Laboratory of Aquatic Insect Biodiversity and Ecology

Our research focuses on the biodiversity, life histories, population dynamics and community assembly of aquatic insects and other invertebrates. We also use aquatic insects as a model group to answer fundamental questions on the role of selected biotic and abiotic factors on interactions between individuals and populations and on community assembly.

Our research of the biodiversity and phylogeny of aquatic insects focuses primarily on selected fossil and extant mayflies (Ephemeroptera) and stoneflies (Plecoptera). Our studies are based on the combination of methods of traditional and molecular taxonomy. We aim to map the biodiversity of these groups in selected geographical areas, explain its origins and contribute to its effective conservation.

Our interdisciplinary research on the ecology of aquatic insects combines field surveys and manipulative experiments with laboratory assays and mathematical modelling. We also participate in long-term monitoring of freshwater insects in the Czech Republic and have also initiated several projects mapping the invertebrate communities in standing waters in the Czech Republic 

We provide the results of our applied research to other state institutions responsible for nature conservation. For example, we have collaborated with the Nature Conervation Agency of the Czech Republic in a nation-wide inventory of species protected by Natura 2000. Last but not least, we disseminate our applied results not only in peer-reviewed publications but also in popular science texts aimed at a wider audience.

Current research projects

Impact of combined stressors on freshwater biota

We aim to unravel the combined impacts of anthropogenic chemical pollution and climate change on freshwater ecosystems, using a combination of laboratory and mesocosm experiments focusing on the biota of small standing waters dominated by freshwater invertebrates. We currently lack data and unified framework to predict responses of freshwater ecosystems to these combined stressors. To fill this knowledge gap, we will use laboratory and mesocosm experiments to understand how commonly found pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) and pesticides in combination with warming affect individuals, trophic interactions, whole ecosystems and energy flow in communities in small standing waters.

Research team: D. Boukal (PI), V. Kolář, A. Csercsa
External collaborators: C. Duchet (Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia), T. Randák, K. Grabicová (both Faculty of Fisheries and Protection of Waters, University of South Bohemia), R. Stoks (KU Leuven)

Communities of freshwater insects and other invertebrates in human-impacted standing waters

We compare freshwater communities in fly ash lagoons, nearby sandpit ponds and fishponds to describe the biodiversity and conservation potential of man-made sites. We study both conservation value and ecology of communities of these sites using a combination of a landscape-scale field survey with laboratory experiments, field enclosure experiments, and analyses of heavy metal content across trophic levels and taxa. This multi-level approach will provide evidence-based recommendations for the restoration and management of man-made habitats including fishponds, and contribute to the broad understanding of their biodiversity.

Research team: D. Boukal (PI), V. Kolář, B. Carreira
External collaborators: R. Tropek, A. Landeira-Dabarca (Institute of Entomology), L. Vebrová, M. Poláková, O. Skácelová-Lepšová (Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia), R. Stoks (KU Leuven)

Freshwater ectotherms under climate change: the role of phenotypic plasticity in life histories and trophic interactions

Understanding climate change impacts on ecosystems is one of the most important challenges to current ecology and conservation biology. While many freshwater ectotherms are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures due to their limited dispersal ability, they may mitigate the impact of thermal stress by plastic responses. However, the role of phenotypic plasticity in the context of climate change is little understood. Using laboratory experiments and numerical simulations, we examine the role of individual thermal performance curves and thermally induced plasticity in life histories and species interactions of freshwater ectotherms under the anticipated climate change.

Research team: D. Boukal (PI), A. Csercsa, S. Dijoux
External collaborators: J. Mocq, J. Okrouhlík (Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia), L. Gvoždík (Institute of Vertebrate Biology CAS), A. Sentis (University of Aix-Marseille)

Biogeography and speciation of New Caledonian mayflies (Ephemeroptera)

New Caledonia, a Melanesian archipelago with extraordinary diversity and endemism, is considered a global-scale biodiversity hotspot. The most intensively studied biological phenomenon in New Caledonia is the origin of its biota in relation to its geological history, involving the separation from Gondwana, accretion of terranes, and marine submersion. In our project, we focus on the processes shaping the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems of New Caledonia based on mayflies (Ephemeroptera). The local fauna includes a single family (Leptophlebiidae) with a broad spectrum of ecological adaptations analogous to the Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos. Our research aims to chart the diversity of New Caledonian mayflies and unravel their origin and evolutionary history.

Research team: Ľ. Hrivniak (PI), P. Sroka, R. Godunko
External collaborators: J. Bojková (Masaryk University, Brno), M. Sartori a J-L. Gattolliat (Cantonal Museum of Zoology, Lausanne)

Larval specializations, bionomics, and habitat shifts in two selected orders of Insecta during the Mesozoic

Ontogenetic diet and habitat shifts from larvae to adults allow them to efficiently explore resources and minimize intraspecific competition. This evolutionary advantage helped insects become the most speciose group of organisms on Earth. However, larval adaptation of fossil insects are insufficiently explored. We will focus on new material of Mesozoic insects. This crucial period for insect evolution was characterized by accelerated diversification in some lineages connected with profound changes in the palaeoclimate and palaeoecosystems. As model taxa, we will use aquatic Ephemeroptera and terrestrial polyphagan Coleoptera that cover a wide range of newly established palaeohabitats. This approach will allow us to track habitat shifts and stases in their evolutionary history.

Research team: P. Sroka, R. Godunko
External collaborators: J. Prokop (PI), J. Batelka, K. Rosová (Charles University, Prague), A.H. Staniczek (Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History)

Mayflies of the Caucasus Mts

Freshwaters of the Caucasus Mountains host exceptionally high biodiversity and endemism. Mayflies (Ephemeroptera) constitute an important component of this unique fauna. We undertook many fieldtrips to the area during the past decade and collected an extensive material, that is still being processed. Our aim is to provide a complex information on the diversity, identification, and distribution of Caucasian mayflies, which will enable to better use their potential in hydrobiology, water quality assessment, and conservation. We will also examine the origins and mechanisms driving diversification of the local mayfly fauna to understand the evolutionary history and formation of endemism in relation to the geological history of the area.

Research team: R. Godunko, Ľ. Hrivniak, P. Sroka
External collaborators: J. Bojková (Masaryk University, Brno), A.V. Martynov (National Museum of Natural History, Kiev), D.M. Palatov (Moscow State University)


Biology Centre CAS
Institute of Entomology
Branišovská 1160/31
370 05 České Budějovice

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