Vegetation structure, ecological stability, and low-disturbance regime of abandoned dry grasslands support specific ant assemblages in Central Slovakia

TUEXENIA (Impact Factor: 1.56). 02/2011; 31:301-315.


Compared to other grassland types across Slovakia, dry grasslands harbour species-rich and specialised ant communities. High diversity and species richness of ants may be seen as a consequence of (i) the specific structure of dry grassland vegetation, (ii) long-term ecological stability, and (iii) currently low or absent management-induced disturbance. With special regard to dry grasslands, we report on structural characteristics of vegetation and low-disturbance regime, which contribute to ant assemblage structure. Our study was carried out in the Štiavnické Vrchy Mts. (Central Slovakia), a region with a historically well-developed grassland area. We established a set of 25 research plots within southorientated grassland habitats representing five different grassland types: wet managed and wet abandoned grasslands, mesic managed and mesic abandoned grasslands (Arrhenatherion elatioris), and dry abandoned grassland habitats (Asplenio-Festucion glaucae). Each habitat type was represented by five plots. At each plot, a set of ten pitfall traps was used to sample ground-foraging ant assemblages. Around each trap, structural characteristics of vegetation and microhabitat were assessed. Dry grasslands were shown to have a specific microhabitat structure, characterised by the presence of a well-developed moss and lichen layer, exposed bedrock, bare soil, and significantly lower, although species-rich vege -tation. Besides the specific microhabitat structure, the absence of management may have contributed to the distinctiveness of these ant assemblages compared to those associated with other grassland categories. Ant assemblages were more species-rich, and the activity of ants was higher in recently abandoned grassland habitats. The effect of abandonment was quite opposite for plants, whose species-richness was, contrary to ants, higher within managed sites.


Available from: Marek Svitok
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    • "On the other hand, species like Myrmica sabuleti were recorded in higher frequencies and activities from the later stages. Abandoned grasslands can play a crucial role for the preservation of temperate grassland ant communities in Central Europe (see also Wiezik et al. 2011). However, the challenge in using abandoned grasslands for the conservation of grassland ant species remains in the need to limit the natural woody plant encroachment to relatively low levels. "

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    • "The papers included in this Special Feature mainly derive from the conference in Smolenice, supplemented by some additional contributions from EDGG members. A companion Special Feature with further contributions from the conference is published in the German geobotanical journal Tuexenia (Janišová et al. 2011; Petřík et al. 2011; S ˇ kodová et al. 2011; Wiezik et al. 2011; Willner 2011 "
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    ABSTRACT: Dry grasslands in Europe are mostly of zoo-anthropogenic origin, but nevertheless they are among the most diverse plant communities of the world at small spatial scales, and they support a significant proportion of the biodiversity of the continent. Both agricultural intensification and abandonment of former dry grasslands caused dramatic losses in area and quality of this habitat type during recent decades. Here we report from the 7th European Dry Grassland Meeting, organised by the European Dry Grassland Group (EDGG) in Smolenice, Slovakia, in 2010. Under the motto “Succession, restoration and management of dry grasslands” one hundred researchers from throughout Europe discussed conservation issues of this threatened habitat type. We give a brief introduction to those nine articles that are included in this Special Feature. With contributions from many different countries and various dry grassland types, they address issues of conservation value, succession, management as well as regeneration and restoration. We conclude that the diversity of dry grasslands and their conservation problems require further research to develop adequate management techniques under changing frame conditions. However, also the frame conditions, such as the incentives for certain land use practices provided by the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union need to be addressed if long-term success in conservation of dry grasslands is intended.
    Plant Biosystems 09/2011; 145(3-3):507-513. DOI:10.1080/11263504.2011.603895 · 1.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Using four exclosures, the impact of mouflon grazing and weather on plant communities of the phytosociological alliances Koelerio-Phleion phleoidis and Hyperico perforati-Scleranthion perennis occurring on shallow soils within a forest landscape was studied in the Křivoklátsko Biosphere Reserve (Czech Republic) during seven years. In the years 2004-2010, the vascular plant species composition was recorded annually on a total of eight fenced and eight control plots, each 2 m × 1 m in size. Treatment, time, and weather data were used as explanatory variables in ordination and correlation analyses. Cover values of different life forms and indicator values varied significantly in dependence on the weather conditions of the preceding five months; however, correlations varied according to the vegetation type and were rather rarely detected. The effect of fencing appeared important in all study plots; however, the temporal trends were significant only in half of them. We did not find a significant interaction between treatment and time in the total dataset. A successional change was detected in one fenced plot only; in all other cases, the species composition fluctuated - a phenomenon that is not directly attributable to weather conditions. In the fenced plots, the herbaceous vegetation cover decreased, mainly due to litter accumulation and partly due to shrub encroachment. At least some parts of the valuable and species-rich habitats could be maintained under high game density, but some parts are endangered by eutrophication and game grazing. Nature conservation management should balance both mechanisms.
    TUEXENIA 01/2011; 31(1):283-299. · 1.56 Impact Factor
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