Testing metacommunity paradigms in ecosystem restoration

(K 134391, 2020 - 2024, running project)
Coordinator or leader of the project: 
Szabolcs LENGYEL
Coordinator or leader institution of the project: 
Danube Research Institute
Short description: 

A central objective in ecology and conservation is to understand the mechanisms that shape plant and animal communities. Community ecology has been revolutionized by recent advances in metacommunity theory, which is built on four paradigms (patch dynamics, species sorting, mass effects, neutralism) that assume different mechanisms to shape metacommunities. Empirical testing has been dominated by studies of aquatic ecosystems, mesocosms and in silico systems. Although ecosystem restoration offers an excellent testbed for ecological theory, metacommunity paradigms have not yet been tested in terrestrial ecosystem restoration. Our goal is to fill this gap and to test theory from new, unexplored aspects. Our model system is a quasi-experimental landscape of restored (760 ha) and natural (936 ha) grasslands in Hortobágy National Park (E Hungary). Grasslands were restored on three types of croplands on two soil types with three methods, leading to different trajectories of secondary succession and locally different animal communities. We will survey 11 animal taxon groups from soil arthropods to mesopredator mammals in 13 to 17-yr-old restored grasslands and in natural grasslands as controls. We will use data from this unique study system to perform novel, multi-taxon tests of metacommunity theory. We plan six specific studies focusing on the emergence of metacommunities, the influence of habitat diversity and temporal variation on metacommunity structure, and differences in trophic network and functional diversity between restored and natural metacommunities. The results will be novel in a hot topic of ecology and thus publishable in high-level journals.



Lengyel Sz, Mester B, Szabolcs M, Szepesváry Cs, Szabó Gy, Polyák L, Boros Z, Mizsei E, Málnás K, Mérő TO, Aradi Cs (2020): Restoration for variability: Emergence of the habitat diversity paradigm in terrestrial ecosystem restoration Restoration Ecology 28: 1087-1099.
Mester B, Szepesváry Cs, Szabolcs M, Mizsei E, Mérő TO, Málnás K, Lengyel Sz (2020): Salvaging bycatch data for conservation: unexpected benefits of restored grasslands to amphibians in wetland buffer zones and ecological corridors Ecological Engineering 153: 105916