Talk grasslands

Photo 3, fieldwork Biella
Photo 1, Coastal grassland on Oeland
Photo 2, Klimesova fieldwork

Photos provided by Martin Diekmann, Jitka Klimešová and Paolo Biella. 

Talk Grasslands!

Winter 2021-2022

The second season of EDGG Talk Grasslands presentations is about to commence. Again we have a line-up of distinguished grassland scientists, working with very different aspects of grassland science. 

  • Driving factors of long-term vegetation changes in grasslands by Martin Diekmann

23rd November 2021 14:00 (CET)

  • Linking plants and pollinators: a story of local disturbance events and anthropized landscapes by Paolo Biella

14th December 2021 14:00 (CET)

  • Grasslands: the hidden part by Jitka Klimešová

11th January 2022 14:00 (CET)


The talks will be broadcast via Zoom (Meeting ID: 612 7535 3870 Passcode: 349764). Each talk will have a duration of 45 mins flowed by Q&A session. Please contact the organisers if you have any questions: Stephen Venn or Didem Ambarlı

Driving factors of long-term vegetation changes in grasslands        

by Martin Diekmann, 23rd November 2021

Semi-natural grasslands include various types with much differing species assemblages and habitat conditions: wet grasslands, dry grasslands on calcareous soils, ‘acid grasslands’ and others. Whatever type, semi-natural grasslands have changed over recent decades, some more, some less. The aim of this talk is to examine the long-term changes of different grassland types and compare the direction and extent of these changes. The main research questions are: How has total species richness changed? Do the temporal trends of habitat specialists differ from those of habitat generalists? And, what are the driving factors - both abiotic and biotic - of the observed vegetation changes?

Based on a large number of re-survey studies, he will try to answer the above questions, focusing on vascular plants and regions in Central and Western Europe. While Festuco-Brometea grasslands (if managed well in nature reserves) are relatively stable over time in both their species composition and overall species richness, Nardus grasslands and especially wet grasslands show more pronounced changes. While in some cases the main causes for the altered vegetation are few and clear, in other cases the driving factors are manifold and difficult to disentangle, as processes like fertilization, nitrogen deposition, acidification, recovery from acidification, more intensive management or land use abandonment may interact in their effects on the plant community.


Martin Diekmann obtained his PhD at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and since 2001 has been a professor at the University of Bremen, Germany. His main interests in vegetation science include vegetation-environment relationships, broad-scale geographic gradients in species niches and richness, time-series analysis and conservation biology, with a particular focus on forest and grassland ecosystems. Since 2003 he has served on Council in the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS), and after some years as Publications Officer of the Association, he was elected as President of IAVS in 2011. His presidentship ended in 2019, after which he has continued his service in the Governing Board of IAVS. He is an enthusiastic mountain walker, likes sports and is keen on bird watching.

Recording of his talk is available here.

Linking plants and pollinators: a story of local disturbance events and anthropized landscapes

by Paolo Biella, 14th December 2021

Grasslands and landscapes are essential scenarios where pollinators visit flowers, reproduce and survive. However, disturbance events can alter the way plants and pollinators interact with each other. At the local scale, not all flowers are equally visited by pollinators, and losing the subset of the most visited plants can determine the fate of the entangled network of interactions with flower visitors. At the big scale, landscape alteration can impoverish pollinator and plant assemblages. In this talk, I will present recent manipulative studies showing what happens to the pollinators when the plant community is suddenly impoverished. In this context, severe alterations of grassland plant composition can impact the amount of pollinators and even the pollinator efficiency, in ways that are difficult to predict. However, aspects like flower morphology and the amount of nectar resources can determine the fate of the interactions between plants and pollinators and the reorganization possibilities. At the landscape level, I will show how the increase of urbanization and the progressive fragmentation of green-areas can shape the entangled relationships between plants and pollinators. Understanding how the plant scenario and the landscape contribute to the bank of interactions with pollinators is very important to maintain biodiversity and even for inspiring conservation and restoration strategies.


Paolo Biella, PhD, is currently Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences, Milan, Italy. At that University, he is leading lecturer of the course ‘Biogeography’. He holds wide scientific interests, that he pursue with high dedication. He is a specialist of ecological interactions, especially those between pollinators and plants that he studied at several levels: taxonomy of pollinators, reproductive biology of plants, nutritional ecology and plant-pollinator interaction networks. At the moment he is mainly focusing on the impact of anthropic or natural disturbance on the ecosystem services, and the side-effects on functional biodiversity and species interactions. He integrates innovative methodologies (DNA barcoding, phytochemistry, morphological analysis) with statistical modelling. He is also active in the field of species conservation, studying the pollination biology of endangered plants, and the effects of climate change on the ecology and distribution of some bee species. For instance, in 2018 he collaborated at the Red list of threatened Italian bees. Furthermore, he is involved in international research projects and in scientific research agreements. He presented his studies in at international conferences and published several studies in specialized journals. He is the main organizer of an international conference (ABIM, Alpine Bombus International Meeting, 2016, 2018 and 2020 Editions). He is also active in popularization talks on scientific topics. Previously, he was research assistant at the University of Pavia in 2014 and at the Biology Centre in Ceske Budejovice (CZ) from 2014 to 2019. He has a personal website (

Recording of his talk is available here.

Grasslands: the hidden part

Jitka Klimešová 11th January 2022

Vegetation scientists generally assume that the belowground parts of plant communities mirror the aboveground parts and thus all important community responses and functions can be assessed solely by the examination of a community from above. However, this concept is not viable when we also look at a plant community from below. First, we can see that in herbaceous communities, green shoots are annual, while the longevity of roots, rhizomes, and bulbs can range from one season to decades. We can also see that presumably independent aboveground individuals are connected. The relative dominance of species assessed according to the area of cover of green shoots may not be equal to dominance according to the area or biomass of belowground organs. Biomass of belowground organs may exceed biomass of aboveground organs several times. Aboveground plant traits can be easy to measure but belowground traits are often better at responding to environmental gradients. This leads us to question whether we can ignore the belowground plant parts of our communities. I will try to show what we know about belowground organs of grassland communities and where are the gaps that we need to focus our future studies.


Jitka Klimešová obtained her PhD in 1993 at the Institute of Botany of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Třeboň, where she is now Professor and Head of Section. Her main interest is plant functional morphology - she wants to know what is the function of such morphological traits as height, shoot cyclicity, adventitious sprouting from roots etc in daily plant life and how plant ecological functions are constrained by morphology and architecture. As Central Europe is especially rich in herbaceous plants, her focus lays primarily on them. A prerequisite for her work is knowledge of plant architecture, ontogeny and morphology. I get a lot of information from older literature, published since the mid nineteen century in Germany and later on in other European countries and I collect plants in the field over the central and northwest Europe, study their growth, draw them and store information in the databases (CLO-PLA 3,LEDA). This screening has enabled me to map which plant architectural traits are overlooked and to focus my research on them. My favourite questions, which are the main motivation of my current projects are:

What is the role of adventitious sprouting from roots in life history of a plant (Bud bank ecology); and

What is the role of plant architecture in the coexistence of plants in species rich meadows (Functional traits of meadow species).

Recording of her talk is available here.

Previous talks

Winter 2020-2021

EDGG organized online talks to offer grassland researchers an opportunity to be engaged in the latest grassland research and conservation studies, exchange ideas and hear inspiring talks. In 2020-2021 winter, we had three talks and welcome three distinguished scientists to talk on different aspects of grassland ecology, biodiversity and conservation:

  • Drivers of insect decline in grasslands: mechanisms and solutions by Nadja Simons, 8 December 2020 Tuesday 14.00 (CET)
  • Recent developments of the EUNIS classification of European habitats By Milan Chytrý, 12 January 2021 Tuesday 14:00 (CET)
  • Grasslands: ancient and modern by Honor C Prentice, 4 February 2021 Thursday 14.00 (CET)


Drivers of insect decline in grasslands: mechanisms and solutions

By Nadja Simons (08 December 2020)

Insects are the most diverse animal group on the planet, can be found in all ecosystems, and play a major role in almost all ecosystem process. Despite their importance for healthy ecosystems and many ecosystem services, their numbers and diversity is declining rapidly and to worrying extend. In this talk, Nadja guided us to take a closer look at the insect (and spider) communities on managed grasslands in Germany. She highlighted the current trend of insect diversity, discussed the effect of management type and intensity on insect diversity as well as the underlying mechanisms. Moreover,  she provided insights into possible solutions for biodiversity-friendly grassland management.


Nadja Simons is a brilliant young researcher working on the interactions between land use, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Her special focus is arthropods. She is interested in how management decisions affect the functional diversity of arthropod communities at different spatial and temporal scales and how those translate to changes in the provisioning of ecosystem functions. Her work contributes to the development of grassland management that minimises conflicts between production and conservation both on individual grasslands and at the landscape scale. Since December 2018 she is a postdoctoral researcher at Ecological Networks Lab of the Technical University of Darmstadt.

Recording of her talk is available here.


Recent developments of the EUNIS classification of European habitats

By Milan Chytrý (12 Jan 2021)

The EUNIS Habitat Classification, managed by the European Environment Agency, is a widely used reference framework for natural, semi-natural and man-made habitat types in Europe. Recently, this classification was extensively revised and updated. One of the main problems of the earlier EUNIS versions was the lack of clear definitions of individual habitat types that would enable a reliable assignment of each site to a habitat type.

Therefore, an expert group including MilanChytrý from the IAVS Working Group European Vegetation Survey has been working since 2012 for the European Environment Agency on improvements of EUNIS. They proposed more meaningful concepts of many habitat types, developed their unequivocal definitions and delivered characteristics of individual habitat types based on reliable data. They developed the expert system called EUNIS-ESy for automatic classification of European vegetation plots to EUNIS habitats. They have used this expert system to classify approximately 1.3 million vegetation plots from the European Vegetation Archive. Then they used these plots to produce statistically derived characteristic species combinations and distribution maps for more than 200 EUNIS habitat types. In his presentation, Milan Chytrý summarized the main features of the revised EUNIS classification and demonstrate how to use the EUNIS-ESy expert system. See also


Milan Chytrý is one of the leading plant community ecologists of Europe. He is interested in vegetation survey and classification, vegetation-plot databases, broad-scale patterns of plant species diversity, palaeoecology, plant invasions and habitat conservation. His work spans across Palearctic region. He is a chief editor of the Journal of Vegetation Science and Applied Vegetation Science, a Secretary of the IAVS Working Group European Vegetation Survey, and a coordinator of the European Vegetation Archive. More information can be found on his webpage:

Recording of his talk is available here.

Ancient and modern grasslands: plant communities as bioassays

By Honor C Prentice

04 February 2021 Thursday 14.00 (CET)

In her talk, Honor showed different ways in which plant community composition can be used as a tool to investigate ecological and population-genetic questions. She gave examples from the grasslands and “alvar” heaths on the Great Alvar of Öland where her team characterized the ages of the grassland fragments (using historical maps, aerial photos and satellite scenes) and explored different aspects of plant community assembly as well as the historical and edaphic factors that are associated with the occurrence of individual species.


Much of Honor’s research on grassland ecology and plant population genetics is carried out on the Baltic island of Öland. She is interested in the mechanisms that shape and maintain patterns of variation and levels of biodiversity – both within species and within plant communities, and on different spatial scales. One thread of her ongoing research includes genetic and genomic studies of fine-scale local adaptation in Festuca ovina. Another thread has a focus on processes of community assembly and on species’ habitat-preferences within long-term arable-to-pasture successions. Honor is passionate about the wonderful complexity of grassland communities and about the need to conserve grassland ecosystems. More information can be found at

Recording of her talk is available here.