecology 15: 26-33.

Végvári, Zs., Valkó, O., Deák, B., Török, P., Konyhás, S., Tóthmérész, B. (2016): Effects of land use and wildfires on the habitat selection of Great Bustard (Otis tarda L.) – Implications for species conservation. Land Degradation & Development doi: 10.1002/ldr.2495.

Leave a Reply