We are part of the Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Our history goes back to 1955. By 2016, we comprised one department with the common name the Department of Vegetation Ecology, where paleoecology had traditional place. The separate Department of Paleoecology was established in 2017. At present, we comprise two working units: the Department of Vegetation Ecology and the Department of Paleoecology, which cooperate closely.
Our main focus is basic and applied research in vegetation ecology, especially the long-term development and short-term dynamics of ecosystems and the interaction between human societies and nature. Our research connects several natural scientific and humanistic disciplines in order to study changes in species composition and biodiversity.
Part of both departments we have two laboratories for the analysis of soil samples and the processing of paleoecological samples. These services are available also for external use.
Institute of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of Sciences, Masaryk University in Brno Long-term dynamics of vegetation and environment in central Europe
We cooperate with several domestic and foreign institutions.
Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology, Mendel University in Brno
Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague
Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Palacký University in Olomouc
Universiti Brunei Darussalam
Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences
Department of Phytology, Faculty of Forestry, Technical University in Zvolen
Department of Integrative Biology and Biodiversity Research, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic
Podyjí National park
We are interested in following research topics:
One of the causes of recent species composition and species diversity of water and wetland ecosystems can be also historical processes. Thus we analyse fossil pollen, macrofossils (seeds, tissues, mosses, wood) and diatoms from various wetland biotope types to study their origin and development and to reconstruct past environmental factors (temperature, trophy, the amount of calcareous ions) using training files and transition functions.
The migration and dynamics of woody plants into east-central Europe, the impact of climate changes, fire events and human activity which influenced the dynamics of forest development.
Understanding long-term disturbances regimes is necessary for modelling the dynamics of forest ecosystems. One of the essential disturbance factors driving forest development is fire. However, in contemporary European temperate forestry science the gap dynamics paradigm prevails, which assigns little importance to fire disturbances. However, convincing evidence of widespread fire occurrence in Central European landscapes throughout the Holocene is indicated by numerous findings of charcoal in soils, lacustrine and peatland sediments. Paleoecological methods such, as measuring past influx of charcoal particles, are well suited to assess long-term changes in fire regimes and the effects of fire disturbances on vegetation development. Combining this technique with pollen and macocharcoal analysis, we can gain a better understanding of past climate-fire-vegetation relationships and improve our predictions of future ecosystem changes.
The reconstructions are based on various proxies, such as abiotic (oxygen and carbon isotopes from travertins) or biotic (e.g. Arcellinid testate amoebae, chironomids, pollen, …). These reconstructions are compared with climatic models, hydrology of the study sites, and also with the vegetation development in the wetlands and in the whole landscape. Climate reconstructions, together with the study of the impact of human activities, are important to understand past and current vegetation changes.
Petra Hájková, Eva Jamrichová
In collaboration with the Department of Botany of the Faculty of Science of Charles University in Prague, we focus on the development of modern methods of quantitative reconstructions of past vegetation and their application to reconstruct species composition changes and vegetation diversity during the Holocene in selected regions of the Czech Republic (White Carpathians, Bohemian-Moravian Highlands).
Windstorms are one of the most significant abiotic factors to influence the long-term development of forest ecosystems. In collaboration with the Institute of Geography of Masaryk University (Brno), we study the role of windstorms in forest development in the Czech Lands in the past 500 years and also the effects of historic windstorms events on the development of forestry policies.
Péter Szabó, Silvie Suchánková
Institute of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of Sciences, Masaryk University in Brno
Long-term dynamics of vegetation and environment in central Europe
Current change of biodiversity and environment in terrestric ecosystems
Changes in the natural environment are increasing in terms of extent and intensity. This has important implications for communities of various organisms and their biodiversity across the world. To understand the dynamics and impact of global changes to nature and human society, it is necessary to analyse large data sets, covering the development of ecosystems at various spatial scales. Forest ecosystems represent the best preserved plant communities in the temperate climatic zone, particularly in Europe, North America and eastern Asia. We study changes in species composition and biodiversity in such forests using the analysis of resampled historical vegetation plots. We have a large database of resampled plots in the Czech Republic at our disposal. We are also involved in international consortia. We have dealt with this topic for two decades, with the financial contribution of several grant projects (‘Lowland woodland’, ‘Longwood’, ‘Humans as nature’). We have published several scientific papers on this topic.
Plant succession in old fields, fallows, abandoned grasslands and anthropogenic sites and its relationships with the soil seed bank, ruderalization and locality isolation. Succession in quarries, sand pits, damps etc.
Diversity of vegetation and environment at various spatial scales
Tropical forests in Borneo represent one of the most species and structurally rich ecosystems of the world. Since 2007, we have been monitoring permanent plots in the National park Ulu Temburong in Brunei, which was established in 1991. We are monitoring approximately 300 tree species in one hectar of primary forest. In cooperation with the University in Brunei, Mendel University in Brno and Palacký University in Olomouc, we are monitoring the long term dynamics of woody plants. We relate this to the diversity of the plant communities and environmental conditions in fine scale spatial resolution. We study the storage and release mechanisms of carbon by trees, and their contribution to global flows of this key element. We also study the herb communities, which are no less species rich and interesting from the ecological point of view.
Radim Hédl, Markéta Chudomelová
In the Czech Republic, the pollen monitoring programme was established in 1997 in cooperation with the international project Pollen Monitoring Programme (INQUA working group within the Commission on Palaeoecology and Human Evolution, UNESCO). We examine pollen influx with the help of 32 Tauber pollen traps (modified) from Šumava and Krkonoše Mountains situated on the altitudinal transect from the mires up to the highest peaks. The results are available in the PMP Database (Neotoma Database and Community).
Calcareous fens belong to the most endangered habitats across Europe. A lot of localities have been destroyed in the past and the rest is endangered by eutrofization, drainage or by absence of management. Thus it is very important to study influence of water regime changes, eutrofization and management on their species composition. In such a way we can propose appropriate type of management and maintain their biodiversity. In co-opperation with the collegues from Masaryk University we study different types of management on experimental plots (White Carpathians, Hostýnské and Vsetínské Mts) or relationships among particular taxonomic groups and their environment (water regime, water chemistry, historical processes) on the different spatial scales.
Relationships between species richness and ecosystem processes and functions are dependent on species composition of communities and their ecological characteristics. By using species’ ecological traits, we can predict development of biodiversity and also the formation of new communities and their ecosystem functions. For this purpose it is necessary to assess both the response traits that determine the response of the species to the environment and effect traits that express the influence of species on the ecosystem functions. Based on this knowledge, we try to describe the mechanisms by which plant diversity affects the functioning the forest ecosystems. We are also studying which ecological processes of forest management influence the formation of plant and invertebrate communities.
Interaction of humans and nature in the past
We study changes in the palaeoecological records using identification of pollen, non-pollen objects, macrofossils and microcharcoals and we put them into the context of changes in settlement (archaeological evidence, historical records). Human impact might be a crucial factor for surviving of grassland ecosystems in the past (especially during the Middle-Holocene forest optimum). Its intensity and continuity in the past can influence recent species composition and diversity.
Petra Hájková, Eva Jamrichová, Lýdie Dudová
Before the emergence of modern forestry in the 18th-19th centuries, various traditional management techniques prevailed in lowland forests in Central Europe. The most important of these was coppicing. Non-timber management was ever-present and included litter raking, forest pasture, hay-cutting and pannage (driving domestic pigs into forests to feed on acorns). We study the long-term history of these management types and also the detrimental effects of their abandonment in the 20th century on biodiversity.
Péter Szabó, Silvie Suchánková
Using our databases, we examine topics connected with the interactions between humans and the environment. In particular, we focus on the quantitative comparison of archaeological, paleoecological and climatic records and models. Our research focuses on past land-use history, the relationships between the demography of human societies, land use intensity, social changes and technological advances.
Restoration of biodiversity of central European ecosystems
Traditional forms of forest management in central Europe include coppicing, litter raking, pasture of domestic animals and many others. These historical approaches to forest management were replaced by the approaches of modern forestry during the19th and 20th centuries. Since the mid-20th century, they have almost entirely vanished, but they have left their legacy in forest ecosystems. Our aim is to examine the trace of historical management forms in forest vegetation, and the impact of their abandonment. We are also interested in how to restore traditional forest management forms in the 21st century for conservation. At several sites in southern Moravia (Pálava, Podyjí, Bílé Karpaty), we cooperate with conservation agencies to implement the reintroduction of coppicing and litter raking. We monitor the impact of these measures on the biodiversity of plant and invertebrate communities.
Radim Hédl, Ondřej Vild
Different management practices in grasslands, the influence of pasture, mowing, manuring, burning and sod cutting on vegetation diversity and soil microbial activity in the area of the Podyji/Thayatal National Parks.
Biology and ecology of vascular plant species
Demography and phenology of individuals, ramets and populations in rare and clonal species (especially grasses). Relationships between plants, abiotic factors and management types.
The biology and autecology of herbaceous species in forests of Europe and North America is still understudied. We focus on contemporary patterns and driving factors (including anthropogenic) in the biodiversity and species composition of communities. We carry out our research on permanent plots in the Czech Republic (see Monitoring plots), where the dynamics of herbaceous communities and their environment is censused annually. To better understand species ecology, experimental manipulation of environmental conditions is applied, especially that of various management types. In the future, we aim to compare the herbaceous layers of forests in central Europe and the eastern part of North America, two regions sharing many similarities including environmental factors.
The origins, development, diversity and management of Central European wetlands
We study the diversity and dynamics of wetlands on arable land across several taxonomic groups (e.g. invertebrates, vascular plants and diatoms) as well as the relationship between diversity and management practices.
We study the biodiversity and dynamics of wetland and aquatic vascular plants, charophytes and diatoms in different types of fishponds. Is there low biodiversity in “ordinarily” managed fishponds?
We suppose that the fishponds with long continuity of development offer larger amount of suitable ecological niches for broader range of organisms than the relatively young fishponds. We also suppose that the biodiversity is different across various taxonomic groups. To test this hypothesis, we will study the past development, vegetation, soil propagule bank/macroelements, diatom assemblages, and bryophytes of several dozens of fishponds in three regions with distinct natural and historilcal conditions.
Interactions between host plants and their epiphytic algae belong to the most interesting questions of recent phycology. Do certain diatom taxa prefer particular host plants? What is the reason for this preference and on the other hand what is the reason for the absence of certain diatom taxa on some o the host plants? Is it the host plant surface or host plant physiology influncing its epiphyton? Within this research topic we started a collaboration with the Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy team from The Institute of Scientific Instruments.