Summer is the time of year for fieldwork. FUNgreen project partners are now hard at work carrying out the second stages of our various field campaigns. There is a lot to be done across a range of research topics, so 2018 will be a busy time for everyone involved with the project.
Across our study landscapes in Belgium, Germany and Sweden we are carrying out inventories of plant species within different types of "green infrastructure". These landscape features, such as road verges, hedgerows and forest edges, could act as links between semi-natural grasslands and allow plants to move across landscapes. By recording where plants are found, we are hoping to investigate how suitable these habitats are for different species, and whether their presence and location within the landscape affects plant and pollinator diversity. Collecting data at a large number of locations will also help to model the way in which different plant species disperse through the landscape around semi-natural grasslands.
Alongside this, fieldwork is currently underway as part of our second work package, to investigate how pollinating insects and seed dispersal contribute to connectivity in plant communities. Diverse pollinator networks are thought to help plants produce a larger number of offspring. Experiments have been set up in focal grasslands to measure the impact of pollinators on seed production in a number of study species. Several flowers have been marked at each site, and the seeds which they produce will be collected, counted and checked for viability later in the year. Fieldworkers will also count pollinating insects found in our study grasslands, and note the flowers that species most often visit.
In addition to this, experiments are being carried out to investigate how seeds stick to the fur of grazing animals, and how the shape and specialised characteristics of those seeds might help them stay attached for longer (and be transported further through the landscape). A different project is looking at the soil conditions in midfield islets and semi-natural grasslands, and how these relate to plant species composition. Meanwhile back in the lab, the genetic material collected in 2017 is being processed, with the data due to become available for analysis in the autumn. We have also finished digitising historical aerial photographs for the study areas, which we can now use to quantify changes that have occurred within landscapes over recent decades.