Liis Kasari-Toussaint

Researcher of restoration ecology


J. Liivi 2-304, Tartu, 50409


My research interests focus on the grassland ecosystem, its conservation and restoration. The high diversity of semi-natural grasslands has developed over hundreds of years in combination of landscape-scale historical factors and local environmental conditions. Our findings indicate that the development and maintenance of species-rich grassland communities depends on the continuous moderate habitat management, availability of extensive grassland areas in the surrounding and suitable local environmental conditions, which should be considered in the habitat restoration and conservation.

During the past century, ~90% of the grassland area has been lost due to the intensive management practices, rendering many species vulnerable to local extinctions, and offering considerably less ecosystem services. In some cases, biodiversity might not decrease after degradation. For instance, in northern Estonian highly degraded grasslands the species richness had even increased after 90 years as they still contain several specialist species, but also due to the colonization by more competitive and nutrient-demanding native species (Kasari et al. 2016). In the ecosystem, where there has been a considerable decline in habitat integrity, complete restoration to historical state prior extensive area and habitat quality loss might fail. Hence, instead of abandoning them, it would be worthwhile to consider managing and maintaining such habitats as hybrid or novel ecosystems as they are often still species-rich and can contribute to the local biodiversity protection. I suggest carefully determining the status of the habitat and deciding whether it is possible and reasonable to restore the historical community or manage it as a hybrid/novel ecosystem. However, the priority in biodiversity conservation is to restore and preserve the historical communities as much as possible.

Further goal of my research is to find out which grassland areas should be preserved and restored as a priority, considering the condition of the habitat, species composition, current and historical landscape parameters and socioeconomic aspects.

See my CV in Estonian Research Portal

  • Prangel, E., Kasari‐Toussaint, L., Neuenkamp, L., Noreika, N., Karise, R., Marja, R., Ingerpuu, N., Kupper, T., Keerberg, L., Oja, E., Meriste, M., Tiitsaar, A., Ivask, M. & Helm, A. 2023. Afforestation and abandonment of semi‐natural grasslands lead to biodiversity loss and a decline in ecosystem services and functions. Journal of Applied Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.14375
  • Vahter, T., Bueno, C. G., Davison, J., Herodes, K., Hiiesalu, I., Kasari‐Toussaint, L., Oja, J., Olsson, P. A., Sepp, S‐K., Zobel, M., Vasar, M. & Öpik, M. 2020. Co‐introduction of native mycorrhizal fungi and plant seeds accelerates restoration of post‐mining landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57 (9), 1741−1751. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13663.
  • Ceulemans, T., Van Geel, M., Jacquemyn, H., Boeraeve, M., Plue, J., Saar, L., Kasari, L., Peeters, G., van Acker, K., Crauwels, S., Lievens, B. & Honnay, O. 2019. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in European grasslands under nutrient pollution. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 28 (12), 1796-1805.
  • Noreika, N., Helm, A., Öpik, M., Jairus, T., Vasar, M., Reier, Ü., Kook, E., Riibak, K., Kasari, L., Tullus, H., Tullus, T., Lutter, R., Oja, E., Saag, A., Randlane, T. & Pärtel, M. 2019. Forest biomass, soil and biodiversity relationships originate from biogeographic affinity and direct ecological effects. Oikos, 128 (11), 1653−1665. DOI: 10.1111/oik.06693.
  • Van Geel, M., Ceulemans, T., Plue, J., Takkis, K., Saar, L., Kasari, L., Peeters, G., van Acker, K., Jacquemyn, H. & Honnay, O. 2018. Environmental filtering rather than host plant specificity shapes the arbuscular mycorrhizal communities of European semi-natural grasslands. New Phytologist 220: 1262–1272.
  • Price, J., Tamme, R., Gazol, A., de Bello, F., Takkis, K., Uria Diez, J., Kasari, L. & Pärtel, M. 2017. Within-community environmental variability drives trait variability in species-rich grasslands. Journal of Vegetation Science 28: 303–312.
  • Lewis, R.J., de Bello, F., Bennett, J.A., Fibich, P., Finerty, G.E., Götzenberger, L., Hiiesalu, I., Kasari, L., Lepš, J., Májeková, M., Mudrák, O., Riibak, K., Ronk, A., Rychtecká, T., Vitová, A. & Pärtel, M. 2017. Applying the dark diversity concept to nature conservation. Conservation Biology 31: 40–47.
  • Kasari, L., Saar, L., de Bello, F., Takkis, K. & Helm, A. 2016. Hybrid ecosystems can contribute to local biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 25: 3023–3041.
  • Májeková, M., Paal, T., Plowman, N.S., Bryndová, M., Kasari, L., Norberg, A., Weiss, M., Bishop, T.R., Luke, S.H., Sam, K., Le Bagousse-Pinguet, Y., Lepš, J., Götzenberger, L. & de Bello, F. 2016. Evaluating functional diversity: Missing trait data and the importance of species abundance structure and data transformation. PLoSOne 11: e0152532.
  • Kasari, L., Gazol, A., Kalwij, J.M. & Helm, A. 2013. Low shrub cover in alvar grasslands increases small-scale diversity by promoting the occurrence of generalist species. Tuexenia 33: 293–308.
  • Gazol, A., Tamme, R., Takkis, K., Kasari, L., Saar, L., Helm, A. & Pärtel, M. 2012. Landscape- and small-scale determinants of grassland species diversity: direct and indirect influences. Ecography 35: 944–951.


Conference presentations:

  • Kasari, L., Holm, A. & Helm, A. Grassland restoration in Estonia: aims, methods and implications for biodiversity. Society of Ecological Restoration Europe Conference, 9–13 September 2018, Reykjavik, Iceland. Oral presentation.
  • Kasari, L., Holm, A., Prangel, E., Hernández-Agramonte, I.M. & Helm, A. LIFE to Alvars - large-scale grassland restoration in Estonia. Best practice and socio-economic implications. 5th European Congress of Conservation Biology, 12–15 June, Jyväskylä, Finland. Oral presentation.
  • Kasari, L., Zobel, M., Pärtel, M., Bommarco, R., Bruun, H.H., Gustiņa, L., Heikkinen, R., Honnay, O., Krauss, J., Lindborg, R., Raatikainen, K., Rūsiņa, S. & Helm, A. Plants with good dispersal abilities disappear from European semi-natural grasslands following the payment of extinction debt. 60th Symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS), 20–24 June 2017, Palermo, Italy. Poster presentation.
  • Kasari, L., et al. & Helm, A. Does habitat size influences the functional diversity similarly to species richness? 58th Symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS), 19–24 July 2015, Brno, Czech Republic. Oral presentation.
  • Kasari, L., Takkis, K., Saar, L. & Helm, A. Increase in species richness and functional diversity after habitat degradation and fragmentation. 57th Symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS), 1–5 September 2014, Perth, Australia. Oral presentation.
  • Kasari, L., Takkis, K., Saar, L. & Helm, A. Which plant species are ‘winners’ in degraded grassland habitats? 56th Symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS), 26–30 June 2013, Tartu, Estonia. Poster presentation.
  • Kasari, L., Takkis, K., Saar, L. & Helm, A. Which plant species are ‘winners’ in degraded grassland habitats? 2nd International Conference of Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology, 16–17 May 2013, Tallinn, Estonia. Oral presentation.
  • Kasari, L., Takkis, K., Saar, L. & Helm, A. Which plant species are ‘winners’ in degraded grassland habitats? 26th Conference of the Plant Population Biology Section of the Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (GfÖ), 9–11 May 2013, Tartu, Estonia. Poster presentation.