Implementing citizen science to explore grassland ecology
The loss of traditionally managed diverse grasslands throughout Europe threatens the survival of many species. The proposed project will (1) raise awareness in the society about the impacts of grassland loss on biodiversity and (2) will improve scientific knowledge of the effects of grassland loss on important ecological processes. A citizen-science campaign carried out in the spring of 2021 simultaneously all across Europe will form the backbone of the project. The campaign will focus on reporting the frequency of flower types of a common grassland species, cowslip (Primula veris). Different cowslip individuals can have one of two different types of flowers (“heterostyly”). Cowslips with different flower types usually occur at equal frequencies, but grassland loss may cause strong deviations in these patterns with negative consequences for cowslips’ viability. Pilot campaigns carried out in Estonia in 2019 and 2020 (see www.cowslip.science) proved to be a great success with numerous participants and exciting scientific findings. The latter encourages expanding the geographic scope of the study towards other European regions, where the preferred habitat of cowslips (i.e. semi-natural grasslands) has once been common. The results of the project will be communicated to public, conservation practitioners and scientific audience throughout 2021.
Funding: This project of the Baltic-German University Liaison Office is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funds from the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic Germany.