Insect Communities

New paper on microtopographic heterogeneity in postmining sites

Together with the group of Jan Frouz, especially his PhD student Jabbar “Roj” Moradi, we performed a comparison of biodiversity of several groups of terrestrial arthropods of differently restored plots at the Velká Podkrušnohorská spoil heap, one of the largest dumps of brown coal spoil in Europe. After the heaping, it keeps a typical wavy surface with heterogeneous microhabitat conditions. Nevertheless, it is flattened by dozing soon after the heaping. In the paper, recently published in the highly-ranked Journal of Environmental Management, we have shown that such dozing, as the typical initial step of technical reclamation practice in Central Europe and elsewhere, decreases species richness and conservation value of post-mining sites for spiders, moths, ants, orthopterans and centipedes. We explain it through an apparent suppression of micro-habitat heterogeneity. We hope that such expensive practice, in both money and work effort meaning, will disappear from any restoration projects concerning biodiversity conservation.

Full citation: Moradi J., Potocký P., Kočárek P., Bartuška M., Tajovský K., Tichánek F., Frouz J., Tropek R. (2018) Influence of surface flattening on biodiversity of terrestrial arthropods during early stages of brown coal spoil heap restorationJournal of Environmental Management 220: 1-7.

The wavy surface of brown coal spoil heaps spontaneously vegetated after heaping (upper parts of the figure), together with habitats after their dozing. © J. Moradi/Journal of Environmental Management


Our field project in fly ash lagoons has started

Last week, a part of us have spent in the field by checking and selecting potential localities for our new project on biodiversity of human-made freshwater habitats. Pavel and Rob accompanied several members of David Boukal’s group in their 1,600 km drive around Bohemia, during which they have visited several dozens of sand pits and fly ash deposits. Although several pre-selected localities were found under ongoing technical reclamation, we have found enough sites potentially useful for our sampling. In the coming week, we will finish their final selection using all information from the field and start to arrange all necessities for our summer sampling.

Biodiversity of naturally burnt forests

In the last weekend, Pavla has started with sampling of material for her master thesis. She focuses on influence of forest fires on biodiversity of moths, she thus samples material in several burnt openings in pine forests in the Kokořínsko Protected Landscape Area, as well as in control plots of undisturbed forests. In the last weekend, she has visited the pre-selected sites for the first time, and together with Robert and Pavel has successfully finished the first sampling. This sampling will continue for the rest of vegetation season every one to three weeks depending on the moon phases and weather. We are really curious for her results and findings!

New publication on biodiversity of Bimbia forest

We have collaborated on a recently published study on biodiversity of the Bimbia Bonadikombo Community Forest (BBCF) in southwestern Cameroon. BBCF is one of the very last remnants of a unique Afrotropical habital of coastal forests, making it an important area for biodiversity conservation on the continental scale. However, almost no extensive data on its biodiversity existed until recently, besides surveys of plants and large mammals. In our study, we focused on biodiversity of trees, birds and fruit-feeding butterflies standardisedly collected in series of permanent plots. The comparison with lowland forests of the near Mount Cameroon National Park confirmed its high importance for the regional biodiversity conservation as BBCF harbours a relatively large part of species not occuring in our study plots within the national park. Unfortunately, BBCF is under urgent threat of ongoing intensive logging and conversion into farmlands even within a small areas designated for the non-interventional management, nature conservation and eco-tourism.

Marianne Espeland visited us

Recently, Marianne Espeland from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn has visited our group. Marianne is  head of their Lepidoptera section and an old friend. At both Charles University and Institute of Entomology, she gave seminars on her hottest results from phylogenetical research of Lepidoptera on various levels, from detailed studies of some blues and skippers up to relationships between the main lepidopteran groups. She also went through our butterfly collection and still had enough time for discussions and general enjoying of the spring weather in Czechia.

Vincent and Sylvain at Afrotropical Lepidoptera Workshop

Last week, Vincent and Sylvain attended the 3rd Afrotropical Lepidoptera Worshop meeting organised in the Centre ValBio, a research station close to the Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Vincent presented our research of patterns of lepidopteran biodiversity along the Mount Cameroonian altitudinal gradient, while Sylvain has introduced his first preliminary results on the patterns of biodiversity along a south African gradient of environmental productivity. This workshop brought together numerous taxonomists and ecologists working on Afrotropical Lepidoptera and thus allowed rich experience sharing and discussions. Simultaneously, the workshop included several Lepidoptera sampling sessions in the Park with rather unexplored biodiversity. Altogether, it was a great opportunity for Sylvain and Vincent to exchange new ideas, as well as to learn new methods of collecting and storing of moths.

Vincent presenting results of his dissertation.

Yannick at the European Conference of Tropical Ecology

Yannick during his presentation © Julie Desmist

From 26th till 29th March, Yannick attended the European Conference of Tropical Ecology in Paris, France. During this scientific meeting, he gave a talk on the role of seasonality in shaping the pollination networks in the montane forests of Mount Cameroon, as well as in the validity of the pollination syndrome hypothesis. Additionally, he also presented a poster showing some new results from our case study on pollination system of Hypoxis camerooniana.  

Both the talk and poster were well received and during fruitful discussions after the session we have gotten useful comments on how to move forward with our data analyses. After the conference, Yannick spend a day visiting the incredible collections of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Looking back it has been a successful conference and visit to Paris!

Jan’s visit of the Natural History Museum in Budapest

Chrysodeixis chalcites, found on Mount Cameroon. © Jan Mertens

Last week, Jan spent at the Natural History Museum in Budapest where a small part of our Cameroonian Lepidoptera material is stored under the watchful eye of Dr. László Ronkay. The museum has an impressive collection of Noctuidae of which our Plusiinae make up a small part. The digitisation and identification of these remaining specimens was one of the last required steps to finalize our dataset of the Lepidopteran traits along the altitudinal gradient.

Establishing a new project in the Kruger NP

The past three weeks, Rob has spent in the Kruger National Park in South Africa where he has worked on a project led by Prof. Petr Pyšek and Prof. David Storch, in collaboration with Dr. Llewellyn Foxcroft. The project funded by the Czech Science Foundation aim to disclose effects of rivers and large herbivores on biodiversity dynamics of several different groups of organisms in subtropical and tropical savannas. Our group will be responsible mainly for sampling of data on insects, namely moths. This time, we have been establishing study plots (60 across the whole national park), which will be sampled in the next three years, … and enjoyed the magnificent landscape and wildlife of Kruger!

Our team establishing study plots in the Kruger National Park. © Martin Hejda

Back from Cameroon

Last weekend Jan, Yannick and Rob have come back from another expedition to Mount Cameroon. This time we focused on sampling of the lower half of its altitudinal gradient, covering all the flowering plant species in the communities. This brought more than double the amount of videos recorded in the upper elevations during the previous expedition. Turning the videos into datasets is our biggest challenge before our next (and last) expedition for this project in the rainy season.

Our team in the PlanteCam camp, Mount Cameroon. © Jan Mertens