EDGG Field Workshop: Ukrainian steppes along climatic gradients

EDGG Field Workshop: Ukrainian steppes along climatic gradients - cancelled!

Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine the EDGG Field Workshop in 2022 "Ukrainian steppes along climatic gradients" had to been cancelled.


Second call


Local organizers:
Denys Vynokurov, Kyiv, Ukraine email: denys.vynokurov@gmail.com
Ivan Moysiyenko, Kherson, Ukraine email: ivan.moysiyenko@gmail.com
Dariia Shyriaieva, Kyiv, Ukraine email: darshyr@gmail.com
Alexander Khodosovtsev, Kherson, Ukraine email: khodosovtsev@i.ua

EDGG Field Workshop Coordinators:
Iwona Dembicz, Warsaw, Poland email: i.dembicz@gmail.com
Idoia Biurrun, Bilbao, Spain email: idoia.biurrun@ehu.es


Kil’chen River Valley. Photo: V. Maniuk.
“Dniprovi Porohy” Regional Landscape Park. Photo: V. Maniuk.
Dry grasslands in “Dniprovi Porohy” Regional Landscape Park. Photo: V. Maniuk.

Examples of grasslands to be visited during the EDGG Field Workshop "Ukrainian steppes along climatic gradients". Left: Kil’chen River Valley. Photo: V. Maniu; middle: “Dniprovi Porohy” Regional Landscape Park. Photo: V. Maniuk;  right: Dry grasslands in “Dniprovi Porohy” Regional Landscape Park. Photo: V. Maniuk.

The 15th EDGG Field Workshop (FW) will take place in Ukraine. The main idea is to sample steppe grasslands along climatic gradients (precipitation and temperature) using a standardized sampling approach (Dengler et al. 2016). Below you can find information about the study region and FW schedule. The registration link for the application will be available in this page. All interested researchers are cordially invited to take part.

Registration for the field workshop is now open: please follow the link Registration. To register for the field workshop, applicants should first log in to EDGG page on the top right Log in menu. Please make sure that your personal information is up to date. Then they can apply for the field workshop following the Registration link. Registration requires specific information about the attendance to the field workshop.


The history of EDGG Field Workshops began in 2009 in Romania (Dengler et al. 2009). Before 2014 these events were called “EDGG Research Expeditions”. Up to now, 14 Field Workshops have been organized: Romania (2009), Ukraine (2010), Bulgaria (2011), Italy (Sicily) (2012), Greece (2012), Russia (2013), Spain (2014), Poland (2015), Serbia (2016), Italy (Central Apennines) (2017), Austria (2018), Switzerland (2019 and 2020), and Armenia (2019).

The aim of Field Workshops is to sample different taxa groups in grasslands (mainly vascular plants, mosses and lichens) across multiple scales (from 0.0001 to 100 m2) using a standardized methodology (Dengler et al. 2016). Some animal taxa have also been sampled in several expeditions together with vegetation data, for example spiders (Polchaninova et al. 2018), leafhoppers (Filibeck et al. 2018), and butterflies (Magnes et al. 2018). The results obtained from the analyses of high-quality data from several expeditions have been already published: Romania (Dengler et al. 2012; Turtureanu et al. 2014), Bulgaria (Pedashenko et al. 2013), Ukraine (Kuzemko et al. 2014, 2016) and Russia (Polyakova et al. 2016).

These expeditions served as the basis for the creation of the “GrassPlot” Database which focuses on precisely delimited plots of eight standard grain sizes (0.0001; 0.001; ... 1,000 m²) and on nested-plot series with at least four different grain sizes (Dengler et al. 2018). In total, the database now comprises a total of 190,673 plots, with 4,654 nested-plot series including at least four grain sizes (Biurrun et al. 2019).

Topic and aims of the Field Workshop

The 15th EDGG Field Workshop will be held in Ukraine for the second time. The first was 10 years ago, in 2010, in Central Podolia, Vinnytsia region (Dengler et al. 2010). During that expedition, 21 nested-plot series (0.0001 to 100 m²) and 184 normal plots (10 m²) were sampled, covering the full variety of dry grasslands, mainly meadow steppes and rocky grasslands (Kuzemko et al. 2014).

The new expedition will take place in Southern and Central Ukraine (Fig. 1). We will work in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Poltava administrative regions. The main aim will be to investigate plant richness patterns of steppe grasslands along climatic gradients (precipitation and temperature) from the driest semi-desert communities in the south to the meadow steppes in the north.

Location of the study area (red rectangle) in the European context
Annual precipitation of the study area
Annual mean temperature of the study area

Fig. 1. (left) Location of the study area (red rectangle) in the European context. Map data ©2019 Google, ORION-ME; Fig. 2. Maps of Ukraine with approximate sampling locations with contour lines of annual precipitation (Fig 2.a middle) and mean annual temperature (Fig. 2b right).

The study area

The research area is flat and lies within the East European Plain (Fig. 1). The southern part belongs to the Black Sea Lowland, the northern part - to the Dnipro Lowland (Poltava plain). The central part of the study area is divided by the Dnipro River into two parts, one lies on the left bank of the river (Dnipro Lowland), the other steep right bank belongs to the Dnipro Upland.

The Dnieper glacier, which covered almost the entire surface of the northern part of the expedition route in the forest-steppe zone, was extremely important for the formation of the modern relief. Therefore, the plateau is cut not only by contemporary river valleys, but also by numerous ancient valleys and gullies because of the glacier melting. All the research area is covered by loess and loess-like deposits 20-25 m depth, sometimes exposed. These sediments form the Ukrainian loess belt, which is one of the biggest loess formations in the world (Muhs 2007). In the central part within the Dnipro Upland, the surface of the Precambrian foundation lies above sea level and forms granitic outcrops.

The climate is continental. It corresponds to three types according to Köppen climate classification (Beck et al. 2018): BSk – Arid, steppe, cold; Dfa – Cold, no dry season, hot sum-mer; Dfb – Cold, no dry season, warm summer. On the southernmost area mean annual temperature is 10.3°C and mean annual precipitation is 399 mm. While in the north-ernmost part of the research area they are 8.9°C and 591 mm respectively (Fig. 2). On Fig. 3 we represent Walter and Lieth climatic diagrams built using iki.dataclim R package (Orlowsky 2014) and Climatic Research Unit data (University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU) et al. 2019) for some of the localities for the expedition.

Walter and Lieth climate diagrams on some localities of the expedition

Fig. 3. Walter and Lieth climate diagrams on some localities of the expedition. A: Khrapachiv Yar vil-lage, ending point (N 50.260, E 34.499); B: Khortyt-sia Island, mid-workshop point (N 47.810, E 35.099); C: Kuyuk-Tuk Island, starting point (N 46.072, E 34.407).

Soil types above the loess vary depending on climate and vegetation type. The main soils are chernozems with different humus content and different soil depths. Other soil types also occur - kastanozems, podzols, alfisols and others. Sometimes chernozem is influenced by salinity and replaced by solonetz and solonchak varieties. According to the physiographic zonation of Ukraine (Popov et al. 1968), the soils are dark and typical kastanozems (chestnut soils) of 40-50 cm depth and 2.5-4% humus content on the southernmost part of the expedition route. Moving to the north they are replaced by southern saline chernozems (45-50 cm depth, 4% humus content), afterwards by southern low-humus chernozems (60-70 cm, 5%), common low-humus chernozems (60-65 cm, 5.5-6%), and common chernozems (70-100 cm, 6.8-7.2%), and finally by deep chernozems (115-130 cm, 6-8%) in the northernmost steppe part. Podzols and alfisols are also present under the forests in the forest-steppe zone.

Flora and vegetation

Several physiognomic classification systems arrange steppe types along climatic (latitudinal) gradients and therefore each steppe type corresponds to a zonal vegetation type (Hurka et al. 2019). In Ukraine, the most common way to determine steppe types is based on the dominant approach, which is based on the main dominant species of communities – “edificators”. Higher units traditionally include the following climatic steppe types: desertified steppes, bunch-grass steppes, forb-bunchgrass steppes and meadow steppes (Bilyk et al. 1973). Another similar classification system of zonal steppe types was used in the Map of the Natural Vegetation of Europe (Bohn et al. 2000), according to which the following steppe types are recognized in Ukraine along an increasing precipitation gradient from south to north: desert steppes, grass steppes, herb-grass steppes, herb-rich grass steppes, Crimean montane steppes, subcontinental meadow steppes (Fig. 4).

Vegetation map

Fig. 4. Map of Ukraine with approximate sampling locations. Vegetation types based on the potential natural vegetation map of Europe (Bohn et al. 2000).

The classification of vegetation based on complete species lists has not been commonly applied in Ukraine, but it is currently being developed. It still needs clarification and large-scale comparison to distinguish the most suitable units. Desertified salt steppes are classified within the alliance Artemisio tauricae-Festucion described from Crimea. Dominants of such communities are Festuca valesiaca, Agropyron cristatum and Artemisia taurica (Kolomiychuk & Vynokurov 2016). We will sample them during the first day in the Sivash Lake region within the Azovo-Syvashskyi National Nature Park (Churiuk and Kuyuk-Tuk Islands) (Figs. 5, 6, 7).

Fig. 5. Syvash Lake. Photo: D. Vynokurov.
Fig. 6. Kuyuk-Tuk Island. Photo: M. Peregrym.
Fig. 7. Slopes of Churiuk Island and Syvash Lake. Photo: D. Vynokurov.

Fig. 5 (left): Syvash Lake. Photo: D. Vynokurov; Fig. 6 (middle): Kuyuk-Tuk Island. Photo: M. Peregrym; Fig. 7 (right): slopes of Churiuk Island and Syvash Lake. Photo: D. Vynokurov.

For the bunchgrass steppes, the alliance Tanaceto millefolii-Galatellion villosae was proposed (Kolomiychuk & Vynokurov 2016). This unit combines communities with Agropyron cristatum, Astragalus ponticus (Fig. 8), Bassia prostrata, Ephedra distachya, Goniolimon tataricum, Stipa ucrainica, Tanacetum millefolium and Vincetoxicum maeoticum (Fig. 9), which do not occur or only rarely in more humid climates. This type of vegetation will be sampled during the 2nd and 3rd day of the Field Workshop on the slopes of Syvashyk Liman, Utliutsky Liman, Velykyi Utliuk, Tashhenak and Molochna River Valleys, Troitska Balka. These sites preserve many endangered steppe species such as Allium regelianum, A. pervestitum, Astragalus reduncus, A. pallescens, Caragana scythica, Cymbochasma borysthenica, Rhaponti-coides taliewii, Tulipa gesneriana (Kostyliov et al. 1994; Kolomiychuk et al. 2012).

Astragalus ponticus. Photo: D. Shyriaieva.
Vincetoxicum maeoticum. Photo: D. Vynokurov.
Fig. 10. Phlomis herba-venti subsp. pungens. Photo: V. Maniuk.

Some rare or characteristic species of the vegetation types. Fig. 8 (left): Astragalus ponticus, photo: D. Shyriaieva; Fig. 9 (left): Vincetoxicum maeoticum, photo: D. Vynokurov; Fig. 10 (right) Phlomis herba-venti subsp. pungens. Photo: V. Maniuk.

More to the north, bunchgrass steppes are replaced by forb-bunchgrass true steppe communities, which are classified within the alliance Stipo lessingianae-Salvion nutantis. These communities are characterized by such species as Astragalus austriacus, Bellevalia speciosa, Euphorbia nicaeensis subsp. stepposa, Galatella villosa, Jurinea arachnoidea, Nepeta ucranica subsp. parviflora, Phlomis herba-venti subsp. pungens (Fig. 10), Teucrium polium, and Viola ambigua. We will sample these communities during the following five days in Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Poltava and Kharkiv regions. Natural vegetation can be found in the river valley systems ( e.g. Dnipro, Samara, Kil’chen in the Oril River Valleys).

In the forest-steppe zone true steppe vegetation is replaced by meadow steppes which can be classified within the alliances Festucion valesiacae or Cirsio-Brachypodion pinnati. These communities are dominated by grasses (Elytrigia intermedia, Festuca stricta subsp. sulcata, Stipa capillata, S. pennata, S. tirsa) and forbs (Filipendula vulgaris, Salvia pratensis, Trifolium montanum, etc.). We will sample these vegetation type during the 6th and 9th days of the expedition, in the vicinity of Poltava and Zin’kiv.

Preliminary syntaxonomical scheme of Festuco-Brometea class vegetation of the research area on the alliance level:

Festuco-Brometea Br.-Bl. et Tx. ex Soó 1947
     Tanaceto achilleifolii-Stipetalia lessingianae Lysenko & Mucina in Mucina et al. 2016
        Artemisio tauricae-Festucion Korzhenevsky & Klyukin 1991
        Tanaceto millefolii-Galatellion villosae Vynokurov in Kolomiychuk & Vynokurov 2016
     Festucetalia valesiacae Soó 1947
        Stipo lessingianae-Salvion nutantis Vynokurov 2014
        Festucion valesiacae Klika 1931
     Brachypodietalia pinnati Korneck 1974
       Cirsio-Brachypodion pinnati Hadač et Klika in Klika et Hadač 1944d

Preliminary itinerary of the Field Workshop

Our itinerary is shown below. We will stay in four different accommodations along our travel from Kherson to Kyiv. Our sampling sites include the Azovo-Syvashskyi National Nature Park, Pryazovskyi National Nature Park, Regional Landscape Park “Dniprovi Porohy” (Fig. 14, 15) and other locally protected areas. Other dry grasslands are parts of designed natural parks or local nature reserves. Some territories are also protected as sites of the Emerald Network in Ukraine.

1st day 09.00-19.00:
Journey to: Kherson - Syvash Lake - Henichesk
Morning: Meeting the group near the main train station (Kherson)
Afternoon: Churiuk Island and Kuyuk-Tuk Island
Overnight: Henichesk

2nd day 08.00-18.00:
Journey: Henichesk - Syvashyk Liman - Henichesk
Morning: Syvashyk Liman
Afternoon: Utliutsky Liman and Velykyi Utliuk River Valley
Overnight: Henichesk

3rd day 08.00-19.30:
Journey: Henichesk - Melitopol - Zaporizhzhia
Morning: Tashhenak River Valley, Troitska Balka
Afternoon: Molochna River Valley
Overnight: Khortytsia Island (Zaporizhzhia)

4th day 08.00-18.00:
Journey: Zaporizhia - Stepno-hirsk - Zaporizhzhia
Morning: steppe gulleys in Dnipro River Valley
Afternoon: Khortytsia Island
Overnight: Khortytsia Island (Zaporizhzhia)

5th day 08.00-18.30:
Journey: Zaporizhzhia - Vidradne - Dnipro
Morning: steppe gulleys in Dnipro River Valley
Afternoon: regional landscape park “Dniprovi Porohy”
Overnight: Dnipro

6th day 08.00-18.00:
Journey: Dnipro - Spaske - Sam-ara river - Dnipro
Morning: Kil’chen River Valley
Afternoon: Samara River Valley
Overnight: Dnipro

7th day 08.00-19.00:
Journey:Dnipro - Nehvoroshcha - Poltava
Morning: Kil’chen River Valley, Oril River Valley
Afternoon: vicinity of Poltava town
Overnight: Poltava

8th day 08.00-18.30:
Journey: Poltava - Klymivka - Stepove - Poltava
Morning: Orchyk River Valley
Afternoon: Berestova River Valley
Overnight: Poltava

9th day 08.00-18.30:
Journey: Poltava - Zin’kiv - Pol-tava
Morning and afternoon: vicinity of Zin’kiv town
Overnight: Poltava

10th day 08.00-15.30:
Journey: Poltava - Klymivka - Stepove - Poltava
Morning: returning to Kyiv, stop for the sampling in the flood plain of the Psel River
Afternoon: arrival to Kyiv (Boryspil airport)
Overnight: -

bunchgrass steppes on in Troitska Balka (Photos: V. Kolomiychuk)
meadow steppes in Samara River Valley (Photo: V. Maniuk)
desertified salt steppes on Kuyuk-Tuk Island (Photo: D. Vynokurov)

Fig 11. Examples of dry grasslands in the study regions of the 14th EDGG Field Workshop: bunchgrass steppes in Troitska Balka (Photos: V. Kolomiychuk), meadow steppes in Samara River Valley (Photo: V. Maniuk), desertified salt steppes on Kuyuk-Tuk Island (Photo: D. Vynokurov).

Application for participation

We expect up to 20 (exceptionally up to 25) participants in total, including 3-4 organizers. All EDGG members are welcome to apply to participate in EDGG Field Workshop via online application. The application link will be available at the beginning of 2021.

Travel grants

Every year, travel grants are provided by our parent organization IAVS, and they are only available to members of IAVS. Priority for travel grants will be given to the following groups of persons: a) students and other applicants from low-income countries; b) well-established and very active participants of previous Field Workshops; c) persons that have already agreed to organize a Field Workshop in the coming years or provide any additional input such as soil analyses or sampling and identification of taxonomic groups other than vascular plants. The final decision will depend on the combination of these three variables. The amount of money provided to a particular grantee is not a fixed sum, but depends on the available money, the demonstrated need of the respective person and his/her relevance to the success of the Field Workshop. Accordingly travel grants can cover parts of the registration fee, the full registration fee or possibly even the travel costs to get to the event.

IAVS and EDGG requires their grantees to be actively involved in the EDGG event and contribute to its success. In case of FW, it is necessary that all participants work intensively during and after the FW to obtain high-quality scientific results. Some of the tasks shared by participants are data entry and digitizing data, sorting and analyzing soil samples, preparing and identification of plant specimens. Post-FW tasks usually require a few days of work for each participant. Participants will be invited as a co-author to one or more publications using these data. It is required that IAVS grantees accept to fulfill tasks relevant to their expertise and capabilities during and after the FW. If a grantee does not fulfill the post-FW task, he or she may be exempted from next year's grants for EDGG events.

Examples of dry grasslands in the study regions of the 14th EDGG Field Workshop. From left to right: forb-bunchgrass steppe in Abazivka (Photo: D. Davydov) and Kil’chen River Valley (Photo: V. Maniuk), bunchgrass steppes on Churiuk Island

forb-bunchgrass steppe in Abazivka (Photo: D. Davydov)
Kil’chen River Valley (Photo: V. Maniuk)
bunchgrass steppes on Churiuk Island

Important Travel Information

Starting point for the Field Workshop is the main train station in Kherson, where we will collect participants. There are two options for getting to Kherson city: (1) flight to Kyiv and then have a night train from Kyiv to Kherson, or (2) flight to Kherson. There are two international airports in Kyiv - Boryspil International Airport (KPB) and Kyiv International Airport (Zhuliany) (IEV). These are connected with all the main European airports. Kherson International Airport (KHE) is connected with Kyiv, Istanbul, Katowice, Kraków and Vienna.

We intend to leave from Kherson and start Field Workshop and finish in Kyiv city (airport Boryspil) or in Kherson city. At the end of the expedition we can leave participants at the airport as well as in the city center in both cities. Please ensure that you organize your flight journeys so that they fit with this plan. Please book accommodation yourself if you need it on the night before or after the expedition. If you do not have a suitable connection or if you need help with booking hotels, you can contact Dariia Shyriaieva (darshyr@gmail.com) for assistance. For all who plan to reach Kherson by night train from Kyiv, we recommend to contact Dariia for organized purchase of tickets.


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