Generating scientific knowledge, synchronising baseline data and conducting monitoring for subterranean habitats in Luxembourg

Abstract

 

Underground cavities have a high cultural value. As a deposit of prehistoric artifacts and paintings, they provide information about the life of our ancestors and, with their sinter formations, serve as a magnet for tourists and as a climate archive. Yet, the simultaneously high natural value of underground cavities as a structurally rich habitat is often lost.
In Central Europe, around 20 species of bats and about 450 mainly invertebrate animals depend on subterranean terrestrial habitats. The European Union’s Habitats Directive (92/43/EU) recognizes the ecological importance of subterranean sites and protects “caves not open to the public” as a specific habitat type (8310), which implies also a regular reporting to the EU. In Luxembourg, there is no reporting on LRT8310 and no basic status assessment available. Furthermore, semi-natural and artificial underground habitats such as caves, abandoned quarries and mines are recognized and protected as important ecosystems in Luxembourg via the Biotope Protection (BK22). For this reason, the project will

a) provide a basic data collection on the status of LRT8310 and BK22-relevant subterranean habitats in Luxembourg,
b) develop and carry out a representative national monitoring for LRT8310, and
c) scientifically study individual subterranean sites, cave-dwelling organisms and biotopes.

Together, these aspects will produce important scientific findings which will be incorporated into nature and species protection plans at various levels. The data generated will over time lead to a better general understanding of the drivers of the decline in underground biodiversity and serve to develop scientifically sound countermeasures.

Project status

  • Project granted by the Fonds d’environnement of the MECDD. Duration: 6 years (30.09.2020 – 31.06.2026).
  • Host institution: Fondation faune-flore @ Centre de recherche scientifique, Musée national d’histoire naturelle.
  • Partners: MECDD, ANF, Groupe Spéléologique Luxembourgeois (GSL), ProChirop, Dieter Weber & Hannah Weigand

Contact

National Museum of Natural History (MNHNL)
Research center
Life science department
25, rue Münster
L-2160 Luxembourg

Publications

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Using landscape genetic techniques to understand the impact of habitat fragmentation on the dispersal of insect pollinators (Diptera: Syrphidae)

Abstract

Myathropa floreaPollinators provide a key ecosystem service and their importance for food security is widely acknowledged. Alarmingly though, wild pollinators are declining at local, regional, and global scales, primarily as a consequence of human activities. While land-use change is often seen as a main driver of the problem, there is a considerable lack of knowledge on the responses of invertebrate pollinators to the resulting habitat loss and homogenisation. For instance, while hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) are the most important pollinators besides bees, little is known about their dispersal in general and the effects of landscape fragmentation on their dispersal in particular. The overall objective of the proposed study is therefore to use microsatellite genotyping and landscape genetics to analyse the functional connectivity of typical Luxembourg and Western European landscapes from the viewpoint of hoverflies. We aim to understand whether urbanisation and the structural diversity of agro-ecosystems have an impact on hoverfly dispersal and which landscape features facilitate or hinder gene flow. The approach will be conducted for four target species in three urbanised areas and two pairs of rural areas with different degrees of habitat diversity. Furthermore, we will test whether hoverfly size and habitat specialisation may influence the impact of habitat fragmentation on the flies. Finally, we aim to test the validity of extrapolating connectivity models to larger or different study regions. The proposed project has the potential to make an important contribution in the design of effective habitat management practices for hoverflies, if not insect pollinators in general, since we propose to empirically test dispersal capabilities in different landscapes, taking different biological and ecological characteristics into account.

Project status

  • Project granted by the granted by Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg. Duration: 3 years (01.02.2021 – 31.01.2024).
  • Host institution: Fondation faune-flore @ Centre de recherche scientifique, Musée national d’histoire naturelle.
  • Postdoctoral Researcher to be hired.

Contact

National Museum of Natural History (MNHNL)
Research centre
Life science department
25, rue Münster
L-2160 Luxembourg

Publications

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Using genetic methods to understand the movement ecology of the crested newt (Triturus cristatus) in Luxembourg

Abstract

The Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus); male specimen in "mating dress" under water.Populations of the pond-breeding Northern crested newt (Triturus cristatus) have severely declined in Luxembourg during the last century. The species is listed on Annexes II and IV of the EU Habitats Directive (Council of the European Communities, 1992) and EU member states must therefore ensure the maintenance or, where appropriate, the re-establishment of a favourable state of conservation of the species’ and its habitats. In order to maintain the species’ metapopulation dynamics, more than 350 artificial freshwater bodies have been created in the west and southwest of the country since 1993. This conservation measure lacked a certain degree of effectiveness as fewer than 75% of the engineered ponds have been colonized by the target species. There is thus an urgent need to generate an evidence-based understanding of the movement ecology of crested newts in the Luxembourg context and to design and place engineered ponds appropriately. We present three work packages that will operate at different spatial scales and that will use population and landscape genetic methods to identify landscape factors influencing newt dispersal and population connectivity. Specifically, we will i) analyse the population genetic structure of the crested newt across Luxembourg in order to identify isolated populations and environmental factors that hinder exchange between populations, ii) model landscape connectivity at the regional scale to empirically identify landscape features that impact on exchange between ponds and to predict crested newt movements across the landscape, iii) identify optimal locations for new ponds using a systematic conservation planning (site-selection algorithm) approach. The overriding objective of the proposed research project is to identify efficient conservation measures that will ensure the long-term survival of crested newts in Luxembourg.

Project status

  • Project granted by the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development (MECDD). Duration: 18 months (01.10.2019 – 31.03.2021).
  • Host institution: Fondation faune-flore @ Centre de recherche scientifique, Musée national d’histoire naturelle.

Contact

National Museum of Natural History (MNHNL)
Research centre
Life science department
24, rue Münster
L-2160 Luxembourg

Publications

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