Orthopterology encounter at the castle? Why not!
The Second European Congress on Orthoptera Conservation has taken place at magical area of Smolenice Congress Centre, majestically set into the picturesque area of the Little Carpathian Mts. This meeting was co-organized by the IUCN SSC Grasshopper Specialist Group and the host institution, the Institute of Forest Ecology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, The organising team has done everything for the guests to feel comfortable and relaxed.
We enjoyed the first evening at welcome reception which was opening by words of organizers – Dr Anton Krištín & Professor Axel Hochkirch. Dr P. Puchala, director of the Little Carpathians Landscape Protected Area held introductory lecture on the Nature and conservation priorities in the area. It followed the most divine cuisine with many excellent meals including “a thousands of ducks“, for which the appetite of all orthopterologist wasn´t sufficient.
The first plenary lecture from Prof. Hochkirch was named: „From Red List assessment to conservation action“, because the congress taken place not long time after finalization and publication of the European Red List of Orthoptera, which for the first time gathered the available knowledge on the conservation status of all 1082 European Orthoptera species and described briefly their distributional patterns and ecology. This result of cooperation of 59 European Orthopterists has accelerated the studies on Orthoptera, because it has shown how many knowledge gaps and Data Defficient species still exist. This was a fascinating talk with very complex summary about two years lasting assessment process involved numerous experts from all over Europe and A. Hochkirch pointing out, that overall, 25.7% of the European Orthoptera species are threatened, which illustrates the strong need for conservation action on the ground.
The following programme was divided into four sections: 1. Species diversity and conservation status, 2. Endangered species, 3. Distribution and ecological miscellanea and 4. Evolutionary ecology and bioacoustics. In first section, the speakers gave a superbly presented overview of diversity, threats and protection of the Orthopteran insects in Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic and Poland. For instance, from Armin Landmann (Institute für Naturkunde & Ökologie, Austria) we came to know that in the past two decades the data basis for assessing the threat status of Austrian Orthoptera has exceedingly improved, due to joint effort of Austrian orthopterists organised in an “Austrian Orthoptera Working Group”. Also for the last few decades, species, guild and habitat specific range expansions and contractions can be analyzed by calculating regional extinction rates at a grid cell level, and abundance shifts can be assessed by comparing the proportion of single species records relative to records of all species in different periods. Michal Brodacki (The Wildlife Research and Conservation Society, Poland) emphasized some of the great advances that have been made in the field of Orthoptera species recorded in Poland for the first time or reappeared in this country after a long period.
Then, in the Endangered species´ symposium chaired by Thomas Zuna-Kratky, many new ideas and strategies for conservation were given. From Louis F. Cassar (University of Malta) we heard about crepuscular species Brachytrupes megacephalus. His insights foster information on the species’ vulnerabilities to environmental change and perturbations, particularly through human-induced activities, ranging from habitat alteration and fragmentation, which are critical for the species’ long-term conservation within European territory.
To each section, there were also an inspirational series of poster sessions, which generated much discussion and gave the opportunity for comparison of findings and latest trend of research.
A very pleasant liven up of our second evening was a photo session comprising of a fascinating visual journey around the world. Presentation of Ionut Stefan Iorgu (“Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History, Romania) as a photographic and videographic guide for delighting the naturalist’s eye showcased the orthopteran species diversity of the Carpathians and the western Black Sea coast. Then Gellért Puskás and Gergely Szövényi (Hungarian Natural History Museum and Eötvös University) introduced a virtual excursion into the fascinating orthopteran world of the Dinarides from the Istrian Peninsula in the north to the Pashtrik Mountain in the south, and from the Mediterranean Adriatic coasts at the sea level up to the snow capped peaks of the Prokletije Mountains. Finally, Anton Krištín (Institute of Forest Ecology, Slovak Academy of Sciences) presented us beautiful scenery of Central and Southern Madagascar with more than 100 Orthoptera species. In the slide show he brought the most frequent as well as characteristic species and habitats from the sea level up to 2250 m a.s.l.
Friday morning get started Åsa Berggren (Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agircultural Sciences) with plenary lecture based on the fine long-term research of Metrioptera roeselii, while most of the work has been done in Sweden, but also areas in Scandinavia and Northern Europe have been involved. The effect of propagule size and the surrounding landscape on colonization success, population growth and spread and genetic diversity have been studied. The results highlight the need of taking into account species characteristics when translating findings to other species for best management purposes. This generated much discussion and gave the opportunity for comparison of findings from different parts of the world.
The next symposium chaired by Klaus-Gerhard Heller (Dep. Of Zoology, Friedrich- Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nürnberg) and Dragan Chobanov (Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) was focused on distribution and ecological miscellanea. Linda Bröder (Trier University, Germany) informed us on fascinating method, how to test detection ability of dogs in order to improve the Grasshopper species detection. Then, T. Zuna-Kratky has approached us with fieldwork and data collection in Austria, leading to the monography of “Die Heuschrecken Österreichs” in 2017. It undoubtedly brought a large amount of
information on the distribution, ecology but also on range-shifts in the time. In other lectures there was discussion about negative effects of urbanization on diversity and traits of dry grassland Orthoptera in Berlin (Schirmel J. et al., Germany), as well as positive progress in the development of 3D visualization techniques, which can be utilized to accurately display the characters used in insect taxonomy and many other inspirational topics (Dr. M. Kozánek, Slovakia).
Nor did we know how and it got to the last one section about evolutionary ecology and bioacoustics, chaired by Karim Vahed (University of Derby, United Kingdom). Here we learned a lot of new ones about the Balkan and Cretan populations of the Poecilimon jonicus group, where Simeon Borisov (Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) discussed diversity, radiation and relations within the group. This symposium also brought findings about allotopic distribution in two closely related bush-crickets (Dorková M et al., Slovakia) and phylogenetic relationships within subfamily Phaneropterinae (Grzywacz et al., Germany & Poland).
In the short break, Luc Willemse introduced just published excellent book “The grasshoppers of Greece” (Willemse, Kleukers & Odé, 2018). During the congress there were presented and sold also other new books on grasshoppers and crickets, exposed some Orthoptera collections (Madagascar) and in small insectarium were shown some characteristic species from Slovak sandy habitats.
After all considerably intellectual parts with the excellent talks, it followed more relaxed part associated with evening vine tasting. Degustation of regional vine took place at the castle chapel, which was marvellous experience.
On the last day we woke up in the rainy morning and we were afraid of our post-congress tour, but the weather has improved, we found 20 Orthoptera species and as one of the participants said: „Finding a Saga pedo on the post conference tour was an added bonus of an excellent conference!“
All in all, we had 48 attendants from 20 countries, and 40 presentations. The abstracts can be found at: http://orthoptera.sk/2ndECOC/book-of-abstracts/abstracts.pdf
After this friendly atmosphere and the beautiful setting we all are looking forward to the next Congress, which will be organized in Dutch Leiden in 2020.
Dorková M. and organizing team