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  • Author or Editor: I. Somodi x
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Recent research indicates that the soil microbial community, particularly arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), can influence plant invasion in several ways. We tested if 1) invasive species are colonised by AMF to a lower degree than resident native species, and 2) AMF colonisation of native plants is lower in a community inhabited by an invasive species than in an uninvaded resident community. The two tests were run in semiarid temperate grasslands on grass (Poaceae) species, and the frequency and intensity of mycorrhizal colonisation, and the proportion of arbuscules and vesicles in plant roots have been measured. In the first test, grasses representing three classes of invasiveness were included: invasive species, resident species becoming abundant upon disturbance, and non-invasive native species. Each class contained one C3 and one C4 species. The AMF colonisation of the invasive Calamagrostis epigejos and Cynodon dactylon was consistently lower than that of the non-invasive native Chrysopogon gryllus and Bromus inermis, and contained fewer arbuscules than the post-disturbance dominant resident grasses Bothriochloa ischaemum and Brachypodium pinnatum. The C3 and C4 grasses behaved alike despite their displaced phenologies in these habitats. The second test compared AMF colonisation for sand grassland dominant grasses Festuca vaginata and Stipa borysthenica in stands invaded by either C. epigejos or C. dactylon, and in the uninvaded natural community. Resident grasses showed lower degree of AMF colonisation in the invaded stand compared to the uninvaded natural community with F. vaginata responding so to both invaders, while S. borysthenica responding to C. dactylon only. These results indicate that invasive grasses supposedly less reliant on AMF symbionts have the capacity of altering the soil mycorrhizal community in such a way that resident native species can establish a considerably reduced extent of the beneficial AMF associations, hence their growth, reproduction and ultimately abundance may decline. Accumulating evidence suggests that such indirect influences of invasive alien plants on resident native species mediated by AMF or other members of the soil biota is probably more the rule than the exception.

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Biome interfaces are expected to exhibit chorological symmetry, i.e., decreasing trends in the number of species associated with each of the two neighbouring biomes as we progress from one into the other. Our aim was to test for such a pattern within the forest steppe biome, which is a transition zone in itself between the temperate deciduous forests and the steppe biome. Presence of chorological symmetry would provide indirect evidence for the prehuman presence of zonal steppes in the Carpathian basin. We also whished to provide an example with this analysis for drawing biogeographical conclusions based on quantitative species occurrence data, an information source hitherto neglected in Central Europe. Occurrence patterns of forest and steppe species were analysed at the Duna-Tisza köze (Danube-Tisza Interfluve) by the traditional qualitative biogeographic method and by hierarchical classification of predicted spatial pattern based on Generalized Linear Models with logistic link function. Species presences were explained by variables describing spatial orientation. In this approach, an outgroup of sand grassland species was also added to characetrise the discrimination ability of the approach. The quantitative method discriminated the out-group of sand grassland species, providing evidence of its suitability for our purpose. The results of the quantitative investigations were also in accordance with the qualitative evaluation. Surprisingly, forest and steppe species showed similar distributional patterns, i.e., no chorological symmetry was discernable. The quantitative biogeographic approach unveiled important evidence for deciding about the potential presence of zonal steppes in the Carpathian basin. Although the observed similarity of the distribution of forest and steppe species may have multiple reasons, the major cause of the lack of chorological symmetry is most probably the lack of zonal steppe South of the forest steppe biome in the Carpathian basin. Additional explanations include land use pattern and the mountain belt around the basin acting as a refugium in the ice ages.

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In this paper, we elaborated a new concept (the Regularities-Deviations-Uniqueness; RDU framework) to analyse regional vegetation patterns and applied it to the Pannonian region of the Carpathian Basin. We introduced three criteria, namely: distributional regularity, distributional deviation, and compositional uniqueness. Regularities conform to the pattern expected based on macroclimate and relief. Deviations are singular phenomena and are defined as the conspicuous departures from the regular pattern at odds with either zonal pattern (climate rules), or the repetitive extrazonal patterns (relief and meso-climate interactions). Endemic plant communities of the Pannonian region (defined by a unique species composition) are regarded as the unique features. The main regularities recognised for the Pannonian region are: (1) the altitudinal pattern of vegetation belts, (2) the horizontal zonation of the Dunántúl, (3) the gradient of continentality along the mountain ranges, and (4) the circular zonality of the Nagyalföld. Deviations are mostly explained by local vegetation history, mesoclimate, and edaphic factors. The major deviations include (i) occurrence of mixed Pinus sylvestris forests in Őrség, (ii) cool continental forest-steppe forests on Kisalföld, and Gödöllői-dombvidék, (iii) the direct contact of Fagus and Quercus pubescens forests (Bakony, Balatonfelvidék), (iv) the Fraxinus excelsior-Tilia spp. forests on rock outcrops, and (v) the Sphagnum bogs on the Alföld. Individuality of the Pannonian region is demonstrated by the endemic zonal forest-steppe forests and intrazonal endemic communities such as the Cerasus mahaleb-Quercus pubescens forests, and the vegetation on calcareous sand, dolomite and saline soils and the like. We argue that the introduced criteria are suitable for the entitation and description of other biogeographical regions, and offer useful tool for interregional comparisons.

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Conservation treatments often take place at the scale of vegetation stands and affect within-stand heterogeneity and coexistence patterns of species first. Therefore, it is important to capture changes in these characteristics of vegetation to assess response to treatments early. We propose a method based on Juhász-Nagy’s information theory models, which is capable of describing fine-scale spatial structure of plant communities and characterizes temporal processes as a function of spatial pattern. The proposed multiscale approach handles structural complexity and its dependence on spatial scales with the help of a few coenological descriptors and helps to reveal how fine-scale vegetation pattern affects dynamics. The information statistical functions used in our study (species combination diversity, FD and associatum, As ) characterize the scale-dependent variability of multispecies coexistence (structural complexity) and multispecies spatial dependence (the degree of spatial organization). The maxima of these functions and the related characteristic areas (plot sizes) can be used to construct an abstract coenostate space, where spatiotemporal processes (degradation, regeneration) can be followed. We demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed methods for detecting degradation and monitoring vegetation changes in different stands (18 seminatural and 13 slightly degraded stands) of Brachypodium pinnatum dominated wooded steppe meadows in Hungary. The information theory measures captured changes of fine-scale vegetation patterns that remained unexplored by species richness and Shannon diversity. The maximum values of information statistical measures and the related characteristic areas detected differences between seminatural and slightly degraded stands. In the coenostate space, seminatural stands appeared to be less variable compared to degraded ones. Seminatural stands from various geographic locations were less dispersed in this space, i.e., less heterogeneous than degraded ones. The two regions of the coenostate-space defined by the set of seminatural and degraded stands were significantly different. Furthermore, we conclude that the region containing seminatural stands can be regarded as a reference region in this abstract space. Temporal variation of seminatural and degraded stands was also clearly different. Therefore, we recommend the approach for exploring the actual dynamic states of vegetation stands to be treated and for following consequences of treatments in order to determine effectiveness of the conservation action.

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