Functional properties of ecological communities determine the reliability of ecosystems. In order to maintain ecosystem functioning on the optimal level, it is indispensable to reveal patterns in functional diversity and composition of communities. Because of their economic and conservation values, Pannonian grasslands are ideal objects for studying the relationships of community diversity, composition, and ecosystem processes using a functional approach.
With this project I will improve the understanding of functional patterns of grassland communities, with a focus on the unique Pannonian sand steppe region, Kiskunság. I will (1) test methods for multivariate analysis of community data with the involvement of functional traits of species. Based on this methodological background, I will (2) prepare a functional classification of grasslands of Kiskunság. I will (3) estimate the functional redundancy and vulnerability to species loss of grassland types. Finally, I will (4) estimate the response of measures of functional diversity, redundancy and vulnerability to different management attributes.
The research will be based mainly on existing vegetation data and plant trait measurements collected during earlier works of the Host Institute in the Kiskunság. This will be complemented by collecting new samples of underrepresented areas, grassland types and trait measurments, as well as accessing public databases. For Subtopic 4, samples of grasslands with known history and controlled management will be used. Among plant traits leaf, height, seed and vegetative traits will be included. Data analysis will be carried out by advanced statistical methods.
This project will contribute to the knowledge of functional patterns of vegetation, with a special focus on grasslands of the Kiskunság sand region.
I will evaluate the suitability of statistical methods developed recently for the analysis of functional variation of vegetation. Based on these results, I will classify sand grasslands by their trait composition. This would be the first functional classification performed on such a broad geographical extent and using multivariate statistical methods. I will compare grassland types on the basis of their functional redundancy and vulnerability, that is, their exposition to loss of ecological functions due to local extinction of species. As a result, I will identify which types require special attention from the conservation in order to maintain their ecosystem properties. I will investigate how differential management (e.g. different intensity and timing of mowing and grazing) affect functional vulnerability and redundancy. This study would help conservationists to allocate optimal effort in the management of protected areas and sustain ecosystem services provided by grasslands.