Stenice peščarskih travnih staništa Panonskog regiona (2023-2024)

After years of work on true bugs of the Pannonian saline habitats with a focus on saline grasslands, our team became specialized in grassland communities and has participated in several other research projects on grassland true bugs in Serbia and Hungary. Our great interest in the Pannonian grasslands and their conservation led us to realize that there is another specific fauna in the region which needs our attention and new insights into their ecology and conservation.

Check out our projects on saline habitats – 2015, 2017, 2019-2020

In the past, research on sandy grasslands of Serbia and their true bugs were covered better than saline ones, but the latest comprehensive studies in Serbian sands were conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s. Additionally, for Subotica-Horgoš sands, only scattered records are available without any systematic work in this area. This was the starting point of our project titled Setting Up the Base for True Bug (Heteroptera) Conservation and Insect Monitoring in Sandy Grasslands of the Pannonian Region which was supported by the grant of the Rufford Foundation. More on the project can be found on the link to the web page of the Rufford Foundation.

 

Sands in Serbia

The two biggest sandy areas in Serbia, Subotica-Horgoš sands (Subotica Sands Landscape of Outstanding Features) and Deliblato sands (Deliblato Sands Special Nature Reserve) are protected by national legislation and they are the best preserved Pannonian sandy landscapes in our country. The rest of the Serbian sands are represented by much smaller fragments and they are distributed along the Danube in the Bačka region of Northern Serbia and from Ram to Negotin towns in Eastern Serbia.

The map of the distribution of all Serbian sands can be found on the Wikipedia page.

 

The importance of conservation of sandy grasslands

To find out more about sandy grasslands in the Pannonian region, their characteristics and threats to their survival – take a look at the brochure we have prepared.

 

The history of studying true bugs in Serbian sands

The earliest records of true bugs from sandy areas in Serbia were published in 1897. in the monograph Fauna Regni Hungariae written by a Hungarian entomologist Géza Horváth. This publication provides records on true bugs from two sandy areas in Serbia, Delibalato and Subotica-Horgoš sands with their surroundings. Horváth’s lists of true bugs from sands contained 64 species for Delibalato sands and only 16 for Subotica-Horgoš sands.

The biggest contribution to studies on the true bug fauna of sands was provided by Ljiljana Protić, a heteropterist and the curator of the Natural History Museum in Belgrade. She published around 10 scientific papers covering true bug records from Deliblato and Ram-Golubac sands. According to Protić, the final species list consisted of 172 species of true bugs for Ram-Golubac sands and 250 species for Deliblato sands.

In the past 15 years, HabiProt’s members and collaborators worked on collecting insect data from all around Serbia, but also in sandy habitats. At this point, our Alciphron database contains records on 8 species of true bugs from Ram-Golubac sands, 41 species from Deliblato sands and 69 species from Subotica-Horgoš sands. Additionally, the Alciphron database is the most reliable source of true bug faunal data from Subotica-Horgoš sands.

 

The project goals:
  • Revision of the list of true bugs of the Pannonian sandy grasslands
  • Defining the key (indicator) species and communities in sandy grasslands
  • Mapping of sand specialists and rare steppe species
  • Comparative monitoring of pollinators and true bugs in sandy grasslands
  • Education and popularization on the sandy grassland conservation

 

The first phase of the study (2023):

Our project covered not just sandy areas in Serbia, but also in Hungary. Hungary contains the core sandy habitats in the Pannonian Region and we wanted to see how the effects of the latitude and different management of sandy grasslands in those two countries affect the true bug species composition.

The main part of this phase was to conduct a large-scale inventory of true bug fauna in sandy grasslands in Serbia and Hungary using the sweep-netting method for collecting specimens from the herbaceous vegetation. In shrubby habitats, we applied the beating method (with the stick and the beating tray) to collect true bugs from the junipers (Juniperus communis) and hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna).

We also did the literature review to compile a reliable list of species which are present in sandy grasslands of the Pannonian Region. From this revised species list and enriched databases, we sorted out the taxa of national and regional conservation importance and the future Red List candidates. With the new information on the distribution of characteristic sand species, we defined the ‘true bug hotspots’ among our sampling sites. In the end, we selected the indicators and the core set of species (i.e. target species) which would be used in the second phase of the study.

The second phase of the study (2024):

We had a very good experience with the rapid assessment method during our previous Rufford project on true bugs in saline grasslands, and we will apply a similar methodology but this time in sandy grasslands. A combination of rapid assessment and monitoring will be conducted in the second phase of our study. The study sites will be 30 sandy grasslands in Hungary (Kiskunság) and Serbia (Deliblato and Subotica sands) where we will conduct a monitoring of pollinators (butterflies, bees, hoverflies) and previously selected target species of true bugs.

This part of the study aims to set up a standardized procedure for sandy grasslands assessment and monitoring based on true bugs. We want to create a protocol that is non-destructive and provides fast and reliable information usable in conservation evaluations of sandy grasslands.

 

Presentations
  • In September 2023, we gave an oral presentation on the literature review of psammophilous fauna of true bugs of Serbia (Šeat & Nadaždin: Peščarska fauna stenica (Heteroptera) Srbije—Pregled literature i nalazi u Alciphron bazi insekata Srbije) at the 14th Symposium of Entomologists of Serbia in Novi Sad (Serbia).
  • In September 2023, we presented the preliminary results of our project during the weekly seminars organized by the Department of Ecology, University of Szeged. The lecture was also an invitation for master students of the University of Szeged to join our team and participate in the project activities (Hungary).
  • In November 2023, we organized together with a high school biology teacher Hermina Víg Molnár, a lecture for students of the Grammar school Svetozar Marković in Subotica. The topic was Uloga insekata u zaštiti prirode i ekološkim istraživanjima na primeru stenica (Serbia).

We are planning to give more lectures and organize more workshops in the future since our work on the true bugs of sandy grasslands just started.

 

Project participants

The lead partners of the project are HabiProt (Serbia) and the Hungarian Applied Ecology Lab (Hungary). Members of our team also include people from the Department of Ecology, University of Szeged (Hungary) and the Department of Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Novi Sad (Serbia). The coordinator of the project is Jelena Šeat and the rest of the team members are Bojana Nadaždin, Ivan Tot, Mihailo Vujić, Mirjana Ćuk and Botond Magyar.

We would like to thank our friends and colleagues (Hermina Víg Molnár, Tanja Tomić, Kalman Moldvai, Kata Frei), but also, managers of protected areas (Deliblato Sands, Subotica Sands and Kiskunság National Park) who help and support our project.

 

 

 

 

 


If you want to share your experiences on true bugs and sandy grasslands, or you want to know more about our project, please contact us at jelenaseat@yahoo.com.