Ecological Interactions in Forest and Urban Ecosystems

Ecological Interactions in Forest and Urban Ecosystems

Responses of animals to changed conditions and biological invasions
Further research will be focused on climatically and human-induced changes in forest ecosystem structure at the level of microhabitats, habitats and ecosystems. Multivariate analyses will determine factors that influence spatial and temporal dynamics of species, mostly herbivorous insects and their predators. Habitat selection of target animal species will be studied along environmental gradients while special attention will be paid to key biodiversity species, so-called umbrella and flagship species and their long term population dynamics. Field experiments will be combined with laboratory studies simulating the effects of environmental factors on animals. Original data about exotic animal species with special reference to their spread in forest ecosystems and urban areas will be collected. The risk of damage to woody plants and timber by invasive species will be determined. Non-native species will be studied locally and globally, in cooperation with foreign researchers and by participating in international projects.

Behavioural algorithms for solving complex tasks
From an evolutionary perspective, we use two very different study systems (tree-dwelling bats and nuptial gift-giving insects), which are, however, tailored to our main objectives: (i) interdisciplinary study of social self-organisational behaviour with the aim to develop a new meta-heuristic method capable of space exploration, and (ii) study of possible factors (environment, phenotype, genetics) and their effects on the degree of species polyandry as an adaptive survival strategy. The presented research topics will be examined under natural and controlled laboratory conditions using experimental setups with automated tracking techniques, standard molecular tools, statistical modelling and simulations.

Parasitic fungi and woody plants interactions
The main objective of our research will be to examine how to mitigate the adverse effect of fungal pathogens on some woody species. Our research will aim to determine the extent and intensity of different species dieback, the host range of species attacked by pathogenic fungi, and the level of their pathogenicity (tested by artificial inoculations). We will also perform spatial modelling of potential disease occurrence under recently changing environmental conditions on the long-term horizon.

Biotechnologies for protection of trees in urban ecosystems
We aim to develop new methods in integrated forest and tree protection incorporating the use of entomopathogenic fungi. The main goal of our projects will be to find new biological products for the biological control of selected forest pest species, which could effectively substitute the chemicals. From the biotechnological perspective, the assemblage of non-native (especially evergreen) woody plants that grow in our arboretum represents a valuable novel source for the research on endophytic microorganisms with unknown biochemical and biological activities. We will also focus on ornamental plants as sources of bioactive compounds with important therapeutic effects. Furthermore, due to the massive introduction of exotic and alien species, our research will also focus on the acclimation potential of novel woody plant species to global climate change. Therefore, we will study the actual occurrence, key driving forces of spreading, and an effective elimination method and biomass exploitation opportunities of such species.

It includes the following: