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Functional Plant Ecology

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prof. RNDr. Jan Šuspa Lepš, CSc.

prof. RNDr. *Jan Šuspa Lepš*, CSc.

I am trained as plant ecologist. From 2001, I have been a member of the research team of the Department of Ecology and Nature Conservation. In 1991 I was engaged in foundation of the institution currently known as Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia. By now, I have two joint appointments, the major one at the Department of Botany, FoS, where I teach both graduate and undergraduate courses, and minor one in Department of Ecology and Nature Conservation, Institute of Entomology, CAS.

Francesco de Bello

*Francesco de Bello*

Trained as a plant ecologist and agronomist. Using meadows and alpine vegetation as a study framework, I assess the role of functional trait diversity on the interface between community assembly and ecosystem service delivery. My interests also include the effects of land-use changes on vegetation, and particularly grazing and mowing, and the development of integrated biodiversity indicator systems to monitor the effects of these changes in interaction with climate change.

This is the link to my (definitely not fully correct) Google Scholar

doc. RNDr. Majka Šmilauerová, Ph.D.

doc. RNDr. *Majka Šmilauerová*, Ph.D.

I am interested in plant roots response to nutrient heterogeneity. To study it, I am using field manipulative experiments with in-growth cores. My interests also extend to the role of arbuscular mycorrhiza in plant root functioning.

Enrique Valencia Gomez

*Enrique Valencia Gomez*

I did my PhD at Rey Juan Carlos University, evaluating the responses of the functional structure of plant communities to climate and land cover changes, and how plant functional attributes ultimately affect ecosystem functioning in semi-arid Mediterranean ecosystems. To do so, we used observational and experimental studies conducted at regional and local scales. I am now a post-doc in a new team of scientists at the Czech Academy of Sciences, led by Francesco de Bello. Here, I am studying the drivers of communities' temporal stability using existing long-term community data.

Pavel Fibich

*Pavel Fibich*

I am plant ecologist with spatial and statistical focus. After finishing master’s degree in numerical computation, bachelor’s degree in forestry and doctoral degree in botany, I have started postdoc research applying spatial distribution of trees to understand ongoing processes in the forests. Cooperating with Jan Suspa Leps (JSL) and Vojtech Novotny, 50 ha permanent plot in the tropical forest in Wanang Papua New Guinea, part of Forest GEO (CTFS), is my primary study site. Here, with Petr Klimes and other colleagues, besides trees, we also study distributions of ants and birds. With JSL I am involved in gaining and testing ecological hypotheses on big databases (standing on huge amount of classical releves including environmental factors and plant traits). Here, also with Jakub Tesitel, we investigated associations of hemiparasitic plants in the landscape scale. Moreover, I am cooperating with Francesco de Bello on various projects covering species distribution modelling and artificial plant communities. Besides that, with Jan Altman and Jiri Dolezal we study tree growth combining tree rings (by our R package TRADER) and spatial distribution information. I am also helping other colleagues with using spatial information, designing of null models (mostly R oriented) and handling computationally intensive analyses.

doc. Jiří Doležal, Ph.D.

doc. *Jiří Doležal*, Ph.D.

I am exploring plant responses to climate and land-use changes. In my research projects, we identify patterns and mechanisms of biodiversity and growth responses of plants to ongoing climate and land-use change and link them to plant ecophysiological strategies, anatomical background, evolutionary and environmental constraints such as disturbances and competition, using global dataset and field data from our experimental sites in temperate (Central Europe, Korea, Japan), subtropical (Himalayas) and tropical (Cameroon) regions. I use long-term growth records to disentangle the complex drivers of tree growth and forest dynamics, predict future forest responses to changing climate and reconstruct past climate as well as disturbance agents. I am also interested in European grasslands, their biodiversity and restoration. I have close collaboration with the GIS and Algology Departments in the Institute of Botany on plant-plant and plant-cyanobacterial interactions in cold alpine regions. My research activities are tightly connected with training of students. I have been organizing in the past ten years more than 20 research expeditions abroad that always involved several graduate to post-graduate students.

RNDr. Terezie Rychtecká, Ph.D.

RNDr. *Terezie Rychtecká*, Ph.D.

My main scientific interest within plant ecology lies in the study of biodiversity of plant communities. Specifically, I was using both statistical and mathematical theoretical models as well as pot experiments to demonstate the differential roles of the initial (sown) and realized diversities in biodiversity- ecosystem functioning experiments (BEF). I also contributed to some methodological issues concerning the analyses of biodiversity- ecosystem functioning experiments. Recently I am engaged in the study of species mobility / turnover using data of species presences and absences at three different spatial scales from our experimental locality Ohrazeni.

Luisa Conti

Luisa Conti

As a plant ecologist, I am interested in the interaction between plant functional patterns and community assembly processes, in plant invasions dynamics and their impacts, as well as in global change effects on vegetation. I did my PhD in Roma Tre University focusing on changing functional patterns across different abiotic stress levels to assess the changing community assembly and invasion processes. I have used both natural and experimental setups and my main study systems have been temperate grasslands and coastal sand dunes. Currently, as a postdoctoral researcher in the Functional Plant Ecology group at the University of South Bohemia, I am working on finding the link between functional characters and temporal stability patterns at species level by using an existing global database of long-term vegetation studies and TRY, a global trait database.

Mária Májeková, Ph.D.

*Mária Májeková*, Ph.D.

I study plant ecology with a broad focus on community ecology, functional ecology, species coexistence mechanisms and the spatio-temporal dynamics of plant populations and communities. To shed more light on the processes that govern the coexistence of species, I study the similarities and differences of plant life strategies mediated via the trade-offs in their traits. I address most of my research questions using the temperate grasslands as a study system. Two mutually interconnected topics lie at the heart of my research interest: (1) the relationship between temporal stability and the plant strategies mediated via species functional traits and (2) the relationship between differences in the functional trade-offs of species and the mechanisms of stable coexistence in fluctuating environments. My research also focuses on water as a limiting factor and associated species adaptations. I focus on water economics traits explicitly linking the adaptations to prevailing soil water conditions and plant physiological adaptations in herbaceous species (water potential, leaf osmotic potential at turgor loss point and full hydration, δ13C).

Alena Vítová, Ph.D.

*Alena Vítová*, Ph.D.

I am interested in mechanisms maintaining species diversity in temperate grasslands. My research projects are focused on effect of several important factors on species composition of meadow communities. My work is based on manipulative experiments, where species establishment and survival in seed addition experiments as well as during natural regeneration is observed. By comparison of species establishment in intact and disturbed vegetation, effect of dispersal limitation, abiotic conditions and competition is assessed as well as regeneration ability of different functional groups.

Nagore Garcia Medina

Nagore Garcia Medina

I am part-time plant ecologist and part-time biogeographer, or maybe something in between. I finished my PhD in 2015 at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain. My main research aim is to identify what are the main causes that drive species coexistence at the small scale and to what extent species distributions are affected by processes at the local scale and vice-versa. I would like to contribute to our understanding on the interactions between competition and facilitation with stochastic population dynamics, environmental filters, and evolutionary processes. I am also interested in the functions of plants in ecosystems, especially on showing how environmental variation produces changes in ecosystem functions

Julia Sfair

Julia Sfair

I am working with plant ecology since "always", particularly community ecology in the neotropics. During my master and PhD, I worked with patterns and process of phenology and interaction between climbers and host trees, using network analyses approaches. In the last years, I am focusing on functional ecology and how human disturbance can modify plant assemblages, mainly in the dry tropical forests.

For more information you can check the Lattes link and my research gate

Marketa Applova

Marketa Applova

My name is Markéta. I joined the group at the beginning of 2017 and I am helping everybody in the lab to run their experiments. I am from Central Bohemia. I studied Gymnasium in a small town there and then moved to České Budějovice to study ecology at the Faculty of Science at University of South Bohemia. After studies I worked for a year in a centre for young people. My main duty was to cook and take care of kitchen, cellar and the supplies of food. Then I returned to the Faculty of Science to work for 4 years as a lab technician. Then I have once more a year pause, being unemployed. Now I work in international team of botanists of Francesco de Bello, again as a technician. I like very much the coffee, which my colleagues can prepare. My best having rest activities are watching debates of politicians on TV and solving sudoku. I am interested in ecological way of life or gardening. My most favourite recent activity is exercising in a fitness gym. I like dogs, black tee and smell of lavender.

PhD. Students

Aleš Lisner

*Aleš Lisner*

Currently, I am a master student under supervision of Jan ‘Šuspa’ Lepš in the plant functional ecology group. My interests include mainly competition relationships between plants in meadow communities. I focus on the effect of environmental productivity and light availability on species diversity, also considering different spatial scales. Further, I assess how dominant and subordinate species influence community functioning and stability in removal experiment.

Petr Blažek

*Petr Blažek*

My research focus is on the grassland plant ecology, with a specialization on nature conservation and field experiments in natural communities. A broad topic, which I summarized in my theses, surveyed the ecology of grassland hemiparasites, mostly Rhinanthus minor. Since most of its populations have disappeared, my question was "What is wrong with this species?". In manipulative field experiments, I studied various aspects of its population biology: seedling establishment, response to mowing, plant regeneration, seed production, seed dispersal and seed dormancy. I found that the plant's life cycle is disrupted in several phases by modern agricultural practices, with early mowing playing a key role. I also ran experiments, where the possibility to suppress community productivity by parasitism of Rhinanthus major was tested. Currently, I participate in an organic-farming experiment with several types of mowing and fertilization, trying to find a compromise between farmers' and conservationists' aims. In a new project, I study seasonal community dynamics in a wet meadow, trying to find the community composition throughout the whole year, i.e. also in times when botanist normally do not sample.

Marie Konečná

*Marie Konečná*

My research topic is the role of ants in meadow vegetation as dispersers and also ecosystem engineers. To study the seed dispersal by ants (myrmecochory) I use multiple methods e. g. cafeteria experiments, ant removal or chemical analysis of seeds and elaiosomes. I am mainly interested in the advantages, which this mutualism brings both sides. The second interest is the effect of ants on the vegetation, which I study in pastures and abandoned meadow, where it could be especially pronounced because of the presence of long lasting ant hills. The main question in this study system is whether the ant hills are increasing the diversity in meadows and provide safe sites for the seedling recruitment. Other aim is to compare the ant hills with other types of disturbances in meadow vegetation, such as mole hills.

Hana Dvořáková

*Hana Dvořáková*

I focus on the role of plant intraspecific variability on species prosperity in the community context. My PhD research specifically aims to shed more light on the possible epigenetic triggers of intraspecific functional diversity. With the combination of greenhouse experiments in controlled conditions and field sampling of natural population I attempt to asses the ecological relevance of environmentally induced transgenerational effects.

Anna E. Vojtkó

*Anna E. Vojtkó*

My main scientific interests include plant functional traits (especially floral and other reproductive traits) and how these are related to species co-existence in communities. I am interested in the patterns describing plant adaptations to the environment they live in. Through studying functional traits and their role in spatial and temporal variation in community composition we can have a better understanding of which traits/species react sensitively to the changes of local conditions as well as which are more stabile in different habitats as well as in time. Although using plant functional traits as a tool in describing community assembly rules has become a routine among plant ecologists, floral traits – being a poorly studied segment of functional ecology – need more attention. Therefore, my main aim as a PhD student is to gain more knowledge about floral and reproductive traits in general as well as about how they are related to community composition patterns.

Eva Švamberková

*Eva Švamberková*

My principal interest in plant functional ecology is to reveal mechanisms responsible for species community composition. I am looking into questions related to assembly rules what also my PhD thesis on the subject of “Assembly rules in plant communities” points out. What ecological processes affect the species community composition? And what of these patterns play the most important role in plant communities and in which cases? From my bachelor, I am interested in assessment and employment of species pool. I focus especially on the experimental species pool delimitation using seed introduction experiments in combination with experimental exclusion of competition. I examine the effect of biotic filter on the seedling establishment of species with various ecological requirements in ecological different habitats. I also investigate the differences in establishment of species introduced in community as seeds and as transplants.My other question is related to importance of competition in plant communities. Does below-ground competition play more or less important role in plant species communities than above-ground competition? Which is the effect of competitive exclusion on species introduced in plant communities in different life phases of plants and what is their extinction time?I highlight the importance of experimental approach because using field experiments we can reveal patterns which we would never be able to find out only with simulations and other comparative methods. I like working with real organisms in their real environment.

Javier Puy

*Javier Puy*

Trained as plant functional ecologist, currently I am PhD student under the supervision of Francesco de Bello and Carlos P. Carmona. I am the experiment man from the lab because besides my interest in ecophysiology and applied ecology, now my research looks at the transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and its ecological and evolutionary relevance. This includes how plants adjust to their present environment, and also how plants advice their offspring about the ecological interactions that they will have to cope with in the future. A better understanding can complete some ecological questions like the patterns underlying competition or community assembly rules, and improve the predictions of how fast plants/crops will need to adapt to climate change. Particularly, my PhD project focuses on the transgenerational effects triggered by plant-biotic interactions, i.e. competition with neighbours and symbiosis with soil microbial communities. I am also actively involved and interested in research of inter- and intraspecific functional diversity, plasticity in belowground traits, as well as in patterns underlying the processes of population and community functioning. Keep in touch!

Thomas Galland

*Thomas Galland*

My PhD project aims to shed light on some of the mechanisms driving community temporal stability, a fundamental question as biodiversity is globally declining at an unprecedented rate. My work focus on three parallels project assessing three aspect of the relation between functional diversity and community stability. i) The Benešov field experiment in (Vysočina region, Czech Rep.), where plant communities with high and low Functional and Phylogenetic diversity have been sown and we monitor their biomass production and plant traits variations. ii) The Functional Redundancy simulation: based on individual plant response (biomass and traits) to environmental conditions, we are simulating communities with different levels of functional redundancy and the impact of species lost on their diversity. The aim is to first review the multitude of Redundancy index available, then to evaluate the contribution of functional redundancy to ecosystem stability. iii) The Synchrony database: after compiling a worldwide database of long-term community diversity survey, the aim is to identify the main drivers of synchronic and asynchronic fluctuation of species within communities and determine the contribution of asynchrony to community stability. Before starting my PhD, I completed a master on Ecology in University Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France). My master thesis took part of the Estonian semi-natural grassland restoration project “LIFE to Alvars”, supervised by Dr. Aveliina Helm from the University of Tartu. There I described landscape changes since the 1930s and their impact on plant diversity patterns on restoration sites.


Lucie Houdková

*Lucie Houdková*

In my studies I am focusing on the ecology of tropical rainforests. A perfect opportunity for my research has opened up in cooperation with Binatang Research Center ( - can it say maybe „see BRC“?) at Wanang Conservation Area, Papua New Guinea. I have established 800 m2 of survey subplots, which are equally distributed throughout the papuan 50 ha research plot ( - can it say „see Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute“), situated in papua lowland tropical rainforest, during my bachelor studies. Within these plots I am monitoring all of the seedling and saplings of all the tree species, found in the forest, that are not yet included in the 50 ha census. By doing so, we will obtain a nice picture of the forest composition in its every life stage. I have joined Plant Functional Ecology group recently, so that I can continue with this project and closely monitor the plots in time and thus obtain more information about the seedlings mortality, recruitment rates, spatial layout and species composition of the individuals, leading it to eventually confirm some of the mechanisms, that are believed to drive the enormous diversity in tropical forests.

Former Members and Collaborators

Carlos Perez Carmona

Carlos Perez Carmona

Carlos was a Marie Curie post-doc with us for 2 years and we still collaborate on many projects. He is the main person behind the field experiment in Benešov (see pictures from the field). He is now in Meelis Partel group

Yoann La-Bagousse Pinguet

Yoann La-Bagousse Pinguet

Yoann was here for a 2 years post-doc. Then he moved to the lab of Fernando Mastre and now he got a position as researcher at the French CNRS (congrats!!!). This is his webpage

Lars Götzenberger

Lars Götzenberger

Lars is definitely not another plant ecologist and we have collaborated with him already since a long time, resulting in a number of common projects and publications. He will be soon officially part of the lab!

Petr Macek

Petr Macek

We collaborate with Petr on a number of projects, mainly on grassland biodiversity and on polar ecology, in collaboration with Patrick Saccone

Vojta Novotny

Vojta Novotny

Vojta is a well known scientist with who we collaborate mostly on the project he coordinates in Papua New Guinea

Jitka Klimešová

Jitka Klimešová

We tightly collaborate with Jitka, particularly using her great database of clonal traits

Vojta Lanta

Vojta Lanta

With collaborate and interact a lot with Vojta on different types of projects and on a number of publications

Jakub Těšitel

Jakub Těšitel

Jakub is a plant ecologist and a passionate botanist particularly interested in grasslands and their biodiversity. He worked a lot in our lab, collaborated in several papers, and he was basically building the groups parasitic plants His specialization in fact involves ecology of parasitic plants and their role as a functional component of ecosystems and potential biodiversity drivers.

Vitek Latzel

Vitek Latzel

We collaborate with Vitek on several projects on transgenerational plasticity involving two PhD thesis (Javi and Hanka) and a post-doc (Nagore).



We collaborate a lot with Petr not only when we are stuck with our statistical analyses, but also on a number of projects on grassland diversity. Šuspa and Petr also organise every year an international course on Canoco

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