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Burai P.,Károly Róbert College | Deak B.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Valko O.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Tomor T.,Károly Róbert College
Remote Sensing | Year: 2015

Alkali landscapes hold an extremely fine-scale mosaic of several vegetation types, thus it seems challenging to separate these classes by remote sensing. Our aim was to test the applicability of different image classification methods of hyperspectral data in this complex situation. To reach the highest classification accuracy, we tested traditional image classifiers (maximum likelihood classifier-MLC), machine learning algorithms (support vector machine-SVM, random forest-RF) and feature extraction (minimum noise fraction (MNF)-transformation) on training datasets of different sizes. Digital images were acquired from an AISA EAGLE II hyperspectral sensor of 128 contiguous bands (400-1000 nm), a spectral sampling of 5 nm bandwidth and a ground pixel size of 1 m. For the classification, we established twenty vegetation classes based on the dominant species, canopy height, and total vegetation cover. Image classification was applied to the original and MNF (minimum noise fraction) transformed dataset with various training sample sizes between 10 and 30 pixels. In order to select the optimal number of the transformed features, we applied SVM, RF and MLC classification to 2-15 MNF transformed bands. In the case of the original bands, SVM and RF classifiers provided high accuracy irrespective of the number of the training pixels. We found that SVM and RF produced the best accuracy when using the first nine MNF transformed bands; involving further features did not increase classification accuracy. SVM and RF provided high accuracies with the transformed bands, especially in the case of the aggregated groups. Even MLC provided high accuracy with 30 training pixels (80.78%), but the use of a smaller training dataset (10 training pixels) significantly reduced the accuracy of classification (52.56%). Our results suggest that in alkali landscapes, the application of SVM is a feasible solution, as it provided the highest accuracies compared to RF and MLC. SVM was not sensitive in the training sample size, which makes it an adequate tool when only a limited number of training pixels are available for some classes.

Dengler J.,University of Bayreuth | Dengler J.,Synthesis Center sDiv | Janisova M.,Slovak Academy of Sciences | Torok P.,Debrecen University | And 2 more authors.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2014

This article introduces a Special Issue on biodiversity of Palaearctic grasslands and provides a synthesis of the current knowledge on this topic. Four major categories of grasslands can be distinguished in the Palaearctic biogeographic realm: (a) zonal steppes (in areas too dry for forests), (b) arctic-alpine grasslands (in areas too cold for forests), (c) azonal and extrazonal grasslands (where hydrology, soil conditions, relief or natural disturbances within the forest biomes prevent tree growth locally) and (d) secondary grasslands (which replace natural forests in consequence of human land use). We summarize the present knowledge about species richness patterns (mainly of vascular plants) along abiotic and land use gradients. Further, we highlight the usefulness of diversity measures not based on species richness, namely functional diversity, phylogenetic diversity and within-species diversity. The strong differences observed for diversity patterns according to analyzed biodiversity parameter, spatial scale or taxonomic group call for comparative studies and caution when generalizing results. A particular challenge are the extreme plot-scale species richness values found in grasslands of a few European regions. We propose a conceptual model that explains the findings by an interplay of various factors acting at different levels: (i) The largest species pool is expected for habitats under conditions that prevailed over the last few million years, with a slight shift towards intermediate positions, i.e. for the Palaearctic in open, semi-dry, base-rich situations. (ii) The landscape-level species pool is increased by continuity of a grassland patch in space and time and heterogeneity of the surrounding landscape. (iii) The coexistence of regionally available species at a plot scale is due to reduced competitive exclusion according to Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis, mowing once a year without fertilization being particularly effective. Ecosystem functions and services of Palaearctic grasslands are often positively connected to their biodiversity. At the same time, these communities and their biota are nowadays highly endangered. The semi-natural (High Nature Value) grasslands of Europe are mainly threatened by agricultural intensification or abandonment on low-productive sites in remote areas, while the natural steppes of the Palaearctic have largely been destroyed by conversion into arable land. Finally, we present some promising conservation and management approaches and call for a strong and comprehensive Convention on Grassland Conservation. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Valko O.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Valko O.,Debrecen University | Torok P.,Debrecen University | Deak B.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Tothmeresz B.,Debrecen University
Basic and Applied Ecology | Year: 2014

Grassland managers and scientists are increasingly interested in cost-effective alternative ways of grassland biodiversity conservation. Prescribed burning is a promising management tool which should be integrated in the planning of management efforts. In addition, small-scale prescribed burning is an effective fire suppression strategy to decrease the serious negative impacts of uncontrolled burnings on ecosystems and human life. Prescribed burning forms an integral part of the North-American grassland management practice, while in Europe it is rarely applied, despite the fact that uncontrolled burning occurs frequently in some regions. Our goal was to evaluate the use of prescribed burning as a promising but neglected management tool in European grasslands. We found that European studies on prescribed burning of grasslands are scarce and we conclude that annual burning is usually not an appropriate option for the conservation of species-rich grasslands. We reviewed burning studies from North-America to identify findings which might be adapted to the European grassland conservation strategy. In North-America, contrary to Europe, the application of burning is fine tuned in terms of frequency and timing, and usually combined with other restoration measures (grazing or seed sowing). Thus, we conclude that with the application of carefully designed prescribed burning, multiple conservation goals, e.g. invasion control and enhancing landscape-level heterogeneity, can be linked with an effective fire suppression strategy. We emphasize that for the application of prescribed burning in Europe, the general findings of carefully designed case studies should be combined with the practical knowledge of conservation managers concerning the local application circumstances to reach specific management objectives. © 2013 Gesellschaft für Ökologie.

Simon E.,Debrecen University | Harangi S.,Debrecen University | Baranyai E.,Debrecen University | Fabian I.,Debrecen University | Tothmeresz B.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group
Urban Forestry and Urban Greening | Year: 2016

Elemental concentrations of deposited dust and leaf tissue are often used to assess the level of contamination, and for monitoring air pollution. Leaves of Platanus x acerifolia, Fraxinus excelsior and Acer campestre were used to assess the amount of deposited dust and the elemental concentrations of deposited dust and leaf tissue in and around the city of Miskolc, Hungary. Samples were collected from the nearby cement and steel factories and from urban, suburban and rural areas along an urbanization gradient. Both the cement and steel factories were in the suburban area of Miskolc, an influence the air quality of the city. The concentrations of Al, Ba, Cd, Cr, Fe, Na, Pb, Si, Sr and Zn were determined in the deposited dust and leaf tissue, using MP-AES. We found significant differences in the amounts of deposited dust between suburban and rural areas. There were no significant differences among the other areas compared to each other. Canonical discriminant analysis showed a good separation of areas and species based on the elemental concentrations of deposited dust and leaves. In the deposited dust, significant differences were found among studied areas in the case of Al, Ba, Cd, Cr, Fe, Na, Pb, Si, Sr and Zn. There were no significant differences among species in the elemental concentrations of deposited dust, with the exception of Na. However, the Al, Ba, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Si, Sr and Zn concentrations in leaf tissue differed significantly among the studied areas. We found significant differences among leaves of various species in the case of Ba and Si. The organic matter content of leaf tissue was positively correlated with Zn concentration. In the cases of other elements there was no significant correlation between the organic matter content and the elements’ concentration in leaf tissue. Our results suggested that industrial activities and urbanization caused remarkable air contamination. Our findings suggest that the dust deposits on leaf surface may be useful indicators of atmospheric element air pollution. The reconstruction of abandoned industrial buildings are needed because, in addition to general urbanization, they have been a potential air pollution source, and still remain so. © 2016 Elsevier GmbH

Deak B.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Valko O.,Debrecen University | Torok P.,Debrecen University | Tothmeresz B.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Tothmeresz B.,Debrecen University
Tuexenia | Year: 2014

Wet meadows are transitional habitats between wetlands and dry-mesophilous grasslands; thus, they are vital in sustaining biodiversity as sources, stepping stones and green corridors of species dispersal. It is especially valid for inland alkali vegetation, where high landscape-scale patchiness is typical and rapid shifts between vegetation types occur frequently. Solonetz meadows (Beckmannion eruciformis) are among the best-preserved open habitats in Europe harbouring a unique flora including several endemics. Besides their importance, studies on the vegetation of solonetz meadows are scarce even though this knowledge would be vital for their effective conservation and management. Using own records and literature data, we provide a synthesis of the alliance Beckmannion eruciformis to charac-terise its associations floristically and ecologically in five regions along the river Tisza, East Hungary. We studied three associations of the alliance: (i) Agrostio stoloniferae-Alopecuretum pratensis, (ii) Agrostio stoloniferae-Beckmannietum eruciformis and (iii) Agrostio stoloniferae-Glycerietum pedi-cellatae. We found that solonetz meadow associations were separated along a moisture gradient with Agrostio stoloniferae-Alopecuretum pratensis at the drier end and Agrostio stoloniferae-Glycerietum pedicellateae at the wet end. This gradient was also justified by the distribution of the phytosociological groups. The proportion of species of Festuco-Brometea division was the highest in Agrostio stolonifer-ae-Alopecuretum pratensis, while the proportion of Cypero-Phragmitetea species was the highest in Agrostio stoloniferae-Glycerietum pedicellateae. Species of Puccinellio-Salicornetea had the highest proportion in Agrostio stoloniferae-Beckmannietum eruciformis, indicating the high soil salinity of this association. Our results suggest that Agrostio stoloniferae-Alopecuretum pratensis association plays an important role in preserving the continental flora elements of the surrounding dry grasslands. The ecological indicator values for soil moisture and salinity suggest that in case of the studied solonetz meadow associations, humidity increases with decreasing elevation, while salinity is highest at medium elevations. Our results suggest that Agrostio stoloniferae-Beckmannietum eruciformis is a transition towards salt marsh associations, while Agrostio stoloniferae-Glycerietum pedicellatae is a transition towards freshwater marshes. Our results show that preserving solonetz meadows is an important task for nature conservation as they have a crucial role in maintaining landscape-scale species and habitat diversity and act as buffer zones around wetlands.

Valko O.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Tothmeresz B.,Debrecen University | Kelemen A.,Debrecen University | Simon E.,Debrecen University | And 3 more authors.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2014

For an effective conservation and management in grasslands it is essential to understand mechanisms sustaining biodiversity. To gain knowledge is especially crucial in stressed grasslands harbouring a unique flora and fauna, like alkali grasslands. Aboveground vegetation, seed bank and environmental factors were studied in three stands of the following alkali grassland types: (i) Artemisia dry alkali grasslands at highest elevations; (ii) Puccinellia high and (iii) Puccinellia low grasslands at medium to low elevations, and (iv) Juncus wet alkali grasslands at the lowest elevations. We tested the following hypotheses: (i) Seed bank species diversity and density are the highest in the most stressed grassland types, where regeneration by seeds could have a major importance in sustaining vegetation diversity. (ii) Seed bank density of hygrophytes increases with decreasing elevation, because the cover of hygrophytes in the vegetation increases with decreasing elevation. The mean seed bank density ranged from 30,104 up to 51,410seeds/m2, which is higher than in most dry grasslands. Both the lowest seed bank density and diversity were detected in the most stressed Puccinellia high grasslands; Spergularia salina was the only abundant seed bank species (possessing at least 1000seeds/m2). These results not supported our first hypothesis. We detected the highest seed densities of almost all hygrophyte species in the lowest-elevated Juncus grasslands. But, we did not find a significant monotonous correlation between elevation and the overall hygrophyte seed bank density; because most of the hygrophyte species were missing from the seed bank at the medium-elevated, but most saline Puccinellia grasslands. Thus, our results only partly supported the second hypothesis. In total we detected more species in the seed bank than in the aboveground vegetation which emphasises that seed bank plays an important role in sustaining the diversity of alkali grasslands. However, characteristic graminoids possessed no considerable seed bank, except for Juncus compressus (up to 38,619seeds/m2). We can conclude that persistence and establishment of most alkali grassland species are not supported by the local persistent seed bank. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Kotroczo Z.,Debrecen University | Veres Z.,Debrecen University | Fekete I.,College of Nyíregyháza | Krakomperger Z.,Debrecen University | And 3 more authors.
Soil Biology and Biochemistry | Year: 2014

Enzymes are considered to be a key soil component catalysing important transformations related to decomposition and nutrient turnover, and their activity in soil can be used as a measure of soil health. As part of the Síkfokút DIRT (Detritus Input and Removal Treatments) Project in a temperate deciduous forest in northern Hungary, we examined the extent to which enzyme activity in soil is influenced by both the quality and quantity of plant detrital inputs. DIRT treatments include doubling of leaf litter and woody debris inputs as well as removal of litter and trenching to prevent root inputs. Our objective was to examine seasonal dynamics of soil phosphatase and β-glucosidase activities and to determine the effects of detrital manipulations on these dynamics. We found that the litter additions did not affect enzyme activities, but removal of roots caused significant decreases in enzyme activities. We conclude that plant-induced changes to soil enzyme activities are driven primarily by readily available, labile carbon provided by root turnover and root exudation rather than by aboveground detrital inputs. However, these results could also have been affected by changes in soil chemistry with detrital input removal: after only 6 years of litter removal, soil cation content decreased and soils became more acidic, both of which could inhibit enzyme activity. The soil phosphatase and β-glucosidase enzymes measured showed similar seasonal dynamics. Both enzymes showed the highest activities in spring coincident with high soil moisture and, presumably, high root activity. The minimal response of soil enzyme activity to dramatic litter additions suggests a level of resilience in ecosystem function in this forest, and suggests that aboveground litter is not a significant source of labile carbon to microbes in the mineral soil. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Torok P.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Valko O.,Debrecen University | Deak B.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Kelemen A.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group | Tothmeresz B.,Debrecen University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Extensively managed pastures are of crucial importance in sustaining biodiversity both in local- and landscape-level. Thus, re-introduction of traditional grazing management is a crucial issue in grassland conservation actions worldwide. Traditional grazing with robust cattle breeds in low stocking rates is considered to be especially useful to mimic natural grazing regimes, but well documented case-studies are surprisingly rare on this topic. Our goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of traditional Hungarian Grey cattle grazing as a conservation action in a mosaic alkali landscape. We asked the following questions: (i) How does cattle grazing affect species composition and diversity of the grasslands? (ii) What are the effects of grazing on short-lived and perennial noxious species? (iii) Are there distinct effects of grazing in dry-, mesophilous- and wet grassland types? Vegetation of fenced and grazed plots in a 200-ha sized habitat complex (secondary dry grasslands and pristine mesophilous- and wet alkali grasslands) was sampled from 2006-2009 in East-Hungary. We found higher diversity scores in grazed plots compared to fenced ones in mesophilous- and wet grasslands. Higher cover of noxious species was typical in fenced plots compared to their grazed counterparts in the last year in every studied grassland type. We found an increasing effect of grazing from the dry- towards the wet grassland types. The year-to-year differences also followed similar pattern: the site-dependent effects were the lowest in the dry grassland and an increasing effect was detected along the moisture gradient. We found that extensive Hungarian Grey cattle grazing is an effective tool to suppress noxious species and to create a mosaic vegetation structure, which enables to maintain high species richness in the landscape. Hungarian Grey cattle can feed in open habitats along long moisture gradient, thus in highly mosaic landscapes this breed can be the most suitable livestock type. © 2014 Török et al.

Lakatos K.T.,Debrecen University | Laszlo Z.,Babes - Bolyai University | Tothmeresz B.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group
Acta Oecologica | Year: 2016

The introduced black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) has become an invasive plant species in Europe. The introduction of alien plants such as the black locust may modify ecosystem composition and functioning. In response to the presence of a potential host plant, herbivores can adapt and shift to the consumption of the new host plant. In Eastern-Central Europe, the seed predator Bruchophagus robiniae (Hymenoptera: Eurytomidae) is an important consumer of black locust seeds which presumably shifted from its formerly host species to black locust. We tested the influence of host plant abundance on a seed predator - parasitoid community. We found that the seed predator B. robiniae was present in higher numbers in woodlots than in small patches of black locust. The density of the specialist parasitoid Mesopolobus sp. was lower in woodlots than in small patches, while the generalist parasitoid Eupelmus urozonos was evenly distributed between woodlots and small patches of black locust. We found that parasitoid species are influenced by the patch size of host plants, thus characteristics of introduced host plants can also manifest in higher trophic levels. © 2016 Elsevier Masson SAS.

Laszlo Z.,Babes - Bolyai University | Baur H.,Abteilung Wirbellose Tiere | Tothmeresz B.,Mta Of Biodiversity And Ecosystem Services Research Group
Systematic Entomology | Year: 2013

We demonstrate by multivariate ratio analysis (MRA) the validity of two female colour morphs as separate species in what was previously regarded as a single species, Trigonoderus cyanescens (Förster, 1841) (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae). As a result, T.pedicellaris Thomson, 1878 stat.r., is resurrected from synonymy under T.cyanescens and T.filatus binubilatus Erdos, 1960 syn.n. is synonymized with T.cyanescens. More than 20 characters were measured as part of two MRA dataset analyses. The first analysis excluded all measurements related to the gaster, whereas the second included gaster length, gaster breadth and seventh gaster tergite breadth. The first analysis revealed that the best separating morphometric ratios for the two species are head breadth:metatibia length and OOL:parastigma length, whereas the second analysis revealed OOL:gaster length as the second best separating ratio. The measurement error of all characters was below the admissible level of 30%. Gaster length proved to be a good character for separating the two groups, showed the lowest measurement error, and its percentage coefficient of variation was not greater than for other characters. This indicates that gaster length should not be discarded out-of-hand as a morphometric character in Pteromalidae. The variables that gave the best separating ratios included different body parts; therefore we suggest that the body of a specimen should be taken as a whole for use in MRA analyses, where each distance measurement can interact freely with any other. A key, figures and re-descriptions of T.cyanescens and T.pedicellaris are provided. © 2013 The Royal Entomological Society.

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