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  • Author or Editor: M. Kertész x
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We studied the intrapopulational genetic structure of a small rock fern subspecies Asplenium ceterach ssp. ceterach living in a fragmented habitat. The level and distribution of genetic variation are primarily affected by the colonization events, the reproductive properties of the species, and the short-distance (leptokurtic) dispersal of spores. These biological processes are at the same time strongly influenced by the geomorphological heterogeneity of the habitat. The individuals’ genetic variation was detected as multilocus RAPD profile. The spatially constrained portion of genetic variance within subpopulations was studied by means of variograms, i.e., the average genetic dissimilarity between the pairs of organisms against the separation distance. The range of reduced dissimilarity was 11–13 m. Mantel test proved that subpopulations are isolated by distance. The connected local population patches may create a metapopulation structure. This study also surveyed the adequacy of RAPD products to detect the low level of genetic variation of a polyploid plant population.

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We elaborated and tested a novel operative framework for sampling and analysing fine-scale pattern of plant composition and biomass. We combined presence/absence sampling of plant species with non-destructive biomass estimation. In an open perennial sand grassland, we used 46 m long circular transects consisting of 0. 05 m by 0. 05 m adjoining elementary sampling units. This arrangement allows us to scale across a range of 0. 05 to 20 m. For measuring aboveground green biomass, we applied digital camera sensitive to red and near infrared parts of light spectrum, and we calculated normalised differential vegetation index (NDVI). We used information statistics proposed by Juhász-Nagy to study the association between spatial patterns of production and species composition. Since information statistical functions applied require binary data, we transformed NDVI data into one or several binary variables. We found that not only dominant species but subordinate gap species were also associated to high biomass, although the strength of association varied across scales. Most of the significant associations were detected at fine scales, from 0. 05 to 0. 25 m. At the scales commensurable with quadrat sizes usually applied in grasslands, i. e., from 0. 5 to 2. 0 m, we could hardly find any significant associations between species composition and biomass. We concluded that the novel methods applied proved reliable for studying fine-scale relationships between species composition and biomass.

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We studied biomass and species composition changes of open perennial sand grassland ( Festucetum vaginatae ) 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.

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For the investigation of diversity-productivity relationships under natural conditions, we present an operationally feasible measurement scheme explicitly considering the spatial organization of vegetation. We hypothesised that the spatial arrangement of the coexistence of species influences patch-level productivity. To characterise diversity, co-occurrences of species were recorded along oval transects allowing scaling by aggregation between 5 cm and 25 m. Productivity was characterised by field radiometric measurements, calibrated for leaf area and biomass, arranged in a sampling scheme scalable between 20 cm and 50 m. All data were collected along a slight resource gradient in the Stipa-Bouteloua (upland) community of the northern mixed-grass prairie in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan. We found a wide range of correlations (Kendall's . between -0. 2 and 0. 9) between various measures of diversity (species richness, local species combinations) and productivity (average and variability of leaf-area index) as a function of sampling unit size. For field assessment of patch-level composition and functioning, we recommend to use samples at the spatial resolution corresponding to the maximum number of local species combinations as an appropriate scale for comparison. We demonstrate how our sampling methodology can be considered for possible process-oriented inference about diversity and productivity. To characterise diversity-productivity relationships for long-term monitoring and prediction of plant community structure and functioning, scalable, repeatable, non-destructive observations should be applied.

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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.

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Cereal Research Communications
Authors: Z. Áy, Z. Kerényi, A. Takács, M. Papp, I. Petróczi, R. Gáborjányi, D. Silhavy, J. Pauk and Z. Kertész

The reliable monitoring of field virus infections of crop species is important for both farmers and plant breeders. The aim of this study was to detect virus infections of winter wheat in the 2006/2007 season. Twelve well-known winter wheat varieties were sown on two different dates (11 th of October and 3 rd of November 2006). Leaves of two individuals from each genotype were collected on 23rd of April 2007 to detect the virus infections ( Barley stripe mosaic virus — BSMV, Barley yellow dwarf virus — BYDV-PAV, Wheat dwarf virus — WDV and Wheat streak mosaic virus — WSMV) after an extra mild autumn- and wintertime. Virus infections were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The aphid-transmitted BYDV-PAV was found frequently whereas other viruses were presented very rarely or were not detected. Forty-six per cent of the tested wheat plants proved to be infected by BYDV-PAV in ELISA, while using PCR, the virus infections with BYDV-PAV was found in 58% of the samples. Further, these results suggest that the optimal sowing time is critical in the control of cereal virus diseases, and additionally, that wheat varieties respond to the virus infections differently.

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Community Ecology
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.

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Community Ecology
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.

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