OPERATING INSTITUTE: University of Novi Sad (UNS).

MAIN PURPOSE: Changes in ecosystem structure, biodiversity and function.

ECOSYSTEM TYPE: Forest, grassland, shrubland.

EXPERIMENTAL TREATMENTS: Air pollution, climate change, land use changes.

LOCALISATION: 45.15224664032379 19.735107421875

FACILITIES: Fruška gora (34771ha) is a National park. Its geological substrate is loess, marl, clay, sands, serpentine, limestone and flysch. This site was founded to explore climate change and air pollution impacts on forests, land use changes (primarily in forest ecosystems), the structure and function of forest ecosystems and its biodiversity and the structure and function of steppe habitats. It includes three research localities within the National Park. Multidisciplinary research will be strenghtened by the application of ICT (Information and communication technologies) concepts, methods and tools in ecology, forestry and agriculture. Infrastruc-ture for monitoring of forest ecosystems on Mt. Fruška gora follows the best European practices currently incorporated inside the framework of the International Cooperative Programme on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forest operating under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.
The infrastructure is composed of:

  • Environmental wireless sensor network offering on-line internet access to data, based on state-of-the-art communications technology. Apart from real-time access to data, the system provides easy 2D and 3D visualisa-tion of data of interest across multiple years; 
  • Laboratory for pedoecology and mole-cular laboratory;
  • Laboratory for eco-system monitoring.

The infrastructure is a part of a network of 7 sites for monitoring forest ecosystems in Serbia focused on climate change and air pollution impacts on forests, as well as a part of the Fruška gora LTER site.
Since joining ExpeER, Fruška gora has been included in the national interdisciplinary project “Biosensing Technologies and Global System for Long-Term Research and Integrated Management of Ecosystems” funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, encom-passing quantification of main ExpeER parameters.
Due to national project involvement, Fruška gora site has been additionally equipped with a Spectral Camera (HS-CL-30-V10E Cased Version with shutter), ElvaX- X ray (EDXRF) fluorescence spectrometer, Alpha-GUARD for continuous radon monitoring, Infrared CO2/H2O analyser, D-T neutron generator, and a portable germanium detector with lead shielding for in situ measurement.

CONTACT: A. VUJIC (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

●  Trifunov, S., Krašić, D., Markov, Z., Mudri-Stojnić, S., Butorac, B., and A. Vujić (2013). Forest changes due to human activities in National park “Fruška gora” (Serbia) – Ecological and Economic Signals. Archives of Biological Sciences, vol 65 (2).
●  Štajner, D., Orlović, S., Popović, B. M., Kebert, M., Stojnić, S. and B. Klašnja (2013). Chemical Parameters of Oxidative Stress Adaptability in Beech. Journal of Chemistry, Volume 2013, Article ID 592695, 8 pages.

TA PROJECTS: Steps towards the conservation of hoverflies (Dipt.:Syrphidae) (STEPS).

TA User (visit): Antonio Ricarte-Sabater, University of Alicante (CIBIO Research Institute), Spain (June, 2013 – 30 days).
Project Description: Conservation of biodiversity is one of the main challenges in the world of today. Human activity has a long history in Europe and, as a by-product, native habitats have been modified, sometimes to the detriment of local biodiversity. Insects represent the largest proportion of the total biodiversity. Hoverflies (Syrphidae) are one of the most studied insect families in Europe; ecologically they are important pollinators and their larvae feed on plants, predate other insects and recycle decomposing material. However, they are also vulnerable to changes in their habitats or to inappropriate habitat management: some species are catalogued in red lists or are the subjects of national legislation. As with most insects, hoverfly conservation depends on how well species biology, ecology and regional populations are known.
Following a TA visit to Fruška Gora national park in September 2012, a second visit is now proposed from late June to late July 2013. This is to sample hoverflies and be able to analyse changes in the community over the course of the year, as well as to discover new biological information useful for species conservation. Data on adult sampling from 2012 and 2013 will be added to the historical series available at the University of Novi Sad. Comparison of data of the updated historical series will help to understand the current conservation status of selected hoverfly species in the park. The discovery of early stages and breeding sites of hoverflies such as those of the genus Merodon Meigen would reveal their requirements and they could then benefit from more effective conservation strategies. Because the habitats in Fruška Gora are well characterised, data on the association hoverfly/habitat will be recorded for the completion of the conservation tool, Syrph the Net data base of European Syrphidae. For the studies proposed in this TA visit, special attention will be focused on rare and poorly-known hoverflies found in the study area, including those species protected under Serbian legislation.

GeNetic status Of Eumerus: conServatIon implicationS (GNOSIS).

TA User (visit): Antonia Chroni, University of the Aegean, Greece (June, 2013 – 20 days).
Project Description: Assessment of species genetic structure is of high scientific interest due to its potential to clarify uncertainties on species’ taxonomic status and implicate species’ genetic variability in response to environmental alterations and evolutionary forces (Milankov et al. 2005a, Milankov et al. 2005b, Milankov et al. 2007, Milankov et al. 2008b, Ståhls et al. 2008). For instance, the quantification of genetic differentiation among populations of species in the family Syrphidae (Diptera) from a species diverse region such as the taxonomically daunting -but poorly studied- Balkan Peninsula is expected to reveal spatially and/or temporally fragmented populations, elucidating the species’ evolutionary history (Milankov et al. 2007). Most species are fragmented to a certain degree, depending on the environment (habitat fragmentation), species biology (dispersion, territorial behavior, character displacement) and historical events (genetic drift, founder effect, bottlenecks). At the same time, a genetic analysis at this level allows the detection of threatened species and recommendations regarding their management in the area by highlighting conservation implications for the preservation of the genetic diversity of these species (Milankov et al. 2008a).
One of the most primitive and diverse syrphid genera in the Palaearctic region is Eumerus (with 140 species (Peck 1988)) (Speight 2012). The vast majority of species within the genus remains taxonomically unclear, necessitating further in depth study (Speight 2012). We suggest investigating two species, Eumerus amoenus (Stackelberg 1961, Van der Goot 1981, Bradescu 1991, Vujić et al. 1999a) and Eumerus basalis (Stackelberg 1961, Vujić et al. 1999b, Vujić et al. 1999a) as they are the only common species on the study areas and are indicators of specific submediterranean habitats on Fruška Gora. Specimens of both species have been recorded in the hilly area of the Pannonian plain (Fruška Gora mountain, Serbia) and in the remaining Balkan Peninsula as well (A. Vujic and T. Petanidou, pers. comm.). Specimens of two populations (one of the south slope and one from the north of the mountain) of the E. amoenus and E. basalis will be collected from the FOMON site, while 10 populations are already collected from three different biogeographic regions on the Balkan Peninsula (Pindos mountain range, Metropolitan area of Athens and Lesvos Island, Greece). The Fruška Gora Mountain, Metropolitan area of Athens and Lesvos constitute «island» areas and could reveal/ form a gradient of isolation of Eumerus populations originating from the north to the south of the Balkan Peninsula. Fruška Gora has an elongated lens-like shape, 78 km long and about 15 km wide, with the highest peak at 539 m. Once an island in the Pannonian Sea (in the Pliocene period), today it is a biological mountain island on the Pannonian plain. It is made up of a variety of habitats such as dense deciduous forests and valleys, covered with meadows, vineyards, and orchards (Vujić et al. 2002), while in its outer boundaries, steppe vegetation is overgrown, rich in rare and relict species. Fruška Gora is a refuge habitat for Mediterranean and Atlantic species of hoverflies (Syrphidae) of the ancient Peripannonian region, consisting of 210 recorded species to date (Vujić et al. 2002) (Information: Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province). The rest of the Balkan Peninsula is very mountainous (with very high elevations and severe climate) and densely forested, like the Pindos mountain range, where Eumerus populations have been collected. On the other hand, the site of Metropolitan area of Athens is an extended garden (600ha) within Athens metropolitan area and it can be considered as island. The third island population that we will use is from a very distinct, biogeographically and climatically, area: the Lesvos Island (1,632km2, northeastern Aegean Sea (Greece)). Lesvos is a real island, with a mild Mediterranean climate and a unique flora and fauna due to its volcanic origin and its vicinity to the Turkish mainland. The habitats are typically Mediterranean: mainly scrub, olive groves and coniferous forests. There is also a high number of hoverfly species: at least 110 sp. (Pérez Bañón et al. 1999-2000).
In this project, we propose to use two species of Eumerus populations, originating from a north part of the Balkan Peninsula and ending up to south.: two islands in a biogeographic sense (Fruška Gora Mountain and Metropolitan area of Athens), a real island (Lesvos, Greece) and Pindos mountain range, aiming to extract the haplotypes of both Eumerus species in order to elucidate the species’ phylogenetic status. The proposed project is a pioneer task of a larger study we are aiming to carry out over the next few years, in which we want to extend the geographic scope to many more “biogeographical island” sites of the Balkan Peninsula. In this future study, which is currently not financed, we aim to collect samples from mountains of the mainland Balkan Peninsula, such as Mt. Olympos and Mt. Erymanthos (Peloponnesus) and from other Aegean islands apart from Lesvos. The Laboratory for pedoecology and molecular laboratory at the Department of Biology and Ecology, at University of Novi Sad (part of FOMON) will host the applicant and provide access to its facilities. In addition, we will need to use the Environmental wireless sensor network from the EXPEER site CLIMATE CHANGE AND AIR POLLUTION IMPACT STUDIES FACILITY (FOMON) to obtain environmental data for the FOMON site.

ModEling The current and future HOverfly Distribution (METHOD).

TA User (visit): Aggeliki Kaloveloni, University of the Aegean/Geography, Greece (January, 2013).
Project Description: Prediction of species distribution is essential due to the limited knowledge of their current distribution and the vulnerability of most species to a potential climate change. The need for detailed knowledge about species distribution lead to the rapid development of species distribution models (SDMs), which are numerical tools that combine species occurrence data with environmental variables in order to predict distributions across landscapes.
SDMs are particularly useful for pollinator studies. Pollination is a crucial ecosystem service, with great significance for primary production, the reproduction of flowering plants, and the maintenance of organisms that depend on floral resources. Besides bees, hoverflies are especially considered to be very important pollinators worldwide both for wild flowers and crops, as the adults commonly visit flowers and feed on pollen and nectar. Approximately 6000 species have been described and 188 genera have been recognized, but the distribution of most genera, unlike that of most tribes, is notably restricted. Despite their significant role in pollination they haven’t been studied as much as bees. Considering their importance, better knowledge of hoverflies’ spatial distribution would facilitate the estimation of habitat suitability for hoverfly populations and the determination of future sampling locations. Thus, SDMs may be useful tools for the effective ecological protection, management and conservation of species and their habitats.
For the prediction of species distribution regression-based models will be used, such as generalized linear model (GLM), generalized additive model (GAM) and boosted regression trees (BRT), using the R software (R Development Core Team), and the maximum entropy model using the Maxent software. The models will be checked for their accuracy and the correlation of species potential occurrence in relation to environmental variables will be explored. Also, the impact of climate change on species distribution will be predicted for different climate change scenarios and periods.
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Using Syrphidae (Diptera) as bioindicators (USB).

TA User (visit): Antonio Ricarte-Sabater, National Museums Scotland, SCOTLAND (September, 2012).
Project Description: Hoverflies (Syrphidae) are one of the most diverse and best known Diptera families in Europe. However, their biology and ecological interactions are still insufficiently understood. They live in almost all habitat types and exploit a variety of resources in the ecosystem. Adult hoverflies feed on pollen and nectar of various plants and larvae feed on rotting-associated bacteria and detritus, live-vegetal tissues and other insects. Hoverflies have been used as bioindicators, for instance, when assessing the conservation status of habitats. The main target hoverflies of this study are those with saproxylic and phytophagous larvae. Saproxylics are dependent on dead wood or decaying material associated with trees, thus they are good bioindicators in forest ecosystems. Due to their dependence on microhabitats containing water/moisture (e.g. tree holes), saproxylics have been proposed as indicators of Climate Change. The biology of many saproxylic hoverflies is unknown, including species protected in Serbia by legislation. There is an even bigger gap in the knowledge of the biology of hoverflies feeding on underground parts of geophytes. In Serbia, Fruška Gora National Park offers an excellent framework to study the ecological interactions of both saproxylic and phytophagous hoverflies. This is because all the major vegetation types (woodland, scrubland and grassland) are represented in the park and the diversity of saproxylic and phytophagous hoverflies is high (49 species in total). By improving our knowledge of the park hoverflies, we will make them more effective bioindicators. Different breeding sites in trees and geophytes at each of the three research localities in Fruška Gora will be searched for immature stages in this initial study. An inventory of the species found in the site, based both on adults and larvae, will provide additional data on species distribution, habitat preference, etc. The expertise of the syrphidologist team at the University of Novi Sad and the environmental information available from each of the research localities will support and facilitate the interpretation of the obtained results, which will also be of potential use by the park authorities.
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Biodiversity and ecology of forest-associated Diptera (BEFAD)

TA User (visit): Gunilla Stahls, Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, FINLAND (March, 2012).
Project Description: Fungivorous Diptera constitute a major biodiversity component of deciduous forests utilizing the moist wood and habitats provided by mushrooms and softer polypores, impacting the structure and function of the forest ecosystem. This study will focus on the inventory and documentation of the component of particular forest-associated Diptera in the three research localities within the Fruska Gora National Park, Serbia. The target group for study is a key group of forest-associated flies, the Platypezidae, that are highly dependent on deciduous forests with high humidity and a sufficient proportion of decaying wood as substrate for various fungi in which the larvae develop. The main goal of the project is to achieve an in-depth understanding of the species diversity and ecological interactions between these two dead-wood dependent organisms, the insects and their host fungi. The proposed project will advance knowledge on the habitat preferences (humidity, amount of decaying wood, and other parameters) and distributions of the target insect group and their host fungi. Previous studies have not considered these fungal groups and their associated insects in Fruska Gora National Park, and thus this study fills a gap in the knowledge, and is of potential use for local nature protection agencies.