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Country profile: Hungary
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1. Pressure on the environment

As in other CEE countries, air pollution is considered a major environmental threat in Hungary. Although emission of certain gases has decreases substantially since 1990 (e.g. sulphur oxides and carbon dioxide) the amount of nitrogen oxide has not changed significantly due to road transport emissions (HCSO 2000).

Water pollution is another serious problem. A significant factor is the insufficient waste water treatment plants needed to meet the demands in water supply. Water quality is also affected by pollution from the energy industry and illegal waste storage. The pollution and landuse in the neighboring countries also has a considerable effect as 95 percent of surface water originates comes from other countries. For example, in January 2000 a toxic spill reached the Tisza river from a gold mining site in Romania. The cyanide and other heavy metal pollution caused serious ecological damage and economic loss (Environmental Indicators of Hungary, 2000).

The total amount of waste has decreased from 106 million tons (1990) to 87 million tons (1995), due to the considerable decline in industrial waste (agricultural waste has increased, HCSO 2000).

In Hungary the most important direct threats to biodiversity are: habitat loss (agriculture, urbanization and development of infrastructure), habitat fragmentation, pollution and illegal hunting (e.g. of protected birds). Threats to biodiversity can also have secondary and complex effects on the natural state, especially in the case of invasion by alien species and homogenization of the flora.

2. State of the biota

In spite of the agricultural and industrial threats, Hungary still possesses a high habitat and species diversity. The wide variety of Eurasian flora and fauna (there are over 3000 plant and 43000 animal species) is partly due to a diversified geomorphology and a transitional climatic zone (Environmental Indicators of Hungary, 2000).

Besides the important natural habitats (wetlands, dry grasslands, forests) valuable secondary habitats can also be found (e.g. hay meadows and alkaline grasslands). There are five endemic habitats, numerous endemic species and eight plant species that can be found only in Hungary, for example Dolomite flax, Hungarian moorgrass and Long-lasting pink (Haraszthy, 2000).

After privatization, profit-oriented methods forced the plantation of quick-growing species. On the Great Hungarian Plane mostly black locust trees and non-native poplars have been planted. In some instances valuable indigenous oak forests have also been replaced. Numerous rock grasslands are threatened by the expansion of formerly planted pine species (GRID ENRIN). Invasive species is a problem in most habitats, for example, in dry, sandy grasslands the cover of Asclepias syriaca increases every year; in waterside habitats the Solidago canadensis causes problems; on fallow lands Ambrosia artemisiifolia (ragweed) has spread over the country and caused allergic reactions in the human population.

3. Response

Four major new environmental laws have recently been adopted which provide for full or partial compliance with EU legislation. These laws relate to chemicals, genetically modified organisms, good laboratory practice and limits to the emission of air pollutants from combustion. Progress has also been made in the area of eco-labeling. A new law regulating the scope of activities and competence of Environmental Inspectorates, and National Park Directorates has also been passed. Effectively, it is designed to improve efficiency, and the enforcement of legislation (REC 1998).

There are five biosphere reserves and ten national parks in Hungary. Regional environmental inspectorates and numerous research institutes deal with problems of the environment and biodiversity. Ecological restoration experiments are carried out to improve the regeneration of degraded lands and models and experiments are developed to study climate change.

As the monitoring of the state of the biodiversity is a requirement of the Convention on Biological Diversity (ratificated by Hungary in 1994) and also of the European Union directive, the Ministry of Environment has established the Hungarian Biodiversity Monitoring System. The main principles of this system is to monitor the state of protected and threatened natural values; measure a number of key indicators to assess the general state of ecosystems; and study directly or indirectly the effects of certain human activities.

Links to some of the national parks:
Aggtelek National Park
Danube-Drava NP
Hortobágy NP
Kiskunság NP

4. Institutional background - links

Ministry of Environment
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Balaton Limnological Research Institute
Institute of Ecology and Botany
Research Institute for Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry

Other useful links:



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© FAO   ::   Global Terrestrial Observing System - GTOS   ::   29 January 2003