Laboratory of Temperate Biodiversity
Current research projects
Mapping of Butterflies of the Czech Republic
Butterfly fauna of the Czech Republic consists of 161 species. As many as 18 have already been lost, and about half is endangered. See lepidoptera.cz for National recording scheme, coordinated by our member Jiri Benes.
Phylogeny of butterflies as a tool for understanding of evolution of Ecological phenomena
Butterflies rank among best known groups of insects. Life history, habitat requirements,
seasonal occurrence and other details are known for most of European species, but many
phenomena are tractable only with understanding the evolutionary history of entire
monophyletic groups, typically genera. Our phylogeny analyses contributed to elucidating the
evolution of seasonal polyphenism of European map butterfly (Fric et al. 2004, J. Evol. Biol.),
the evolution of parasitic myrmecophily in Large blues (Pech et al. 2004, Cladistics; Fric et
al. 2007, Syst. Entomol.). Ongoing research targets the complex radiation patterns in Erebia
satyrines, dwellers of northern and mountain areas of Northern hemisphere.
Ecology and conservation of butterflies in traditional managed landscape
The EU-protected Marsh fritillary still persists in strong populations in westernmost areas of the Czech Republic. Following its populations from 2002 onwards resulted into detailed understanding of its habitat requirements (Konvicka et al. 2003, EJE) and management needs (Hula et al. 2004, Entomol. Fenica). Our active involvement in the species conservation included designing NATURA 2000 sites, drafting a species action plan, and advisory participation in habitat management. Several publications used this endangered species as a model for studies of dispersal (Fric & Konvicka 2007, Basic and Applied Ecology) and metapopulation structure (Fric et al. 2010, Ecol. Res.) of butterflies inhabiting seminatural grasslands.
Ecophysiological limits of high mountain relics
Although there is general agreement that rare species of cold environments may be most severely impaired by ongoing climate change, the knowledge of precise mechanisms impairing such species is almost nonexistent. Until recently, most of research on insect thermal physiology focused on low-temperature limits of warm-adapted species, whereas cold-adapted species were neglected, partly due to difficulties with rearing such species in laboratory. We successfully developed methods of mass rearing of several high mountain butterflies (genera Colias, Erebia), and PhD student Pavel Vrba is recently experimenting with thermal limits of overwintering larvae, putatively the most sensitive stage.
Biodiversity in military training areas
Europe is scattered with hundreds of military areas, from huge training ranges to small garrison fields. Despite general view of such areas as deteriorated lands, they often host invaluable biological riches, not found in common farmland or woodland landscapes. Much of the standing biodiversity depends on small-scale disturbance succession dynamics typical for past military use. With changing military doctrine, these areas are progressively abandoned, and the fine-grained mosaics of various habitats are increasingly threatened either by succession, or by building development. In a cooperative project with several NGO, we carried out multi taxa comparison of 48 middle-sized abandoned military training areas, and our (not yet published) results advocate for a conservation use of these valuable sites.