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Sound and independent information
on the environment


Nature protection and biodiversity (Hungary)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

The unique geographical features of Hungary – the Carpathian Basin surrounded by mountains – its climate, its hydrological characteristics and topographic and lithologic diversity allowed the evolution of diverse landscapes and an extremely rich flora and fauna.

The country – located in the middle of the Carpathian Basin - constitutes a specific ecological unit, making up a substantial part of the Pannonian biogeographical region, one out of the nine biogeographical regions of the European Union. The region is connected, inter alia, to the flora of the Carpathians, the Eastern Alps and the West Balkans (See map 1). This poses a challenge and puts major responsibility on Hungary* to maintain these natural assets and facilitate the continued connection with the surrounding biogeographical regions.

Natural habitats, as well as genetic resources of the wild flora and fauna in the country, show a high level of diversity. Around 2 800 different vascular plant species (2 300 native), and 43 000 animal species in Hungary have been observed. Owing to the long-lasting geographical isolation of the Carpathian Basin, there is also a high abundance of endemic species. Their proportion is extremely high (10-30 %) within some invertebrate groups, and as regards plants, 2 % of the Hungarian flora can be found exclusively in the Carpathian Basin.

Biodiversity – including agrobiodiversity and cultural landscapes – is an exceptional opportunity for sustainable social and economic development. At the same time, special attention should be paid to the expectedly significant regional impacts of climate change, leading to a higher vulnerability of the natural flora and fauna and the ecosystem services.


Map 1. Biogeographical Regions in Europe



*in cooperation with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, having a smaller proportion of the Pannon biogeographical region


The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Environmental conditions and the state of the ecological values are on the one hand closely related to the clearing of woodlands over thousands of years and to the major water drainage works of earlier centuries (See MAP A). On the other hand, recent social and economic processes have also had impacts on the Hungarian landscape.

In Hungary - like in other countries - changes in land use, exploitation of natural resources, and the increasing environmental pressures have led to fragmentation, partial destruction and degradation of natural habitats.

Regarding the conservation status of our 46 habitat types listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive and that of the 211 species of EU importance, 11 % and 25 % respectively are in a favourable conservation status (according to an evaluation made in 2007, in line with the EU criteria). The most vulnerable habitats are floodplains, other wetlands, forests and open grasslands. Appearance and spread of invasive species are of major concern. (See Box 1)

As a result of nature conservation measures, natural and semi-natural habitats of high ecological value (according to the National Ecological Network survey) still make up more than 30 % of the territory of the country. Maintaining this favourable ratio is a priority for nature conservation.

In total, there are 86 habitat types and thousands of plant and animal species, the majority of which are endemic, relict species or associations. A number of special 'Pannonian' habitats occur only in this area (See Box 2). Recognition and mapping of the habitat types and sound evaluation of the natural vegetation heritage was conducted in the framework of the MÉTA programme (Landscape Ecological Vegetation Database and Map of Hungary) (See Box 3).

Highland and lowland forests predominantly consisting of deciduous species form an important part of the natural heritage. Due to the national afforestation programme, the forest area has grown gradually during the last decades. The aspects of sustainability and ecology have gained importance in forest management. (Afforestration entailed the appearance of some alien trees, yet on the whole, the proportion of forest area covered by native tree species has grown). By 2009 forest land amounted to 20.6 %.

Figure 1. Changes in forest area, Afforestration


Source: Central Agricultural Office, Directorate of Forestry



Rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes facilitate the improvement of the ecological status of wetlands and the restoration of former wetlands. Taking into account the expected impacts of climate change, these programmes are to be continued. Likewise, protection and maintenance of grasslands (e.g. lowland sand and loess grasslands) require special attention.

At present 720 plant, 35 fungi, 8 lichen, 995 animal species together with 6 anthills are protected by national law (See Box 4)

The conservation of the genetic diversity of crops and livestock is also a high priority (in order to protect the countryside and help adapting to climate change) and is promoted by governmental programmes.

The country is also rich in abiotic natural formations. Rock formations of different geological eras, rare minerals, fossils and caves are of special value. Caves, springs, mires, sinkholes, alkaline lakes, kurgans (burial mounds) and earth fortifications are ex lege protected natural areas in Hungary. (See Box 5)

National protected areas have expanded by around 30 000 hectares since 2000 (now this territory makes up 9.1 % of the country). The Natura 2000 sites, designated according to the EU nature conservation guidelines, cover approximately 22 % of the territory of Hungary, where nature conservation aspects are of high priority. (See Box 6)

Map 2. nature protection areas in hungary (national protection and natura 2000)




Further details and maps regarding protected areas:  and Box 6


In addition to national protection and the Natura 2000 network, a number of protected areas serve the conservation of the world's natural heritage as they are protected also as part of international conservation conventions and programmes, such as

·        28 Ramsar sites (an area of 233 000 hectares), wetlands of international importance

·        Three European Diploma holding areas (with 2371 hectares)

·        Five UNESCO MAB biosphere reserves (plus one waiting for favorable UNESCO decision: the Hungarian-Croatian Mura-Drava-Danube Trans-Boundary Biosphere Reserve ),

·        and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites (and further four areas of nature protection importance expected to be part of the World Heritage



MAP 3: International protected areas


Source: MoRD, NEIS, NCIS


Further information, maps, background materials:, , ,



Map A: Waterlogged areas of the carpathian basin before the great water-works


(flood control, river regulation and drainage works)


The map shows that the conditions in the Carpathian Basin at the begining of the 19th century were significantly different from the present status.


Box 1.

Natural vegetation coverage in most of our landscape units reaches between 10-30 %, with a high level of fragmentation. Yet at forest areas in the low mountain ranges and parts of the Great Plain over 50 % may occur.

Map B: Naturalness of the vegetation


Source: HAS IEBI


Habitat map of National Biodiversity Monitoring System has also shown a growing tendency of fragmentation of different habitat types.

 MÉTA Programme (See Box 3) proved evidendence of the spread of invasive species. As regards species, natural vegetation is affected by 13.1 %, while the coverage data is around 5.5 %. Most contaminated are the floodplains of Danube and Tisza rivers, and the Small Hungarian Plain.,



Box 2.

Based on our present knowledge, around 800 different mosses, 2 800 vascular plant species, 5 000 fungi species and 43 000 animal species can be found in Hungary (of which 40 000 are arthropods, 81 fishes, 16 amphibians, 15 reptiles 366 birds and 85 mammals). The number of plant associations reaches up to 361. Owing to long geographical isolation of the Carpathian basin, there is also an abundance of endemic species. The proportion of endemic species is extremely high (10-30 %) among invertebrates, and as regards plants, 2 % of the Hungarian flora can be found exclusively in the Carpathian basin.


Box 3.

The main goals of the MÉTA Programme are the whole country survey and recognition of the actual state of natural and semi-natural vegetation of Hungary, and sound evaluation of our natural vegetation heritage. Themes such as the distribution of habitat types, the naturalness of the vegatation, and the landscapes, threatening factors of biodiversity and the regeneration ability of these habitats are dealt with in detail.


Box 4.                    

TABLE A: Protected  natural assets in Hungary ( As of  31/12/2009)


Number of protected assets

Of which strictly protected























































Box 5

According to Hungarian law – with respect to the peculiarity and complex natural value of these formations – all caves, springs, mires, sinkholes, alkaline lakes, kurgans (burial mounds) and earth fortifications have been protected since 1996, when the act on nature protection came into force. At present, 2 845 springs, 876 mires, 768 sinkholes, 379 alkaline lakes, 1 956 kurgans and 373 earth fortifications are listed.

Around 4 100 caves are known, 37 of which longer than 1 km, and 31 deeeper than 100m.

Caves are registered in a database (

Caves of an outstanding importance are strictly protected.



Box 6

Protected areas have been growing during recent years. At present, 10 national parks, 38 landscape protection regions, 160 nature conservation areas, and a natural landmark making up 847 thousands hectares of natural areas are protected by national law.

Natura 2000 areas cover 22 % (1.96 million hectares) of the country’s territory, of which an area of 900 thousand hectares is agricultaral land, mainly grasslands. The network consists of 55 special areas of bird protection (ensuring the protection of 78 bird species of European significance living in the country as well as 13 species which migrate through Hungary in great masses. The number of special areas of nature conservation is 467 (1.39 million hectares).




TABLE B: Changes in the main data of Natural areas protected by National  law









National parks

440 838.8


482 626.1


Landscape protection regions

349 241.7


334 491.7


Nature conservation areas

25 927.0


29 419.2


Natural landmark






816 007.5


846 537.0



The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Endangering factors of natural habitats and wild species in Hungary show a big variety according to regions. One of the important factors is the changing land use: the outstanding ratio and quality of crop land (in a European context), significant water management and drainage works (with the purpose of reducing production risks) have modified natural conditions of the living environment at regional scale, especially in lowland areas. Inappropriate land management in some areas has led to the intensification of erosion and deflation processes. (See Box 7)

As a consequence of socio-economic development due to urbanisation, an expansive agglomeration belt has evolved around some major cities. At the same time, active population of small towns and farms is decreasing, though they have an important role in the protection of landscape (See Box 8)

Several land-use types may cause pollution – either at a point source (e.g. heavy industry, chemical industry, backwardness of urban infrastructure), or on a surface (e.g. pollution from agricultural chemicals). Complex environmental effects of open pit and underground mining could be detected (in the previous decade the level of the Trans-Danube karst water decreased, but after the abandonment of mining it has risen again).

As a result of economic restructuring and setting up of environmental regulations and institutions after the political transformation in 1989 and due to the municipal environmental infrastructure development programmes (in the fields of wastewater and waste management), the above mentioned environmental loads have decreased significantly and preventive conservation activities gained importance. The 'inherited' problems from the previous era, as well as problems related to large-scale new investments involving high material and energy consumption and unfavorable land use patterns prevail.

Recent changes in land use have often led to conflicts: the optimal use of natural resources and horizontal aspects of sustainable regional development were often overwritten by market forces (especially in the capital and in some major cities along motorways). As regards agriculture, it is characterised by changing, unpredictable market conditions, prices and subsidies. These conditions are also reflected in the hectic evolution of organic farming.

Construction of (mainly road) transport infrastructure and the related local logistics investments in recent years have resulted in further land take. Issues related to waterways also affect the environment. Density of inland waterway traffic on the main rivers of Hungary is near the European average (HU: 4.5 %, EU: 5.6 % in 2006). The Danube runs across several countries which show significant differences in the features of their waterways and their relevant natural assets. With respect to these differences, international cooperation is of utmost importance in order to minimise adverse effects across borders. For example, changes and dredging in the riverbed due to navigation development cause decreasing water levels which negatively affect the water bodies and the wildlife of floodplains, and result in the drying of habitats. This negative process is also accelerating the spread of invasive species.

Other cross-border phenomena and international environment and nature conservation policy measures in general affect the state of our natural heritage. We find positive as well as negative examples (e.g. spread of invasive species, significant pollutions resulting from mining and other industrial activities of our neighbouring countries especially in terms of river ecosystems, while joint programmes for ecological network development and preservation are progressive examples).

All the above mentioned processes and activities may contribute to the fragmentation of natural habitats. Smaller patches of habitats are more vulnerable to changes in the environment and less resistant to the appearance of invasive species.

One of the main challenges for the future is how to cope with the increasing need for biomass (energy plantation, bio-ethanol plants) – mostly in order to increase energy production and to scale up biodiesel production. In this field, there is a need for particular consciousness and facilitating only sustainable, environmentally friendly use of biomass potential as well as the harmonisation of different land use needs (food production and food safety, environment protection, energy production, etc.) is essential.

Environmental policy efforts act as a strong driving force, facilitating a shift from pure conservation-focussed intervention – exclusively on protected areas – to a more complex approach aiming, on the one hand, at the integrated management of protection, education, research and development and sustainable use of resources, and, on the other hand at extending nature protection aspects together with rural development goals to the whole territory of the country (through landscape management models).

See also: the first chapter of the Third National Environmental Programme and results of the MÉTA Programme (Box 10).

Box 7

Agricultural production has complex effects. Earlier on, the quantity-oriented, factory-sized production, increased use of artificial fertilisers and monocultural exploitation meant significant burdens on the environment. On arable lands pertaining better characteristics – the overuse of environmental resources, unprofessional agrotechnics and the intensification of agricultural production (irrigation, use of chemicals), diffuse pollution, soil-degeneration processes (soil erosion caused by water and wind, acidification, alkalisation, physical degradation, hardpan creation, decrease of organic material content) can cause problems.

Following the structural changes of the democratic transition period, the use of chemicals is rather low in a European comparison. Agriculture – and sylviculture – plays an important role in maintaining biological diversity, protected and highly protected species, landscape characteristics and other environmental values. In some cases, the inappropriate use of territory, unsustainable agricultural methods (unfavourable pasturage, reaping, underploughing, incorrect water-supply utilisation) can also endanger natural habitats.

The cessation of agricultural activities also poses dangers. Pulling out extensively exploited areas from agricultural use began 30-40 years ago, but it accelerated to a dangerous extent – on agriculturally less favourable areas, the use of territory was typically switched in favour of industrial-commercial functions. With the decrease of extensive stock-breeding, the decrease in permanent grassing areas and the penetration of invasive species can also be observed.

In this new situation, significant numbers of land-owners and land-users have to face the challenge of getting widespread familiarity with recent agricultural (production and environmental economy) and management methods, caused by the estate-structure of a few big and a great number of small holdings.

Box 8

Hungarian urbanisation is characterised by great territorial differences and belatedness. Depending on the geographical area, different communal types are the dominant ones (Transdanubian region: small villages; Great Plain: market towns, farms). After the democratic transition, the number of cities and the level of urban population has increased significantly, but the development of urban functions occasionally did not follow the urbanisation process. Besides, surrounding bigger cities, decentralisation of the urban population has started to appear. This is particularly true to the capital (compared to regional centres, the weight of Budapest is significant, more than one-fifth of the population lives in the capital or its surroundings.)

Box 9

In the National Environmental Programme, the most important drivers have been defined both at society, institutional and structural level (as well as industrial and agricultural production, tourism, transport, water management, land use, settlement structure, etc.). Detailed description and analysis can be found here: 


Box 10

During the MÉTA mapping (see also Box 3), the actual state of habitats has been evaluated by looking at 28 threat types. Threatening factors such as water management, land use (management of woodlands and grasslands), invasive species, urbanisation, habitat fragmentation and the neighbourhood land as well as their  impacts were documented in detail.

 Taking all the habitats into consideration, the most important endangering threats in Hungary are: the spread of invasive species (21 %, i.e. 21% of the total area covered by (semi-)natural vegetation is endangered), overpopulated game (9 %), forestry, managing vast areas in the same, homogenous manner (9 %), drainage (7 %) and bush encroachment (6 %)

For further details see:

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Assuming that today’s trends do not change, i.e. consumer demands further expand, infrastructural developments continue and the pace of setting aside of agricultural lands remains the same, the present unfavourable effects (such as decrease and fragmentation of natural habitats, increasing endangerment of the vegetation, including several endemic plant association and species) are expected to intensify.

Regarding nature conservation activity and the battle against biodiversity loss, a number of results have already been achieved. Future conservation of the diversity of species, associations and habitats requires an even more comprehensive approach.

Conservation of natural assets can increasingly be realised through preserving the landscape as a whole, through a more partnership-based maintenance that includes resource management and through better integration of nature conservation aspects into sectoral programmes. This integrated approach demands higher cooperation of sectors and enhanced regional integration.

Environmental issues in a general political context were not prioritised until the 1990s. Since then, a shift regarding social values and growing awareness and an increasing need for a healthy environment and for conserving the good status of natural assets can be observed. Provided this shift of social values continues and EU and national sustainable development policies prevail, the above-mentioned negative effects might be avoided or at least slowed down.

More space – as well as incentives - should be given to agro-environmental schemes; integrated water management (formulated with regard to changing needs and conditions, and providing effective solutions for issues such as flood, inland inundation and drought), for a wide spectrum of environmental education and for resource and energy efficient economy. Optimal and sustainable use of the country’s natural and cultural assets, the maintenance and spread of sustainable land utilisation types that contribute to increasing both biological activity and biological and landscape diversity should be promoted in the future.

In this context, climate change may have significant ecological impacts with regard to the agriculture and natural ecosystems in the region. (Among the most probable consequences we may find the shift of zonal vegetation boundaries, loss of native species and growing presence of invasive ones, appearance of new pests and pathogens, rearrangement of trophic chains. These may lead to a decline in ecological stability and adaptive capacity). Climate change is expected to have  varied impacts on habitat types of Hungary, especially on wetlands. (See Box 11)

Box 11

The impact of climate change on habitats can be detected in many cases. For example, reducing water supply is very likely to affect negatively the remaining marsh habitats. As a consequence of climate drying alien species may appear on pastures. And new pests may cause serious damage to mesic woodlands.

Vulnerable forest steppes – found only in mosaics, small isolated as well as riverine woodlands are also affected by climate change (negative effects are mainly attributable to the recession of groundwater and the appearance of invasive plant species. Outstandingly species-rich dry grasslands face growing risk of droughts. In the case of saline areas, climate change may accelerate the pro desalkalinisation or the alkalisation process. .


Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 18 Oct 2011

There is a great tradition of nature conservation activities, legislation at national level as well as cooperation with neighbouring countries. Hungary is a member of all relevant international conventions and agreements (for the list of conventions and for the main results see and Box 12 respectively). European Union accession gave a renewed impetus to nature conservation activities, and regulations are consistent and entirely compliant with EU legislation.

The National Environmental Programme and its Annexes (National Biodiversity Strategy and National Nature Conservation Master Plan) provide a comprehensive framework for environmental nature conservation policy.

Strategic documents on specific thematic areas of nature conservation are also available (see Box 13). These documents were elaborated in broad cooperation and reflect the new, integrative approach of nature conservation. Due to the growing awareness of interlinkages, there are certain efforts to integrate aspects of biodiversity and landscape protection gradually into sectoral policies (see Box 14).

As regards the funding of recent years’ concrete measures targeting the mitigation of negative environmental effects and the restoration or improvement of present natural status (such as the protection of endangered species, the restoration of damaged habitats or ecotouristic developments) were mainly implemented by EU co-financed projects.



Source: MoRD

In the last decade, habitat reconstructions comprised restoration of wetlands (as continuation of former activities), restoration of some grasslands (which have been ploughed) and improving the naturalness of forests. Territorial scope of the reconstructions have been extended from ten or hundred hectare scale to thousand of hectares or more (see Box 15).

In order to protect our abiotic natural values, they are promoted using modern and innovative presentation techniques. A number of visitor and educational centres, new nature trails, and many other exhibition sites have been created (see Box 16).

In general, interventions implemented purely in the field of nature protection are part of the good management of natural values component environment and energy operational programme of the New Hungary Development Plan (NSRF). The primary resources of funding the promotion of environmental agricultural practices is the New Hungary Rural Development Plan. From 2002, there has been a constant increase in area receiving agro-environmental support (1.5 million hectares in 2008) (see Box 17).

Conservation programmes of several species have been launched in the framework of EU cofinanced  LIFE and LIFE+  programmes. See e.g.: http://,, and Box 18.


TABLE 1. results of protection of predator bird species


nesting pairs







(Haliaeetus albicilla)





(Aquila heliaca)





(Falco cherrug)











Source: MoRD


Among the numerous other LIFE, LIFE+ projects (totalling 40 projects, with a support of 34 million euro between 2001 and 2009), the ’Pannon Seed Bank’ is worth mentioning, aiming at the long-term seed preservation of the wild vascular flora of the Pannonian biogeographical region[280]=i-280-fd17f43643b3a37dfa7f30f657f13bb0

The ‘Unobstructed Sky’ project aims to minimise bird deaths resulting from collision with high voltage power cables (see also Box 18).

With respect to sustainable use of natural values, traditional forms of farming, preserving genetic diversity and other local peculiarities are fostered. National park directorates play an important role in this process, especially by keeping and breeding indigenous domestic animals such as grey cattle, racka sheep, Tsigai and cikta sheep, buffalo and domestic horse types, contributing to the in-situ conservation of genetic diversity.

The number of livestock kept as part of the property management carried out by national park directorates has doubled since 2002. The total number of this livestock reached 9617.


Figure 4.: changes in the number of Livestock in the property of national park directorates


Swiss Contribution and INTERREG programmes offer additional sources for nature conservation projects.

Activity of civil organisations specialised in nature conservation are outstanding both in terms of raising awareness and as development projects (either own initiatives or joint projects of NGOs the national authorities of nature conservation). See e.g.


Environmental consciousness of individuals and communites is also enhanced by the so-called environmental knowledge chain (a comprehensive environmental education integrated into each level of formal education, by constant development of knowledge and information systems and by the stimulation of research and innovation (see Box 19).

Conservation activity requires the continuous review of natural assets. It is primarily carried out via the Hungarian Biodiversity Monitoring System (HBMS) which enables monitoring several protected or endangered species (in 20 subgroups, in 11 separate projects) and providing information – among others – on small-scale habitat changes, the naturalness of habitats or the level of contamination with invasive species. ,

The Nature Conservation Information System (NCIS) as part of the National Environmental Information System (NEIS) fulfils national and EU level data needs and supports the work of authorities as it serves as a basic application of the state nature conservation administration.  All data stored are spatially referenced. Maintenance of NCIS together with HBMS including regional Small-Balaton, Drava) and thematic (e.g. birds) monitoring programmes is a priority (see Box 20).

NCIS and HBMS are interconnected and provide a platform, WildWatcher, for public participation in the monitoring of fourteen endangered but widespread animal and plant species. This complex scheme was launched in September 2009. The number of records exceeded 2700 by the end of March 2010.


Regarding the most important measures described above, it can be concluded that, besides the extensive territorial protection, the focus gradually shifts to landscape protection, environmental education, research and development, and sustainable utilisation of natural resources.

Based on the forward-looking research programmes running or carried out so far, great attention shall be paid to the effects of climate change on habitats, associations and species (see Box 21.)


Box 12

The draft of the first environmental protection Act was written in 1910, and the creation of a separate structured system began in 1914. Concerning the development of a territory-based, overarching environmental protection attitude which went beyond the protection of species, Act No. IV of 1935 on forests and environmental protection and the 1952 opening of the first landscape protection area on the Tihany peninsula meant true milestones. Since the regime change, environment and natural protection tasks are carried out at ministerial level. Today the roles of the ministry and of the national park directorates, together with the system of natural protection in general, are regulated by Act No. LIII of 1996, complemented by several specific legal acts.

Major results of international agreements in the last few years:

·   Convention on Biological Diversity – in the framework of NKP3 the National Assembly endorsed the national biodiversity strategy in 2009; thematic campaigns followed every year afterwards.

·   Cartagena Protocol and genetically modified organisations – GMO moratorium extended.

·   Ramsar Convention – designation of five new territories (with territories exceeding 40 000 ha), and extension of already existing territories with around 10 000 ha in 2006 and 2008.

·   The Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – five campaigns since 2003; 2009: Ministry of Environment and Water – National Police Department bilateral agreement, police officer training; 2010: major INTERPOL action, with the cooperation of the National Bureau of Investigation, the National Police Department, the Customs and Finance Guard, the national Inspectorates for Environment, Nature and Water, and the Ministry of Rural Development.

·   The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats – tighter protection of the Vipera ursinii rakosiensis, drawing on the research and protection programme LIFE fund.

·   The Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals – prohibition of the use of lead-pellets on water habitats, joining the memorandum on raptorial birds.

·   The Carpathian Convention – protocol on the preservation and sustainable use of biological and environmental diversity adopted.

·   World Heritage Convention – about ten new locations on the waiting list, two of them in the environmental protection category, but others with environmental protection significance as well.


Detailed report:

Box 13

On the sectoral level, the most important, several years long strategies concerning national park directorates have been prepared (e.g. six-year development plans, for 2003-2008, than 2009-2013, ten-year plan of property management).

Size evolvement of protected territories and territories planned to acquire protected status, according to agricultural sectors (under National Park Directorate estate management)


Source: MoRD

Annual reports have been made in a unified fashion since 2002 by national park directorates. These are available on their websites.

The following environmental protection projects have been developed: IT conception, data protection and R+D strategy, list of natural areas planned to be eligible for protected status, system of planned landscape protection, eco-touristic conception, property management of caves, regulation of endangered species and species requiring special care, content requirements of species conservation.

Up to 1 April 2010, ministerial decree regulated the handling plan of 58 protected natural territories of national importance (six landscape protected areas, one landscape protected part-area, 51 natural protected areas). Similar documentation is available in the case of 82 protected natural territories of national importance and 60 territories planned to acquire protected status.

Between 2004 and 2010, the conservation plan 20 endangered plant species and 23 animal species (last occasion the lesser mole rat) was adopted, and 19 are already in process ( index.php?pg=menu_1555). This process should be continued and extended.


A great number of birds have been added to the endangered species list. Species of once significant populations have begun to decrease in their numbers at national and European level. Arrangements have been made to decrease the number of animal deaths due to electric shock or poisoning.

The number of protected caves and caves which require special protection has increased (147 and 304, respectively), management plan of several caves was prepared, protection and reconstruction interventions were completed

The completed forestry and hunting conceptions, regulations connected to the Water Framework Directive, the eco-touristic concept all imply environmental protection aspects. Information material has been prepared on the landscape and natural protection aspects of the location of wind power plants. The basic documents and the attached explanatory material are available to the public on the website


Box 14

Land use and spatial planning

The act on the National Land Use Regulatory Plan – comprising the Ecological Network – was revised in 2006, and in line with the territories of the National Ecological Network (ECONET, as part of the Pan-European Ecological Network have also been reviewed.

The spatial components were designated by National Park Directorates The three functionally complementary components: core areas (that provide the optimum achievable quantity and quality of environmental space); corridors (to ensure appropriate interconnectivity between the core areas – both continuous corridors and stepping stones); and buffer zones (to protect the core areas and corridors from potentially damaging external influences) are incorporated as regulatory zones in the regulatory plans of the counties and of other areas of high importance.

Parallel to these steps, Natura 2000 territories have been classified into the categories of the Ecological Network. Accordingly, Hungary succeeded in combining the Natura 2000 network with ECONET, facilitating favourable conservation status of the ecosystems, habitats, species and landscapes of European importance and permitting dispersal and migration of plants and animals by the means of regulatory and regional development tools.

Detailed regulations facilitating sustainable land use appear in county level plans as well as in the Land Use Plan for the Lake Balaton Special Resort Area, the Lake Balaton Land Use Regulations (Lake Balaton Act) and in the Act on the Budapest Agglomeration. .


Forest Management

Forest management has been a regulated area in Hungary for a long time, and is carried out according to forest plans embedded in a territorial hierarchy.

Forestry and nature conservation are strongly interconnected (almost half of the protected areas in the country is made up of forest area and one-third of all forests is under protection - see, a fact also reflected in the new forest act which came into force in 2009 and is considered to be one of the strictest acts of its kind in Europe.

(, only in Hungarian).

The Act introduced several progressive regulations, amongst others the definition of the natural state of forests, significant reduction of possibilities for clear cutting (completely forbidding it in forests having protective and social welfare functions). It is not allowed to allocate any additional economic function to forests designated to nature conservation (approximately 35 % of forests). Besides, it poses the imperative to build up a stock of native species during forest regeneration. (57 % of forest territory is covered by native species, this figure is, however, far from the upper limit of Hungarian capabilities.)

The act states that there must be a shift to continuous cover forestry - the mode should be prevalent in one-fifth of state owned forests designated to nature conservation within 10 years and the value should reach one third in 30 years.

Between 2004 and 2007, the prevalence of innovative forest management schemes multiplied 30 times.


Agricultural-environmental management

The agricultural sector can contribute significantly to the maintenance of Hungary’s natural values, if the environment-friendly production systems can appear as a real alternative to intensive factory-sized production. Concerning resources, by 2020 the natural condition of the Natura 2000 network and the continuation of specific volunteer target programmes are going to be provided.

As a result of EU subsidies, in the last few years, the territorial range of ecological production has increased (to 140 000 ha in 2009).

A significant number of bio-products, however, is sold on foreign markets, due to higher prices and lack of organisation of the internal market.

Areas suitable for biomass production should be designated by regions, taking natural and landscape protection, ecological, agricultural site characteristics and the quality of arable soil into consideration. Negative ecological and landscape effects are caused by big territory production and intensive land use, use of invasive species, handling and production methods that are deteriorating soil quality. Building of small-community and regional power plants should be encouraged, and on good quality lands, food and forage production should be continued.

Box 15

Habitat reconstruction on the largest scale was carried out on the Hortobágy (Angyalháza-Szelencés steppe), on a 10 000 ha area, with the elimination of channel, dams and technical objects that hindered natural water movement.

One of the most important rehabilitation of water habitats projects is the 2005-2008 complex programme on the Beregi-plain, which included the rehabilitation of raised bogs, transient bogs, plain bogs, wooded pastures and grasslands of northeastern Hungary. Also significant: the LIFE project (Nagy-vókonya water and steppe habitat rehabilitation), which aims at the reconstruction of habitats of almost extinct alkaline area bird populations and restoration of the Hortobágy landscape values. Part of the reconstruction was the reinstallation of natural water movements, encouraging extensive breeding and sustainable high level pasturage systems.


Box 16

In the last few years, several visitor and education centres, nature trails and other presentation sites were established that are important for environment education and leisure activities as well. National park directorates are offering various programmes, e.g. the increasingly popular Week of Hungarian National Parks from 2007.


Recent eco-touristic establishments and new, attractive programmes have increased the number of visitors on protected natural areas in the last few years. The number of registered individual visitors of national park directorates was close to 1.4 million. Including group visitors the number was 2.5 million.                                                                                                                                                     

Source: MoRD


Box 17

  • New Hungary Development Plan (ÚMFT)


The Environment and Energy Operative Programme (KEOP) is targeting the restoration and preservation of the Natura 2000 network and protected natural areas, protection of flora and fauna of community importance and support of environment education. Other important priorities are: restoration and preservation of abiotic natural values, establishment of the infrastructural background to close-to-nature forestry and field agriculture, development of forest schools and nursery schools (see Box 19).

The Natural Protection Association study shows the locations of the most dangerous cable sections in terms of bird protection (see:érkép.pdf); the interring of air-cables has begun as part of the “Unobstructed Sky” programme, financed by KEOP resources (see Box 18).

Central Hungary Operative Programme (KMOP) conditions include a mapping of KEOP natural protection constructions, taking into account the local characteristics of the Central Hungarian Region. Its priorities are touristic, natural and environment protection developments to enhance the attraction of the region.

  • New Hungary Rural Development Programme (ÚMVP)


The territory eligible for agricultural-environment management support, 52 % of which is Natura 2000 area, doubled compared to the 2004-2009 period. Our aim is to widen the range of those areas eligible for EU funding.

Natura 2000 grasslands have been entitled to a separate support within the ÚMVP since 2008. Meeting compulsory regulations on these areas is supported by EUR 38/ha per year. Farmers (approximately 2100 people) applied for these payments on a territory of 73 500 ha in 2008 and 106 600 ha in 2009.

Box 18

Conservation programmes of several species have been launched in the framework of EU cofinanced LIFE and LIFE+ programmes (e.g Vipera ursinii rakosiensis/Hungarian meadow viper, Aquila heliaca/Imperial Eagle, Otis tarda/Great Bustard, Falco cherrug/Saker Falcon, Falco vespertinus/Red-footed Falcon, Angelica palustris and Dianthus diutinus/Long-lasting pink). Conservation programmes of other species such as Coluber caspius/Caspian whipsnake Adonis transsylvanica, Salvia natans, Paeonia officinalis ssp. banatica, Onosma tornensis (and partly Vipera ursinii rakosiensis and Coenonympha oedippus/Danube Clouded Yellow) are being implemented based on national funds. Preservation of Otis tarda, Vipera ursinii rakosiensis and Nannospalax leucodon/mole-rat is fostered also by operating a council of experts.

The main pillar of the Convention on Biological Diversity is to preserve all life forms and genetic diversity on Earth. The EU Biodiversity Action Plan elaborated for the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy aims to identify and fill critical gaps in EU ex situ conservation programmes for wild species. In compliance with the above, the main goal of the LIFE+ project titled Establishment of the Pannon Seed Bank for the long-term ex situ conservation of Hungarian vascular wild plants is the long-term seed preservation of the wild vascular flora of the Pannonian biogeographical region in order to assist and complement in situ species conservation activities. The project aims to achieve this goal through expanding the current functions of the world’s 13th largest agricultural gene bank, the Research Centre for Agrobotany (Tápiószele) of the Central Agricultural Office, having more than fifty years of experience in the conservation of agricultural genetic resources. The establishment of a joint seed bank for the agricultural and wild flora would be a unique and demonstrative example worldwide in line with the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity, as the genetic diversity of the Pannonian biogeographical region’s entire flora, including the wild flora as well as crop and vegetable plants serving human nutrition are aimed to be conserved at one place. This valuable collection of natural assets is of great importance in terms of maintaining biodiversity at national, European and global levels and of assisting to meet the 2010 biodiversity objectives.

According to the 2008 'Unobstructed Sky' cooperation between the Ministry for Environment and Water, the Hungarian Ornithological and Natural Protection Association and Hungarian electricity providers, until 2020, bird deaths caused by free cable systems should be halted or put to a minimum. Since then, about 1000 km of cables were made bird safe in the framework of LIFE applications.


Box 19

The map of the chain of knowledge on environment contains county and settlement level data regarding green nursery schools,  forest nursery schools and schools, eco-schools in primary and secondary education, eco-clubs in higher education, and other environmental education and training initiatives in Hungary.

Educational institutions

Educational institutions cooperate with governmental and non-governmental organisations in order to promote the development of an environmentally conscious attitude and lifestyle in the different age groups. Altogether 71 education centres are in operation.

Green Nursery Schools Programme

Green Nursery Schools Programme facilitates the greening of institutions preceding school age since 2007. Environmental education is a priority task in all nursery schools. It is of utmost importance that the nursery school age group receive environmental education by using specific methods and tools tailored to that age group and its development level. Currently more than 200 institutions have Green Nursery School Certificate.  Establishing the Green Nursery Schools Network enabled nursery school teachers to take part in training courses on environmental education and to create professional contacts. Our joint objective is to further increase the number of nursery schools working in the Green Nursery Schools Programme.

The forest school and nursery school provides opportunity for learning on a site different from parent school and is based on the special characteristics of the local environment.

The aim is to develop capability for an environmental friendly, healthy lifestyle and to enhance social consciousness towards community activities.

The Hungarian Eco-School Network coordinates schools that have the pedagogical values of sustainability at the centre of their operation and gives them assistance by the provision of information and organisation of training courses and events. Principles of environmental education and the pedagogy of sustainability in these schools prevail not only in teaching but in all areas of school life. The network is open to all public education institutes in Hungary. Around 500 institutions have been granted the honorable title and the Eco-School Certificate.,

Eco-Club Network is a youth programme of the ministry operated by students (and mentoring teachers) in national and transboundary higher educational institutions. The network offers interesting programmes rich in content, permanent services and local workshops promoting environmental issues. Eco-clubs are operated by students with the support of the lecturers.

The interactive and playful 'Measure the Weather programme is jointly run by the Hungarian Meteorological Service and the ministry with objective of setting up an amateur meteorological measurement network. The programme has existed for several years, and at present, 50 primary and secondary schools are participating.

 The environmental programme titled 'Biotic index at secondary education level' involving primary and secondary education institutions in the process of bringing our living waters into 'good status' and preserving their 'good status'.was introduced in Hungary in 2001.

In addition to the 70 secondary schools, a number of non-governmental organisations and national park educational centres take an active part in the programme

Box 20

Vadonleső (WildWatcher) - a platform for public participation in the monitoring of specific species in the northern mountains of Hungary.

The WildWatcher scheme has two main objectives: on the one hand, public education and raising awareness of schoolchildren, university students, amateur naturalists, eco-tourists, senior citizens etc. by active participation in an exciting, challenging and responsible nature conservation task. On the other hand, such a comprehensive, wide-ranging, national database on the targeted fourteen endangered but widespread animal species could not be collected any other way in Hungary. The internet-based approach of the scheme makes it possible to provide information on the species concerned, raise awareness of their conservation, and record their occurrences after locating them with the help of satellite images. This complex scheme, unique in Europe, was launched in September 2009 and is maintained by the Hungarian Ministry of Environment and Water. Growing public involvement is indicated by the fact that the number of records collected in the scheme exceeded 2700 by the end of March 2010.

The Hungarian Ornithological and Natural Protection Association ( began the construction of a general bird-monitoring system in 1998, which uses random samples and standard counting methods, not only to monitor the most common species, but to check the natural conditions of major habitats on an annual basis. This system is the first of its kind in central and eastern Europe. The first 11 years of this work is significant, as it provides unique information about Hungary’s natural condition before the accession to the EU, and because based on its collected data, the detection of possible changes in the next few years became possible. This is especially important concerning territories of extensive size, such as agricultural habitats, where major changes are ahead in the following years.


Box 21

Global climate change, its expected Hungarian directions and effects on certain sectors and specialisations was treated on a strategic level by the successfully completed 'VAHAVA' project of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and the Ministry for Environment and Water.

Based on the results of this project, the National Assembly adopted the 2008-2025 National Climate Change Strategy (NÉS) on 13 February 2008. The Strategy requires the government in power to elaborate and carry out a Climate Change Programme every two years. A national information-coordination network has been set up for the benefit of scientific research, innovation and professional administration dealing with climate change, its effects on Hungary, greenhouse gas emission and its reduction. It also supports political decisions concerning climate change, helps educators, professional institutions and social organisations.


The Ecological and Botanical Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences conducts several research projects on climate change and on the analysis of ecological effects of the changes of landscape-use, mainly through plant-sociological examinations, vegetation and biomass mapping, monitoring of invasive species and climate simulation field experiments. The aim of the research is to examine the connections between the landscape use, biodiversity and various functions of the ecosystem in a multidisciplinary way, and to make suggestions for environment-friendly agriculture and landscape use.


At the centre of the forest reserve programme stands the study of the natural forest structure, its renewal, cycles of forest development, and the role of natural interference. Recently there are 63 forest reserves in Hungary, whose total territory is 13 000 ha.


Connected to the adaptation to the expected effects of climate change, it is our duty to prevent the overpopulation of environmentally dangerous invasive species. The compilation of a new registry of species posing a danger from the point of view of natural protection is under way. The list contains species which transform their environment significantly, hinder the sprouting and ontogeny of other species, e.g. invasive species Acer negundo, Fallopia bohemica on flood plains, Solidago gigantea on hay meadows.


The National Institute for Public Education (OKI) participates in the PHEWE research on the prevention of direct and indirect health-damaging effects of climate change. The project has a double purpose: establishing a notification system connected to weather forecast and supporting human adaptation.


List of main abbreviations:

  • UNEP/GRID - United Nations Environment Programme/ Global and Regional Integrated Data Centres
  • MoRD - Ministry of Rural Development
  • HAS IEB - Institute of Ecology and Botany of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
  • NEIS -  National Environmental Information System
  • NCIS – National Conservation Information System
  • HBMS - Hungarian Biodiversity Monitoring System
  • NKP – National Environmental Programme

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