Functional Plant Ecology

Welcome to the ‘Functional plant ecology’ workgroup!

We are based at the University of South Bohemia and we are generally interested in the mechanisms underlying the origins and maintenance of plant biodiversity, particularly in species rich semi-natural grasslands, and the contribution of this diversity to the provision of multiple ecosystem functions.

The members of the group teach several courses at our university, both for Czech and international students. Since 2011, Šuspa (Jan Lepš) organizes each autumn in an odd year (e.g. 2021, 2023) Quantitative Ecology Module and together with Petr Blažek, they are behind the two years English Master program in Ecology (taught in English).

Our research is motivated by the need to improve and deepen the knowledge of biodiversity distribution through space and time and the mechanisms behind these patterns. Over the past several years evidence has accumulated that clearly demonstrates how viewing plant assemblages through the lens of functional traits of species can yield important new insights into the way by which species assemble into communities and coexist in time. Moreover, functional traits directly reflect the way by which plant species interact with other trophic levels (with cascade effects on herbivory and decomposing organisms) and affect an important array of ecosystem functions (productivity, invasion control, nutrient cycling, pollination, etc), with direct consequences for the multiple ecosystem services provided by species-rich ecosystems.

We focus our research specifically on the mechanisms of species establishment (gap dynamics, influence of reproductive and clonal traits), species interactions (competition, facilitation, hemiparasitism), local adaptation (phenotypic plasticity and heritable epigenetic) by studying a variety of plants traits, both above and below ground.

We combine extensive field experiments, including long-term research sites, with experiments in greenhouses and growth chambers to assess how changes in functional traits affect species coexistence and a variety of ecosystem functions.

See more from our group on twitter @PlantEcolCB

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