Insect Communities

Robert got the Purkyně Award

Robert and Jana receiving the Purkyně Award from Prof. Zažímalová, head of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Last year, Jana Jersáková and Robert wrote a popularising paper on the current views on plant-pollinator interactions into Živa, the popularising journal of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Recently, this paper was awarded as the best popularising paper in 2018 and Jana and Rob got the Purkyně Award. At the same time, the paper brought a positive feedback from our colleagues. Congratulations and wishes for more popularising activities!

Tropical ecological conference in Edinburgh

Few weeks ago, Rob attended the conference Unifying Tropical Ecology: Strengthening collaborative science organised as the joint meeting of BES and gtö. Firstly, he presented our results on specialisation of pollination systems in higher elevations of Mount Cameroon. Two days later, he gave an invited talk on seasonal shifts of butterfly and moth communities along the elevational gradient of Mount Cameroon, a thesis chapter of Vincent who is still in Cameroon. Both talks brought interest of other tropical ecologists. Furthermore, Rob also made some arrangements of the 2021 meeting of the Society of Tropical Ecology which he will organise in Prague together with the Czech Society for Ecology. Last but not least, the meeting was fruitful for networking, both with old and new friends and colleagues.

Start of the transplant experiments

Jessica, Šárka and Andrea are preparing damselflies for the transplant experiment. © V. Kolář

Last week, we have started with transplants of freshwater organisms between polluted and unpolluted industrial waters. It is an important part of our joint project with David Boukal’s group which aims to reveal how industrial pollution changes the structure of freshwater communities. During this first setting, Andrea, Jessica, Vojta and Sarka (with a bit of help by Rob) have transplanted larvae of damselflies and natural communities of algae. Fingers crossed our transplants will survive!

Krkonoše Mts. pollination networks

Many group members spent the past weeks in the field on the slopes of the Krkonoše Mts. in northern Czech Republic. We were collecting data, mainly focusing on recording floral visitors of flowering plants in semi-natural forests along their altitudinal gradient. To get a comparable dataset, we followed our sampling protocol from Mount Cameroon. Although the weather was surprisingly good for most of our fieldwork, we managed to sample data in the lower part of the gradient, while the higher elevations will have to wait for next spring. We are looking forward to having the results!

Antigone and Lucas setting a camera on flowers of Mercurialis perennis. © Š. Janeček

Popularizing paper on the largest beetle

Titanus giganteus. © J. Hodeček

Jirka has recently written a popularizing paper on the largest beetle in the world, Titanus giganteus, for the Vesmír journal. Jirka has been studying titans in French Guyana since 2016 already, every year they are mainly radio tracking its adults. Titans are still quite enigmatic insects (even its larva is unknown, although expected to grow up to 30 cm!), Jirka is one of the best persons to review all available information on the beautiful beetle. The article can be downloaded here, in Czech, but full of nice pictures.

Back from the Kruger NP

Sylvain and Rob have again visited South African Kruger National Park to study dynamics of biodiversity in savanna. This time, they have spent three more weeks by sampling of moths and recording of bats. At the same time, birds were censused by our colleagues David Storch and Ondrej Sedlacek. The moth abundances several times exceeded the previously sampled end of dry season in November, so we expect a lot of very interesting findings!



Lectures on biodiversity of postindustrial sites

Students of ISA Lilla (and Rob) at the excursion to a sand mine. © J. Castelin

During the past month, Rob gave several lectures on our research of biodiversity and restoration of postindustrial sites. At the end of November, Rob has visited ISA Lille where he taught the topic for two days, followed by an excursion into two sites under restoration after mining. This was already a third year complex lecture for the international students, combining mutual visits of France and Czechia. This year seems to be highly successful, as one ISA Lille will probably spent her six months internship in our group. In mid-December, Rob gave two lectures, one for Czech and one for international students, at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague-Suchdol. Rob is giving these lectures regularly, as the CULS students are potentially ending up in practical conservation. Lastly, a week before Christmas, Rob gave a specialised talk on biodiversity and restoration of fly ash deposits for the new lecture series on degraded sites restoration at the Faculty of Science, Charles University, led by Prof. Pavel Kovář. Hopefully, all these talks and lectures will lead to more intensive application of ecological restoration practice in many projects in various postindustrial sites, as well as improvement of communication within our scientific field.

Popularising articles on our work

Recently, Rob co-authored three popularising papers related to our research topics. In the last issue of Živa, a popularising journal of the Czech Academy of Sciences, there are two papers written together with Jana Jersáková. The main paper focuses on mutual relationships of flowering plants and their pollinators, including its evolution. The second paper describes and discusses pollination syndromes. A week ago, a brief description of the projects on dynamics of biodiversity in the Kruger National Park in relation to water stress and herbivores was published in Botanika, a popularising journal of the Institute of Botany CAS. All three papers are freely accessible, click the links above. Although in Czech, there are some nice pictures.

New paper on seasonality of rainforest butterflies and moths

Tropical ecosystems are often considered as highly stable environments with negligible seasonality. The opposite is true and many tropical biomes, including lowland rainforests, are strongly seasonal in both environmental conditions and dynamics of communities. This is evidenced also by our newest paper published in the Ecology and Evolution journal just two days ago. Based on our very intensive sampling of butterflies and moths in rainforests of the lower elevations of Mount Cameroon, we are showing the dynamics of their communities in relation to the local seasonal changes of dry and rainy periods. Although we are not covering the high wet season (the monthly precipitation exceeds 2 metres during that period), there is a strong seasonal turnover of community composition. Simultaneously, we are showing the dynamics of species richness: in most groups, species richness drops during rains and then rises towards the high dry season. Subsequently, diversity of some groups continues to increase towards the rain season beginning, whilst others reach their richness peak in the high dry season. Congratulations to Vincent’s first first-authored “big ecological paper”! Now, he is analysing how this seasonal dynamics influence elevational diversity patterns.

Euphaedra permixtum, a common fruit-feeding butterfly in the foothills of Mount Cameroon. © Jan Mertens

Full citation: Maicher V., Sáfián S., Murkwe M., Przybyłowicz Ł., Janeček Š., Fokam E.B., Pyrcz, T. & Tropek R. (2018) Flying between raindrops: Strong seasonal turnover of several Lepidoptera groups in lowland rainforests of Mount Cameroon. Ecology & Evolution

Sampling of moths (and bats) in Kruger

Sylvain, together with our guard Annoit, installing a bat recorder, a moth trap is in behind. ©R. Tropek

Sylvain and Rob have spent a bit over two weeks in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, they are coming back tomorrow. They have been sampling moths and recording bats for the larger project of Petr Pysek and David Storch focused on the role of seasonal rivers for dynamics of biodiversity in African savannas. Despite some initial difficulties caused by delivery delays of our equipment, the sampling was successful and they are bringing back moths and data from 30 plots in the southern part of the park. This material will be processed in the coming months, whilst Rob and Sylvain are already arranging the next sampling in February/March 2019.