I. Jarolímek: Impact of man on forests intensifies

26. 03. 2015

RNDr. Ivan Jarolímek, CSc.Interview with RNDr.  Ivan Jarolímek, CSc., from the Institute of Botany of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava

Ivan Jarolímek (1954) comes from Nová Baňa. He graduated from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University in Bratislava (1978). Moreover, he completed study visits in DPRK (1988 and 1990) and England (1996 and 1997).

Since 1990, he operates at the Institute of Botany of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava (in 1990 – 1998 as deputy director and in 1998 – 2014 as director). He has achieved the most significant results in syntaxonomy, ecology and in the evolution of plant communities. 

Membership in scientific organizations: Slovak Botanical Society within the Slovak Academy of Sciences (three years as a member of the main committee), Czech Botanical Society, Alpine-Dinaric Botanical Society. Awards: The 1999 Holuby medal (SBS). 

He is the first author of the publication Plant communities of Slovakia, 2nd Synanthropic vegetation (1997) and the co-author of 2001 Distribution and phytocoenology of selected woody species of North Korea (2001).

RNDr. Ivan Jarolímek, CSc., is going to be (together with RNDr. Milan Valachovič, CSc.) guest of the Science Café entitled Science in the CENTRE organized by the National Centre for the Popularization of Science and Technology in Society within the Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information on 26 March 2015 at 17:00. On this occasion we asked him for an interview.

What do you consider paramount in your lecture ‘How the Slovak forests change according to botanists’?

I focus mainly on vegetation changes due to the changes in temperature and precipitation since the last ice age to this day and I highlight the growing impact of a human on forests, especially in the last two millennia. The lecture begins with a question: Forests and people – teammates or enemies? I will offer answers to this question.

On what basis did you decide to study at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University in Bratislava?

I was fortunate enough that as a student in the first years of secondary school, I met with RNDr. Terézia Krippelová, CSc., who is an internationally recognized expert on synanthropic (human accompanying) flora and vegetation. She was the mother of my classmate Edo Krippel. We met multiple times with other classmates at their home in their beautiful garden. RNDr. Krippelová attracted my interest by talking about (to me) unknown “secrets from the life of weeds”. That was probably the primary impulse.

What was your path to science like?

It was straightforward. As a 3rd year student at the faculty, I already worked as “scientific student force” (as it was called back then) with RNDr. Krippelová at the Institute of Botany of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Under her supervision, I wrote and successfully defended my thesis about ruderal (weed) communities of the Bratislava’s Forest Park. Even during the compulsory military service I obtained a ‘leave’ for the entrance exams for the study visit and postgraduate studies at the Institute of Botany. In 1984, I obtained the rank of the candidate of biological sciences (CSc.) and I was accepted to work at the Institute of Botany. At first, I worked closely with RNDr. Krippelová. After her departure, we (me, along with other colleagues) continued the development of synanthropic flora and vegetation research. There are still many opened topics and unanswered questions in this area, e.g. invasive plant species – why do some non-native plant species barely survive in Slovakia, while others invasively occupy a vast area in the short term? Why do they “push into” the habitats in which they do not live back home? Why do they grow singly or scattered back home, but create huge bushes in the new territories? We seek the answers to these and many other questions to this day and it will take some time before we find them.

You have completed study visits abroad (England, DPRK, South Korea). What did attract your interest the most there?

Probably like everybody else – people, country and of course vegetation. On other occasions, I have been to most of the Balkan countries and the Mediterranean region, in Turkey, Cyprus... Unfortunately, it seems to me that the longer human civilization acts in a country, the more is that country and especially forests more devastated. Therefore, I always like to come home to the Carpathian Mountains, where the human history is shorter, but the nature is better preserved and more beautiful.

Which of your work achievements do you consider the most important?

From the scientific results, I value the most the monographs from the edition Vegetation of Slovakia, in which we gradually publish an overview of all the plant communities in Slovakia. An overview of synanthropic vegetation has been already published and we dedicated it to RNDr. Krippelová, the doyen of this scientific discipline in Slovakia. In regards to scientific-organizational field (I had been director of the Institute of Botany of the Slovak Academy of Sciences for 16 years) I value the most the construction of a new Institute building in 2007 – 2009 on the campus of the Slovak Academy of Sciences on Patrónka, where all Institute’s departments have found a decent working environment corresponding to today’s European standard.

You are currently participating on two projects. Could you please briefly tell us about them?

One of these projects is focused on the research of forest vegetation and it aims to conclude a series of monographs, mentioned above, with a book about forest communities of Slovakia. Loyal to my focus on synanthropic vegetation, in this project I am in charge of Acacia forests (Acacia is non-indigenous North American tree species, which spreads invasively also in Slovakia). Second project is focused on the meadow ecology research. In its framework, we renewed the series of permanent areas on alluvial meadows by the Morava [river], which were established more than 20 years ago. We are trying to figure out how the species composition of grasslands changes under the influence of changing hydrological conditions (particularly fluctuations in groundwater levels) and changing management of meadows.

How do you relax?

Most often in a forest or on meadows. I enjoy being with my friends from high school at our wooden cottage in Javornícke lazy, which we take care of since university times. We usually mow the small meadows around, sometimes we replace the shingles on the roof... and we sit by the fire with guitar in the evening. Guitar also remains close to my heart since the juvenile times.


Interview prepared by: PhDr. Marta Bartošovičová

, Popularization of Science and Technology

Natural sciences