Department of Vegetation Ecology, Institute of Botany ASCR
The department carries out research in a wide range of topics connected to vegetation. In addition to traditional research directions, we actively develop new fields. We focus on basic research that integrates various disciplines, but we also try to find applications for our results in natural resource management and nature conservation. Currently our three main research areas are palaeoecology, historical ecology and the ecology of recent vegetation. Each area produces its own results as well as synergetic knowledge in combination with other research directions.
Palaeoecology studies the long-term development of vegetation and its interactions with natural and anthropogenic factors throughout the Holocene (the past 10,000 years), occasionally reaching back to earlier periods in the Quaternary. We focus on the Czech Republic, mostly on Moravia and Silesia; however, we are also active in Slovakia and the polar regions of Russia. Our main aim is to use modern palaeoecological methods to refine and supplement current knowledge on vegetation development. The department has its own laboratory for sample preparation. Reference collections for determining pollen and macrofossil samples as well as modern optical microscopes are also available.
Historical ecology, in our understanding, is the study of human influence on vegetation in the past. We deal with the period covered by archival sources (written evidence and maps), which in our region is approximately the past seven centuries. This research direction uses the methodology of the humanities to approach the sources, however, the analysis and interpretation are strongly influenced by a natural scientific research agenda. Both palaeoecological and historical ecological results are interpreted in the light of archaeological data. We currently focus on the historical ecology of woodland vegetation.
The ecology of recent vegetation studies the diversity of current plant communities and their ecological determinants. The traditional research area is phytosociology, which focuses on the classification of communities based on species composition, ecology, distribution etc. Vegetation ecological research also deals with the diversity and short-term dynamics of vegetation in the Czech Republic and abroad, for example in the Carpathian Mountains, in the Balkans and on Borneo. We use basic information on species ecology and environmental conditions, mostly substrate, climate and also human influence. The department has its own laboratory, where soil and plant samples can be analyzed.