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  • Author or Editor: Z. Bátori x
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During the study of the urban flora of the city of Szeged (southern Hungary) in 2011, about 100 specimens of Euphorbia prostrata Aiton, a new alien for the Hungarian flora, were found in a city park. Characterisation of the locality is provided. This record, being the one and only in the Carpathian Basin so far, confirms former observations that this meridional-subtropical species is in expansion in many parts of the world, including proper habitats of the temperate regions. A key for all species of the genus Euphorbia subgenus Chamaesyce for the region is given.

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Habitat boundaries in general and forest edges in particular belong to the central issues in ecology. Theories about community and environmental edge-responses are diverse, but there is a lack of sufficient supporting field evidence: no consensus exists about distinctness and diversity of edges, and the existence of edge-related species. Moreover, as most studies focus on man-made edges, natural forest edges are less understood. We studied xeric forest edges in a wooded-steppe area. Twelve forest patches were selected, and plots were set up within the edges, the forest interiors and the grasslands. Species composition, species richness and Shannon diversity were compared between the three habitat types as well as between differently oriented edges. We identified diagnostic species for all habitats. Local habitat preferences of the edge-related species were compared to their regional preferences. Environmental factors of the different habitats were assessed by using ecological indicator values. Forest edges differed both from forest interiors and grasslands, forming a narrow but distinct habitat type between them. Species composition of the edges was not simply a mixture of forest and grassland species, but there were several edge-related species, most of which are regionally regarded as typical of closed steppe grasslands. Neither shady conditions of the forests, nor dry conditions of the grasslands are tolerated by these species; this is why they are confined to edges. Species richness and Shannon-diversity were higher within edges than in either of the habitat interiors. Ecological indicator values suggested that light intensity and temperature were higher in the edges than in the forests, but were lower than in the grasslands. In contrast, soil moisture was lower in the edges than in the forests but was higher than in the grasslands. There were slight differences between differently exposed edges concerning species composition, species richness and Shannon diversity. We conclude that edges should be considered an integral part of wooded-steppes. Their high diversity may have nature conservation implications. Our study emphasizes that edge species may be confined to edges only locally, but may have a broader distributional range in other areas. These species may be referred to as local edge species. Our results also point out that the very same edge can be interactive and non-interactive at the same time, depending on the characteristics considered.

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Ecotones between plant communities have received considerable attention among ecologists in the context of fragmentation, climate change and the management of heterogeneous landscapes. However, the predictability of ecotone dynamics is low and the processes taking place within ecotones are still poorly understood. In this study we aimed to characterize the positional and structural dynamics of thirteen ecotones in an ecotone-rich steppe–wetland landscape of Hungary in relation to the inter-annual fluctuations of water regime and the gradients of elevation and of soil composition. According to our results, the ecotones between steppe and wetland communities were sharp and their positions coincided with those places in the landscape where the rate of change in elevation was the highest, confirming that microtopography is a major determinant of ecotone position. Soil boundaries were also detected, mostly downhill to the ecotones. Interestingly, the fluctuations of the water supply had no effect on the position of the ecotones but significantly influenced a structural ecotone parameter, the compositional contrast bridged by the ecotones. High water supply caused high contrast, while low supply went along with low contrast. We explain these changes by asymmetric sensitivities to edge effects. When the water supply was low, the wetland edges became similar to the steppe edges due to the decrease of wetland specialists and to the increase of steppe specialists, but steppe edges did not exhibit an opposite change in wet years, suggesting that steppe communities dominated over wetland communities. The asymmetry in the interaction between the two communities may have pushed the soil boundaries downhill to the ecotones but the currently steppe-like soil of wetland edges could also make wetland edges more sensitive to edge effects; thus, the cause-effect relationship is difficult to disentangle.

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We compared two neighbouring alkaline grasslands from a nature conservation point of view. The two grasslands are situated in different countries, resulting in different land uses. This study characterises the vegetation of the area in focus using the categories of the General National Habitat Classification System (Á-NÉR) and compares the two sides based on naturalness categories, diversity ordering, social behaviour types, differential species and some supplementary information (e.g. waste dumps, landscape elements). Plant diversity is greater on the Romanian side, but this is mainly due to disturbance tolerants, weeds and ruderal competitors. Thus, we conclude that the grassland on the Romanian side is overgrazed. In addition, there are other undesirable processes on the Romanian side. In contrast, the Hungarian side is undergrazed. We suggest that adverse effects of grazing should be minimised using careful grazing techniques and traditional methods on the Romanian side, while grazing should be re-established on the Hungarian side. Intensive nature conservation efforts must be made if we are to protect the considerable conservation values of the grasslands, which should be protected legally.

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Pannonian forest-steppes host a high number of endemic species and contribute to landscape-scale heterogeneity. Alterations in the proportion of forests and grasslands due to changes in land-use practice and climatic parameters can have serious nature conservation consequences. Hypotheses about forest-steppe dynamics have rarely been verified by detailed analyses, especially for the sandy forest-steppes. We integrated historical analysis, aerial photo interpretation and field investigation to determine how vegetation of a sandy forest-steppe has changed, how current dynamical processes operate and how native and exotic tree species regenerate under present conditions. The vegetation of the study area before the onset of major anthropogenic environmental transformations in the Carpathian Basin may have been a mosaic of forested and unforested patches. However, there is strong evidence that after heavy deforestation, the region was almost completely treeless between the 15th and the 19th centuries. Forest cover was able to recover by the 1800s but the lack of forested areas in the region for centuries explains why forest patches are still poor in species. Grasslands, which existed continuously, are more diverse, supporting several rare and endemic species. From 1953 till 2013, 72.45% of the area proved to be stable, but 27.55% showed clear dynamical character, changing either from forest to grassland, or vice versa. Thus, cyclic dynamics can occur in sandy forest-steppes. We found that forest patches of different size, differently exposed edges and grasslands provide different habitats for the tree species. Exotic species were present in large numbers, probably due to the small size of the reserve and the lack of a buffer zone.

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