Research Article: Who is researching biodiversity hotspots in Eastern Europe? A case study on the grasslands in Romania

Date Published: May 28, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Andreea Nita, Tibor Hartel, Steluta Manolache, Cristiana M. Ciocanea, Iulia V. Miu, Laurentiu Rozylowicz, Harald Auge.


European farmlands are vital arenas for socio-ecological sustainability because of their significant land coverage and potential for integrating food production with biodiversity conservation. The knowledge produced by scientific research is a critical ingredient in developing and implementing socio-economically and ecologically sustainable management strategies for farming landscapes. The grasslands of Europe have been managed for millennia. They have exceptional socio-cultural and economic value and are among the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. The quality of scientific knowledge on them and its potential to address grasslands as complex socio-ecological systems is strongly dependent not only on the creativity and scientific ambition of the researcher, but also on the network around the researcher (including both academic and non-academic sectors). The goal of this study is to map the research network around Romania’s grasslands using bibliometrics analysis, a well-developed scientific domain that utilizes network theory to analyze relationships between affiliations networks, co-authorship networks, and co-word analysis. The number of studies targeting grasslands in Romania is increasing, owing mostly to international involvement. However, management of the grasslands is still deficient and the contribution of science to the process is virtually absent. The current research is mainly related to the biological and ecological characteristics of grasslands, with topics related to their management notably absent from internationally visible research, especially in the context of EU Common Agricultural Policies. To increase scientific inquiry and better inform the EU and local policies on grasslands management, Romanian researchers should capitalize on international collaborations and local academic leaders. Our findings can be used to identify research gaps and to improve collaboration and knowledge exchange between practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and stakeholders.

Partial Text

The integration of agricultural production, biodiversity conservation, and socio-cultural values is a key challenge in promoting the sustainability of socio-ecological systems [1]. The current grasslands of Europe were developed through millennia of management by humans, which typically included allowing livestock to graze and producing hay. Grasslands have made a substantial contribution to the high nature value (HNV) farmlands of the European Union [2–4]. Several protected species and habitats are linked to grasslands and are dependent on some form of extensive, multifunctional management of these ecosystems [5, 6]. Furthermore, wooded meadows and wood-pastures are considered an archetypical manifestation of HNV farmlands in Europe [7].

To identify the research network around Romania’s grasslands, we extracted the literature that simultaneously had one of the following keywords in the abstract, title, or the list of keywords from the Scopus database (Elsevier B.V.) and adding Romania to each of them (e.g., “pasture” AND “Romania”): Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, pasture, grassland, meadow, lawn, greensward, grazing, graze, silvopastoral, pastureland, rangeland, and mowing. We obtained 602 articles, book chapters, and documents recording conference proceedings that might potentially be related to the subject under investigation. We reviewed each of the identified publications and removed those published before 1990 as well as those that did not contain information about the subjects of our review (e.g., paleoecology, paleobotany). The final database included 197 publications investigating topics related to Romanian grasslands (i.e., the effects of different types of management, ecological traits and community structure, conservation and improvement measures for these habitats, etc.), from which we extracted 173 peer-reviewed articles and 24 recordings of proceedings (hereinafter known as “articles”) (Fig 1). For each article, we extracted the list of keywords, authors, and their first affiliation (as stated in the papers). Fig 1 shows an ascending trend in the number of publications, which can be interpreted as an indicator of the increasing interest in Romanian grasslands among scientific researchers.

We provide a comprehensive analysis of the grasslands research network in an Eastern European country, Romania. Grasslands have great socio-cultural, economic, and natural value and can be approached from several disciplinary perspectives [4]. Thus, research on grasslands is an important contribution to the general knowledge because these ecosystems can be understood from multiple perspectives, including those of agronomy, nature conservation, ecology, sociology, statistics, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, and geography. We found that both national and international researchers and institutions have contributed to the scientific knowledge of Romanian grasslands, with a high level of influence from foreign researchers. Furthermore, we identified the most commonly addressed and influential research topics related to Romanian grasslands. Nevertheless, future work must be done in order to obtain a clear image of the scientific literature focused on grasslands management at the national level, including an in-depth review.

Although grasslands are complex socio-ecological systems that can be studied in the context of several scientific fields and approached from an interdisciplinary perspective, internationally visible research networks related to Romania’s grasslands are still scarce (i.e., there are relatively few papers on the topic in top-tier journals and few visible researchers with institutional affiliations in Romania). The co-authorship network structure reveals several institutional leaders who can further promote research in this area. The most prestigious Romanian institutions are closely followed by foreign collaborators (Hungary and Germany). Based on their academic profiles, top researchers in the field come from diverse scientific backgrounds (plant ecology, conservation biology, population ecology, etc.), a trend that improves scientific understanding by increasing the interdisciplinary nature and relevance of research. The subjects of research are mainly related to the biological and ecological characteristics of grasslands. From the perspective of the co-occurrence of keywords, Management of grasslands is a notable absence from internationally visible research, especially in the context of EU Common Agricultural Policies. To improve scientific understanding and better inform EU and local policies on grasslands management, Romanian researchers should better capitalize on international collaborations and local academic leaders.




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