Lutz Eckstein is co-author of a paper presenting a workflow for iPhenology (Fig. 1), i.e., the use of publicly available photo observations to track phenological events at large scales. The paper, which has recently been published open access in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution (https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.14114), is led by Yves Klinger (Justus-von-Liebig University Gießen, Germany), who will be visiting Biology at KaU in June 2023. Overall, publicly available citizen science photo observations are suitable to track key phenological events and can thus significantly advance the knowledge on the timing and drivers of plant phenology. In future, integrating the workflow with automated image processing and analysis may enable real-time tracking of plant phenology. To learn more about what sparked the idea for this paper and what may be advantages of working with citizen science photos, see the Methods in Ecology and Evolution blog (https://methodsblog.com/2023/05/22/using-citizen-science-photos-to-perform-phenological-studies/).
Professor Lutz Eckstein is co-author in a new paper in the journal Applied Vegetation Science led by Yves Klinger (Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany). The authors assessed the role of mowing machinery and endozoochory by migratory sheep as dispersal vectors in semi-natural grasslands by comparing the species compositions and traits of species found in the vectors to the regional above-ground vegetation and soil seed bank. Plant material from mowers (n = 12 from one date) and dung samples from migratory sheep (n = 39 from 13 dates) were collected and the dispersed plant species were determined using the emergence method. We compared the species compositions to the regional above-ground vegetation and seed bank using non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) and indicator species analysis. Furthermore, we compared functional traits of the dispersed species to traits of non-dispersed species of the regional species pools by calculating log-response ratios and performing metaregressions.
We found that mower samples were more similar to the above-ground vegetation whereas dung samples were more similar to the seed bank. Mowers and sheep endozoochory favored the dispersal of species with different traits and phenologies. Species with small seed sizes were prevalent in both vectors. Mowers were less selective concerning most traits, but favored high-growing grasses such as Alopecurus pratensis and Trisetum flavescens. Sheep dung samples contained less grasses and more palatable species, such as Urtica dioica.
Sheep endozoochory and mowing machinery are complementary dispersal vectors favoring species with differing functional traits. Sheep endozoochory enables dispersal of species that have unfavorable traits (e.g. low releasing heights) or phenologies for dispersal by mowing machinery. To ensure the dispersal of a high number of plant species in semi-natural grasslands, the interplay of different vectors should be considered.