We studied biomass and species composition changes of open perennial sand grassland (
) as response to different levels of simulated grazing pressures. We conducted a factorial micro-plot field experiment on previously grazed grassland that has been abandoned for a long time. In a two-way factorial design of 12 treatments × 8 repeats, we performed clipping (twice a year for three years) and litter treatments (removing and adding litter once at the beginning of the experiment) to simulate components of grazing, namely the biomass removal and the reduction of the litter accumulation. We used field spectroscopy and visual canopy cover estimation to measure the effects on the amount of the above-ground green biomass and on the vegetation composition.
Authors:G. Ónodi, V. Altbäcker, R. Aszalós, Z. Botta-Dukát, I. Hahn and M. Kertész
We studied the long-term impact of wildfire on the vegetation dynamics of sand grasslands in a forest-steppe vegetation mosaic in Central Hungary (Kiskunság). Long-term permanent quadrat monitoring was carried out from 1997 to 2008. We sampled the forest-steppe mosaic both in burnt and unburnt areas in 100 patches altogether using 1 m × 1 m quadrats. The effect of fire and precipitation on vegetation dynamics was characterized by patch type transitions between years. Patch types were defined by means of Cocktail method. Nine patch types of sand grasslands were altogether identified. The least productive patch types, bare soil and cryptogam dominance, did not occur in the burnt patches, while annual dominated patch type appeared only in burnt patches. The frequencies of patch type changes were significantly higher in burnt patches than in unburnt ones, independently on time after fire. All the eight patch types found in the unburnt patches proved permanent, while in the burnt patches only four of seven were so. The relative frequency of patch type changes did not correlate with precipitation in the vegetation period in the unburnt patches, while positively correlated in the burnt patches. It was concluded that the long-term difference in grassland dynamics between the unburnt and burnt patches, i.e., the excess of the patch type transitions in the burnt grasslands, is due to increased drought sensitivity of the grassland, which is the consequence of the elimination of the woody component of the forest-steppe vegetation.
Authors:F. Samu, F. Kádár, G. Ónodi, M. Kertész, A. Szirányi, É. Szita, K. Fetykó, D. Neidert, E. Botos and V. Altbäcker
Recent environmental and land use changes have made wildfires more frequent in natural habitats of the Kiskunság Sand Ridge on the Hungarian Plain. In a study initiated 2.5 years after an extensive fire that destroyed half of the area of a sand grassland — juniper, poplar forest steppe habitat, we assessed the effects of fire on two generalist arthropod groups: spiders and carabid beetles, as well as on the vegetation. Utilizing the natural experiment situation, samples were taken by pitfalls and suction sampling during a 1.5 years period in four 1 ha blocks, two of which were on the burnt part of the habitat, and two in the unburnt control. At the time of the investigation, in the burnt area the vegetation in the grass layer showed a quick but not complete recovery, while the canopy layer of the juniper bushes burnt down with no sign of regeneration. Carabid beetles and spiders showed differences in recovery after fire. In the carabid assemblages of the burnt parts — compared to the unburnt control — there were over three times more beetles, out of which significantly more represented the macropterous life form and granivorous feeding strategy. There was a higher ratio of pioneer species and a simplified assemblage structure in the burnt area, which meant that the conservation value of the carabid assemblage became lower there. In contrast, for the spider assemblage quantitative changes in abundance and species numbers were not significant, and the differences in species composition did not lead to a decrease in conservation value. Spider species in the burnt plots could not be described as pioneer species, rather they had ecological characteristics that suited the changed vegetation structure. Comparing the two groups, to repopulate the burnt areas, dispersal abilities proved to be more limiting for carabids. However, in both groups a strong assemblage level adaptation could be observed to the postfire conditions. In spiders, species with a stratum preference for the grass layer prevailed, while in carabids individuals with granivore strategy gained dominance. Thus, despite the differences in their speed, basically both assemblages tracked vegetation changes. The effect of future fires will depend on their scale, as well as land-use practices, such as grazing, that interact with fire frequency and recovery. If extensive fires in the future permanently change the vegetation, then it would also lead to a fundamental change in the arthropod fauna.
Authors:G. Ónodi, Gy. Kröel-Dulay, E. Kovács-Láng, P. Ódor, Z. Botta-Dukat, B. Lhotsky, S. Barabás, J. Garadnai and M. Kertész
Aboveground plant biomass is one of the most important features of ecosystems, and it is widely used in ecosystem research. Non-destructive biomass estimation methods provide an important toolkit, because the destructive harvesting method is in many cases not feasible. However, only few studies have compared the accuracy of these methods in grassland communities to date. We studied the accuracy of three widely used methods for estimation of aboveground biomass: the visual cover estimation method, the point intercept method, and field spectroscopy. We applied them in three independent series of field samplings in semi-arid sand grasslands in Central Hungary. For each sampling method, we applied linear regression to assess the strength of the relationship between biomass proxies and actual aboveground biomass, and used coefficient of determination to evaluate accuracy. We found no evidence that the visual cover estimation, which is generally considered as a subjective method, was less accurate than point intercept method or field spectroscopy in estimating biomass. Based on our three datasets, we found that accuracy was lower for the point intercept method compared to the other two methods, while field spectroscopy and visual cover estimation were similar to each other in the semi-arid sand grassland community. We conclude that visual cover estimation can be as accurate for estimating aboveground biomass as other approaches, thus the choice amongst the methods should be based on additional pros and cons associated with each of the method and related to the specific research objective.