Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

Biodiversity Pattern and Process in Southeastern Europe

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.03.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biology   

Code Science Field
B320  Biomedical sciences  Systematic zoology, taxonomy, zoogeopraphy 
phylogeography, pleistocene refugia, mtDNA, nuclear DNA, microsatellites, rodents, southearsten Europe, conservation biology
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (6)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  20038  PhD Dunja Bandelj  Biotechnology  Researcher  2008 - 2011  264 
2.  24375  PhD Elena Bužan  Biology  Researcher  2008 - 2009  318 
3.  29605  PhD Živa Fišer  Biology  Researcher  2009 - 2011  66 
4.  16379  PhD Jernej Jakše  Plant production  Researcher  2008 - 2011  629 
5.  09211  PhD Boris Kryštufek  Biology  Principal Researcher  2008 - 2011  950 
6.  17107  PhD Irma Vuk  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2008 - 2011  90 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  1510  Science and Research Centre Koper  Koper  7187416000  11,341 
Historical processes of divergence, population changes, persistence in refugia and migrations all leave their footprints on genealogies of DNA sequences, which make them traceable. Given that phylogeography incorporates strong elements of quantification and hypothesis testing, it emerges as a powerful tool in research on history of species and lineages and should be regarded as an integral part in any study of past and recent biodiversity process. The project proposal focuses on biodiversity process and patterns in Southeastern Europe, which acted as the main European refugium during the last two million years of glacial-interglacial climatic oscillations and is the Europe’s hotspot in biodiversity. Small terrestrial mammals will be used as a model group and the main methodological approach will be based on molecular tools. We shall approach three main interrelated topics: 1. Phylogeography of steppic taxa: Most phylogeographic studies have shown that Southern Europe has acted as glacial refugia for temperate forest but much less is known about the glacial histories of steppic species. We shall focus on the phylogeographic structuring in the European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus), a rodent which is strictly tied to short-grass steppe. 2. Comparative phylogeography of rock-dwelling voles: The main goal of comparative phylogeography is to search for concordant geographical distributions among lineages within different species, which would indicate the influence of common historical factors. We shall study phylogeographic structuring in the European snow vole (Chionomys nivalis) and compare results with the pattern in Martino's vole. 3. Metapopulation structure in paleoendemic Martino’s vole: Martino’s vole (Dinaromys bogdanovi) presumably has a typical metapopulation structure. Due to a lack of demographic information for this endangered species, we shall apply microsatellite molecular markers to assess genetic diversity and to estimate gene flow among subpopulations.
Significance for science
The proposed research project focuses on the biodiversity process and pattern in SE Europe. At the European scale, this area is characterized by: 1. It is Europe’s top hot spot in biodiversity. 2. It’s biodiversity is the least known on the continent. 3. As the main glacial refugium in southern Europe over the last two million years SE Europe is rich in various types of refugia, i.e. in areas of pronounced environmental stability. Relevance for the development of science of the proposed research project is thus evident from: 1. New scientific findings on the phylogeographic process and pattern in the Balkan glacial refugium. To assess glacial refugia for steppic taxa we studied phylogeographic structuring of a rodent which is indicative of short grass steppes, an approach not explored so far. Information on phylogeography of another target species, which is a rock-habitat specialist, allowed application of comparative phylogeography. 2. Definition of glacial refugia which are potentially the most suitable areas for long-term biodiversity persistance within the context of expected rapid climatic change related to the greenhouse effect. 3. Definition of new biodiversity targets for more effective subsequent biodiversity assessments (gap analysis etc.). 4. Assessment of demographic parameters for highly endangered and illusive paleoendemic Martino’s vole.
Significance for Slovenia
Biodiversity conservation is postulated in various international (Convention on Biological diversity, World Conservation Strategy, Caring for the Earth, The Eart Charter) and national documents (Action Plan for Conservation of Biodiversity. Satrategy of Nature Conservation). Slovenian authorities (Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning) expressed in several occasions its willingness to take more active part in biodiversity conservation in SE Europe. Strategy of Nature Conservation of the Republic of Slovenia identified main threats to biodiversity in the intensification of agricultural production, expansion of urbanized areas, industry and transport network; the increased pollution; and the land use and natural resources for tourist purposes. As a consequence of the above threats, species are lost through habitat degradation and destruction. Prevention of further "erosion" of species' diversity is thus identified to be of key importance for ecosystem functioning. The strategy thus focuses on autochthonous species and emphasizes heavily on conservation of their genetic diversity. This goal can be achieved only through maintaining populations above the minimum population viability threshold. This however requires a sound scientific background. Direct impact of our research project for Slovenian society is in better definition of biodiversity pattern and process in the Europe’s hot spot, which part is also Slovenia. Society needs to be better informed on the biodiversity values in their environment to be able to competently participate in decision making. We focus our project also on dissemination of results with lay public as the main goal of these activities. Active public participation in biodiversity conservation is the most effective mean of maintaining high quality of living environment.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2008, 2009, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2008, 2009, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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