Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Annex I: Environmental Assessments of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic

Country Assessment on the Environment, Czech Republic

RNDr Viera Straškrábová DrSc

GTOS National Focal Point for Czech Republic

Hydrobiological Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic


University of South Bohemia, Faculty of Biological Sciences

1. Country profile


· Total population: 10, 309, 137 inhabitants

· Population density: 131 per km2

· Prague: 1, 200, 455 inhabitants; Brno: 385, 866 inhabitants; Ostrava: 323, 177 inhabitants

· 80% of the population lives in settlements with less than 100, 000 inhabitants

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity

$111.9 billion (1997)

National product per capita

Purchasing power parity - $10, 800 (1997)


· GDP in agriculture: 5%

· Main agricultural activities: cultivation of grains, potatoes, sugar beets, hops, fruit; animal husbandry (pigs, cattle, poultry); forest products; fish culture


Temperate, combination of continental and oceanic climate, prevailing western winds, intense cyclonal activity


The Czech Republic is an inland country, strategically located at the crossroads of Europe. The Moravian Gate is a traditional military corridor between the North European Plain and the Danube in central Europe (as well as the migration route for animals and plants), and also a boundary between the Czech Massif (Palaeozoic Age) and the Western Carpathian (Tertiary Age) mountains.

Total area: 78, 866 km2

Lowest point: Elbe River 115 m a.s.l.

Highest point: Sneka 1, 602 m a.s.l.

Average altitude: 430 m a.s.l.

Three main rivers run through its territory: the Elbe (length : 370 km; catchment area: 51, 104 km2; outlet: North Sea), the Odra (length:135 km; catchment area: 4, 704 km2; outlet: Baltic Sea) and Morava (length: 245 km; catchment area: 23, 058 km2; outlet: Black Sea).

Natural resources

· Hard coal, soft coal, kaolin, clay, graphite

· Water resources: upper reaches of rivers, 4 small natural lakes, artificial fish ponds and reservoirs (which provide 70% of drinking water).

Land use

· arable land: 40%

· permanent crops: 2%

· permanent grassland: 11%

· forests and woodland: 34%

· water surface areas: 2%

· other: 10% (1993)

· Irrigated land: 240 sq km (1993)


· Important issues: health problems caused by air and water pollution in areas of northwest Bohemia and northern Moravia around Ostrava; acid rain which damages forests; eutrophication of drinking water sources; changes in land use; toxic substances resulting from previous industrial activities

International conventions

Party to multilateral conventions: Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, EMEP (1979), Reduction of Sulphur Emissions (1979), Control of Emissions of Nitrogen Oxides (1979), Control of Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (1979), Protection of the Ozone Layer/Vienna/Montreal/London/Copenhagn, Control of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, Biological Diversity, Climate Change, International Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Fauna and Flora/CITES, Wetlands of International Importance/RAMSAR, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ship Pollution, Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Conservation of Bats in Europe, Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River

Bilateral treaties: Protection of the Elbe River, Protection of the Odra River, Intergovernmental Cooperation in the Protection of Environment with Belgium, Denmark, France, Russia, Ukraine, Norway, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and others.

Signed, but not ratified: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol

2. Major Regional Environmental Threats

A panel of seven specialists from different institutions responded to the questionnaire developed by GTOS experts. Rates of 1 to 5 were attributed to the different environmental threats (1 representing the most important). Average rates assigned were: 2.1 for impacts of pollution and toxicity; 2.6 for loss of biodiversity; 2.7 for changes in land quality; and 4.0 for climate change.

Loss of biodiversity was considered the most important threat by all but one respondent. Impacts of pollution and toxicity and changes in land quality obtained the most important rating by three respondents. The importance of freshwater resources was rated from 1 to 4 by different respondents. Climate change was considered unimportant by the majority of the panel.

During the visits of the GTOS-CEE experts in June to the Ministries of Agriculture and the Environment and other institutions, the following environmental problems were identified and discussed:

2.1 Air pollution

In the period from 1950 to 1990, the emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) increased steadily in former Czechoslovakia but this trend has been reversed in the last decade.

Table 2.1. Atmospheric emissions in the Czech Republic (thousands of tons per annum)









































































Carbon monoxide(CO) and hydrocarbon (CxHy) emissions also followed a similar, although less pronounced, trend. Greenhouse gas emissions (expressed as equivalent of CO2) decreased from 1990 to 1993 by more than 20%. Atmospheric emissions, ozone levels and atmospheric deposition (wet and dry) of sulphur, nitrogen, several heavy metals and other substances are constantly monitored (Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic, 1998).

2.2 Water pollution

Low quality of drinking water, due to water pollution, is a major problem in the Czech Republic. Due to insufficient supplies of groundwater, 70% of drinking water is derived from reservoirs which have high levels of nitrates originating from sources such as fertilizers. Although 73.5% of the population is now connected to the sewage system, and 90.5% of released wastes from domestic and industrial sources is treated, the conventional treatment carried out by the sewage plants does not remove phosphorous from the water and this is released into rivers. The dissolved phosphorous proliferates algae and creates a problem of eutrophication. This phenomenon has been aggravated by the increase of phosphorous in detergents since 1987 (the polyphosphate production began in former Czechoslovakia).

The annual averages of BOD5 (biochemical oxygen demand), COD (chemical oxygen demand), nitrate N and total P in the Elbe (Decín), Vltava (C. Budejovice) and Morava (Lanhot) rivers registered in the five years from 1992-1997 are summarised in Table 2.2.

Table 2.2. Average variation (mg l-1) of chemical substances in the main rivers of the Czech Republic during1992-1997.






total P






not det.











not det.











not det.






Significant decreases in COD at all sites documents an improved situation in the treatment of industrial wastes. However, the marginal decreases in nitrates and the high concentrations of phosphorous indicate a problem of eutrophication and secondary pollution from phytoplankton production.

2.3 Land use and soils

The forest area in the Czech Republic is about 34% of total land area and has increased by approximately 1.5% over the last 30 years. Reforestation schemes implemented over the last two centuries also determined an increase of forest land.

Czech foresters have, however, for decades, planted a monoculture of spruce which covers 54% of the total forest area. This has resulted in forests which are more susceptible to damage caused by unfavourable climatic conditions and biological pests. Furthermore, the increasing emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides and dry deposition of pollutants have also caused defoliation and led to a decrease in soil pH levels. As a result, forests have become more susceptible to insect pests, such as the bark beetle. Since 1989, emissions have decreased and a recovery from acidification is already noticeable in lakes and rivers (Kopácek et al. 1997, Kopácek et al. 1998, Vrba et al. 1998).

As a consequence of economic and political changes, considerable arable land has been abandoned. There has been a 3% decrease in agricultural area during the last seven years. This land, especially in submontaneous and hilly region, is slowly turning to shrub and woodland (Mejstrík et al. 1995). In addition, the reduction of the levels of food production required for admission to the European Union, will result in a further decrease in agricultural land .

2.4 Toxic substances

Monitoring of heavy metals and organic toxic substances (pesticides, PCB, PAH and others) has only begun recently, thus long-term data reviews are not available. Contamination of soils and river sediments by heavy metals and organic material is significant in some places and the risk of release to the environment is not know in detail. Contamination of the food chain for human use has been monitored since 1994 following the Decision of the Government of the Czech Republic No. 408 of June 10, 1992. Contaminants were investigated in more than 40 kinds of foodstuffs i.e.: Cd, Pb, Hg, As, PCBs, hexachlorbenzen, lindan and DDT (Ministry of Environment, 1998).

2.5 Biodiversity

The country is located at the crossroads of Europe and spans four bio-geographical provinces. It lies between the Hercynian and Carpathian European Highlands and on the boundaries of continental and alpine glaciations. Important continental migration routes of biota run through the territory of the Czech Republic, such as the main Eurasian bird flyways. Despite its relatively small size, the country contains six biosphere reserves, ten ramsar sites, two biogenetic reserves of the Council of Europe and sixteen important bird areas. Protected areas in the Czech Republic cover 10, 869 km2, some 13.8% of the whole territory.

Biodiversity is relatively well conserved and is characterized by diverse geological, geomorphological, geographic and climatic conditions. The country has a relatively high biological and landscape diversity, including a considerable number of animal and plant species (Plesník & Roudná 1998).

Table 2.3. Flora and fauna of the Czech Republic


No. of species

No. of non-native species

No. of threatened species

No. of extinct species







24, 800-43, 000




Other invertebrates

5, 000




Vascular plants

2, 520


1, 100








1, 400





~ 30, 000




The flora of the Czech Republic represents 25% of the total number of species known in Europe. The IUCN Red List names 36 globally threatened animal species and 52 globally threatened plant species in the Czech Republic. Cultivated plants and domestic animals (including original ancient cultivars, breeds and races) also deserve attention due to their long cultivation, selection and breeding history in the territory.

This notable biological and landscape diversity was negatively affected by historical intensive agriculture and industrial development. The main threats for biodiversity are: (i) loss or significant change of habitats (draining wetlands, increasing arable land to large areas, regulating rivers, monocultures, etc.) (ii) segmentation of natural bio-corridors (river dams, highways, etc.) (iii) acidification of water and soil (leading to extinction of species and whole trophic levels in some ecosystems) (iv) eutrophication (both nitrogen and phosphorus and other nutrients enrichments) (v) contamination by pesticides and other toxic chemicals and (vi) invasive species.

3. Status of National Environmental Observing Systems

3.1 Institutional framework

The following organizations fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment: the Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection of the Czech Republic, the Czech Environmental Institute, the Czech Geological Institute, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, the Czech Environmental Inspection Agency, Geofund of the Czech Republic, the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic, the Research Institute of Ornamental Gardening and the T.G. Masaryk Water Management Research Institute.

The Ministry of Agriculture controls the Czech Agricultural and Food Inspection, the State Board of Veterinary, the State Board of Plant Care, the Central Control and Experimental Institute of Agriculture and the Czech Inspectorate for Improvement and Breeding of Farming Animals.

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMI) oversees activities in the field of meteorology and climatology, hydrology and air protection. The CHMI is State funded (80%) and by external sources (20%).

The Hydrobiological Institute is funded by the Czech Academy of Sciences which covers approximately 40% of the budget, and by research projects of various grant agencies and consultancies. The Institute has three departments: Production Processes, Aquatic Microbial Ecology and the Hydrochemistry. The Institute principally carries out research on biotic interrelations and their interactions with abiotic factors in standing water bodies (ponds, lakes etc), especially man-made reservoirs in the Vltava River watershed. It alternates experimental and field approaches and basic regular long-term ecological research on selected Czech reservoirs. It works in close cooperation with the Faculty of Biological Sciences of the University of South Bohemia, through the use of researchers in teaching and students in research projects.

The institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Botany, Landscape Ecology, Soil Biology etc.) and universities (Charles, Masaryk, Mendel, South Bohemia) also carry out long-term monitoring of various terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems to assess the effects caused by changing environmental variables.

3.2. Analysis of existing observation sites

There are three National Parks in the Czech Republic(Krkonoše National Park, Šumava National Park and Podyjí National Park). In addition, there are 24 protected landscape areas. Krkonoše, Šumava and four protected landscape areas (Krivoklátsko, Trebon Basin, Pálava and Bílé Karpaty) are UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, managed by the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme. Integrated monitoring is carried out in the biosphere reserves, although there is a lack of human resources.

The Forestry and Game Institute, based in Prague, runs long-term monitoring programs mainly in Northern Bohemia and in the Krkonoše National Park. The quality of forests was monitored in the framework ICP Forest. Regional long-term forest monitoring in the Krkonoše, Šumava and Beskydy Mountains is carried out by IFER (Institute for Forest Ecology Research Ltd) in Jílové.

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMI) is responsible for studying atmospheric and water issues. It monitors air pollution based on data gathered at approximately 40 measurement points and a report on air pollution is produced annually. It processes data on water quality collected by the River Board Authorities at 260 sampling sites on main rivers. These data are gradually being integrated with data on rainfall. Monitoring of basic chemical and physical variables has been carried out since 1963. From 1968, radioactivity has also been measured. Since 1992 data on heavy metals, organic and biological components has been collected at 82 sites. A new, more complete, monitoring system was developed this year based on the compilation of 20 profiles, including particles, organics, radioactivity, sedimentation, etc). Biological monitoring is performed at 8 profiles (saprobic and benthic fauna + indicator species of mollusca, crustacea, chironomids and fish (bream). Bio-assays and biofilm contamination analysis is carried out using molluscs exposed in cages or on artificial blocks for two months. Work in this field is limited by lack of a map of the sources of pollution. The CHMI also monitors groundwater (shallow water, boreholes and springs) for nitrate, ammonium, cations, and anions). It also operates the Košetice site in the framework of ICP Integrated Monitoring.

Long term monitoring of reservoirs and lakes is undertaken by the Hydrobiological Institute of the Czech Academy which has managed field stations in various reservoirs (e.g. Slapy reservoir of the Vltava River since 1959, Rímov reservoir on the Malše river since 1979). Chemical, biological and microbiological characteristics of the reservoir are investigated. Long term monitoring has documented the deterioration of water quality in the Vltava River. Long term acidification was studied in the Šumava Mountain Lakes.

3.3. National networking

The Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture plan, supervise and support various programmes aimed at conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of agricultural and forest biological diversity within the framework of State Environmental Policy (adopted by the Czech Government in 1995) and of the State Nature and Conservation and Landscape Protection Programmes (adopted by the Czech Government in 1998). Conservation of biodiversity is also reflected as a priority issue in the State Agricultural Policy and in the Basic Principles of the State Forestry Policy (adopted in 1994 and 1995).

The Czech Environmental Institute (CEI) manages the data of the Ministry of the Environment and standardizes national environmental information systems. It also assesses the availability of data required for sustainable development indicators that are being developed in cooperation with OECD and UN-DESA.

The Czech Geological Institute collects, evaluates and publishes information on the geological structure of the Czech Republic. The Geofund carries out documentation and management of information activities related to the state geological survey.

The Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection was established to provide an integrated information system for nature protection (covering over 7000 species) using satellite imagery and GIS technology. It is also in charge of the central register of nature protection and land property in specially protected areas.

The Structural Policy and Ecology Department of the Ministry of Agriculture studies ecological problems such as the impact of agricultural production on ecology and the landscape and proposes policies aimed at mitigating such problems and harmonizing agricultural production with sustainable development. The Department also monitors approximately 200 biofarms (twice a year) with a view to reducing total agricultural production.

Since 1985, forestry monitoring has been carried out every two years by the Forest Management Institute and the Research Institute for Amelioration and Soil Quality. The Forest Management Institute is the data holder.

The Hydrobiological Institute is responsible for collecting and storing data on freshwater systems, with the aim of predicting trends in water quality and suggesting technological measures for its improvement. Main topics studied include eutrophication, biotic interactions, and long-term changes in ionic composition of rivers, reservoirs and lakes. The analyses focus on the effects of acid rain and fertilization.

The Hydrometeorological Institute is responsible for the collection and storing of other institutions according to standard methods. The data, in electronic and geo-referenced form, is stored in a database in the Institute. A specific department was established in 1995 to collect data on climate change, on the basis of which an annual national inventory of emissions is published. It adheres to IPCC methodology.

Various other institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences, such as the Botanical Institute in Trebon and the Institute of Entomology in Ceské Budejovice have long-term data on spreading of invasive species, fluctuations of bird populations, waterfowl counting and wetland studies.

3.4 International networking

3.5 Analysis of Legal Framework for data handling

A significant quantity of data on the environment is issued each year in the Environmental Yearbook (Ministry of the Environment and Czech Statistical Office) together with the relevant references, including institutions which gathered the original data.

3.6 Use of environmental information

Although reports of monitoring and research projects on the environment are available on request to the respective grant agencies, these often have little value for experts (who need to compare the ecosystem status among different ecosystems or in the same ecosystem after several years) since they rarely contain metadata and necessary method details, and often present some average values without original data and statistical evaluation. Information for the public (interested to know the quality of respective environment) is often not presented in a useful form since it does not contain evaluation on risks etc. This situation sometimes makes the use of results ineffective.

Some authors (or institutions) consider the original data their own property and are reluctant to release them to grant agencies, even if the data were financed by "tax payers". Each environmental project must set out clear rules for use of data by outside users. It is clear that many ecological data are not "routine" and the expertise of the respective author is an implicit part of the data presented.

4. User Needs Assessment - Priority Needs of Information

Priority needs should be determined by the requirements of international conventions or by the laws concerning environment and main threats (see Sections 1.2 and 2).

5. Observation and Methodologies for Data Handling and Development Needs

5.1 Need for Standard Methodologies in Integration

As mentioned in sections 3.3 and 3.4, a variety of monitoring networks exist in the Czech Republic, designed for different purposes and using different methods. At present no overall monitoring system exists; each system tends to be aimed at specific issues and in the same way the methods are specific for different networks. This also means that different monitoring sites are chosen for different purposes. Each network tries to standardize and unify its own methods.

Different networks are financed from different sources and obliged to use varying standard methods. As a result, overall unification would prove difficult. It would be useful if the following guidelines could be adopted: (i) statistical evaluation or intercalibration of precision and/or accuracy of particular methods among various networks and various institutions, (ii) possible 'fusion' of sites from different networks to achieve an effective integration of monitoring activities.

Complete integration of all monitoring activities to standard sites is neither possible nor desirable. However a multilevel approach might be introduced using a set of first-level routine analyses covering a large representativearea, as well as higher levels of more detailed and sophisticated analyses performed in selected sites by experts.

5.2 Institutional framework

As mentioned previously, the approach to various types of monitoring is diverse and problems occur due to duplication and poor cooperation between certain networks. As a result of the present difficult economic situation in the Czech Republic, financing of governmental institutions (including researchers and universities) is often insufficient. Consequently, organizations and bodies tend not to divulge results and monitoring systems.

5.3 Need for a national meta-database

Metadata is one of the weakest points of monitoring activities in the country. Monitoring results are delivered mostly in three types: (i) files with data on electronic media (ii) written reports ordered by Ministries and other often containing unoriginal data without appropriate statistical elaboration (iii) publications in scientific journals where methods are not always well described or precision of results evaluated, and original data are frequently not published due to lack of space.

In cases (i) and (ii), metadata such as details of methods, sampling sites, procedures, authors etc. are not included and are lost after several years. In cases (ii) and (iii), original data are not included and therefore are not available for future comparison with situations in other ecosystems or other countries. Users should be encouraged to request original data sets and details on methods used.

The problem of storage must also be resolved. Networks usually have their databases but single institutions cannot store data from many different networks. It would, however, be useful to create a database of existing environmental data including contact addresses, information on location of original data and other metadata, and with the possibility of searching for region, ecosystem type, type of data analyzed, frequency, observation period etc. GTOS activities might support the setting up of such a database.

Some independent and simultaneous integration of data from various networks is carried out at the large sites with integrated monitoring, such as biosphere reserves, landscape protection areas and national parks. These data should contain information on monitoring and research activities performed on their territories including summaries of information by region. This process is now under development. A considerable amount of historical data still has to be preserved more satisfactorily and some recent data, elaborated by other institutions, needs to be organized in the form of original files with exact metadata.

5.4 Training Needs

The personnel and appropriate experts to carry out monitoring activities in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including methods for sophisticated environmental analyses, are available and the training of students is of a good level in research institutes and universities. Monitoring activity (generating basic data) is limited by the lack of financial means, equipment, automatic analyzers etc., rather than by a lack of trained experts.

Training will be helpful in the field of constructing complex environmental databases, metadata systems, data protection and storage, and also for generating systems of basic and special (1st level and 2nd level - see section 5.1) sets of parameters and methods of integrated monitoring. These should be effective, simple and low cost wherever possible.

The elaboration and evaluation of data i.e. the effective use of information, which is hidden in data, requires further development. Often, data are collected, put into a database, simple statistics undertaken but the final result is a description rather than an explanation or evaluation. Comparison with the data gathered in other fields, other periods, other ecosystems, and a discussion of differences, are frequently lacking. In this respect, a system of international cooperation and intercomparisons would be helpful.

5.6 Identification of main potential users of a future GTOS information supply.

The questionnaires mentioned in section 2, identified researchers to be the main users of GTOS followed by governmental bodies, regional authorities, NGOs and the public.

Users of GTOS will be determined by the information generated. If information is provided in data files in different formats, then they would be valuable only for experts able to further elaborate the data. On the other hand, for public, media or educational purposes, as well as for regional administration, EIA processes etc., the data must be presented in an elaborated form. Consequently, GTOS should follow specific procedures when (i) collecting data, (ii) constructing databases and handling metadata, (iii) elaborating and evaluating data for diverse users. This latter will be extremely important for identifying potential users and obtaining possible financial support.


Cerný, M., Frauknechtová, J. & Š. Holá, (1999 submitted). Monitoring of the state of forests (In Czech). Silva Gabreta, submitted.

Czech Republic, 1998. Law of May 13, 1998 on Access to Information on the Environment. Collection of Laws No. 123/1998.

Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and the Federal Committee for the Environment, 1992. National Report of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, for United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

European Environmental Agency (D. Stanners & P. Bourdeau, eds). 1995. Europe's Environment; The Dobríš Assessment. European Environmental Agency, Copenhagn, 676pp.

Federal Research Center for Forestry and Forest Products (BFH), 1998. Forest Condition in Europe. 1998 Executive Report, ICP on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests, 37pp.

Hydrobiological Institute, 1998. 38th Annual Report for the Year 1997. Hydrobiological Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. Ceské Budejovice.

Komárková, J. & Vyhnálek, V. 1998. Long-term changes in chlorophyll concentration and phytoplankton structure in two canyon-type reservoirs. Internat. Rev. Hydrobiol. 83 (Special Issue): 421-430.

Kopácek, J. & J. Hejzlar, 1998. Water chemistry of surface tributaries to the acidified mountain lakes in the Bohemian Forest. Silva Gabreta, Vol. 2: 175-197.

Kopácek, J., Hejzlar, J., Stuchlík, E., Fott, J., & J. Veselý, 1998. Reversibility of acidification of mountain lakes after reduction in nitrogen and sulfur emissions in Central Europe. Limnology and Oceanography 43: 357-361.

Kopácek, J., Procházková, L., Hejzlar, J. & P. Blaka, 1997. Trends and seasonal patterns of bulk deposition of nutrients in the Czech Republic. Atmospheric Environment, Vol. 31: 797-808.

Mejstrík, V., Bartoš, M., Hanousková, I. & Tešitel, J. 1995. Abandoned landscapes in the Czech Republic. In: Schoute, J.F.TH. et al. (eds): Scenario studies for the rural environment, Kluwer, The Netherlands, p. 39-45.

Ministry of the Environment, Czech Statistical Office, 1998. Environmental Yearbook of the Czech Republic. Ministry of the Environment, Prague, 1998.

OECD, 1999. Environmental Performance Reviews, Czech Republic. OECD, Paris, 1999.

Plesník, J. & Roudná, M. (eds). 1998. National biodiversity conservation strategy and action plan in the Czech Republic. Status of biological resources and implementation of the convention on biological diversity in the Czech Republic. 1st Report. Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic, Prague.

Prchalová, M. (ed). 1998. Czech Republic. Biodiversity protection project (GEF grant TF-02-8617-CZ). Implementation completion report - draft. Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic.

Sed'a, J. & J. Kubecka, 1997. Long-term biomanipulation of Rímov Reservoir (Czech Republic). Hydrobiologia 345: 95-108.

Straškrabová, V., Brandl, Z., Hrbácek, J., Komárková, J., Sed'a, J., Straškraba, M. & Straškraba, M. 1998. Long-term changes of bacteria, phytoplankton and zooplankton: temporal coherence between deep stratified reservoirs. Internat. Rev. Hydrobiol. 83 (Special Issue): 21-30.

Straškrabová, V. & Flousek, J. 1999. Long-term ecological research - specific problems in Central European countries, case situation in Czech Republic. In: P. Bijok & M. Prus (eds), Long-term ecological research; examples, methods, perspectives for Central Europe. Proc. of the ILTER Regional Workshop, Sept. 16-18, 1998, Madralin near Warsaw, Poland, Internat. Centre of Ecology, Polish Academy of Sciences, US LTER Office, pp. 21-24.

Straškrabová, V., Jelínková, E. & Kvet, J. 1998. Czech Republic - the long term ecological research program. In: R. Waide, C. French, P. Sprott & L. Williams (compiled by), The international long term ecological research network, US LTER Network Office, Albuquerque, N.M., USA, pp. 32-37.

The Czech Environmental Institute (ed.). 1998. Statistical environmental yearbook of the Czech Republic 1998. The Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic, Czech Statistical Office. 493 pp.

Vrba, J., Kopácek, J., Straškrabová V., Hejzlar J. & K. Šimek, 1996. Limnological research of acidified lakes in Czech part of the Šumava mountains: trophic status and dominance of microbial food webs. Silva Gabreta, Vol. 1:151-164.

Zatloukal, V., 1998. Historical and current factors of the bark beetle calamity in the Šumava National Park. Silva Gabreta, Vol. 2: 327-357.

Zemek, F., Herman, M. 1998. Landscape pattern changes in the Šumava Region - a GIS approach. Silva Gabreta, Vol. 2: 395-403.

List of Institutions and Contact Persons Visited.

15 June 1999 - Ministry of the Environment (Vršovicka 65, 100 10 Praha 10 -

Persons present



Milena Roudná

Global Relations Department, MoE

[email protected]

Jan Plesnik

Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection

[email protected]

Theresa Votocková

Czech Environmental Institute

15 June 1999 - Ministry of Agriculture (Tešnov 17, 117 05 Prague 01 -

Persons present



Vojtech Havránek

External Relations Department, MoA

Luboš Babicka

Structural Policy and Ecology Department, MoA

[email protected]

Karel Charvát

Consultant for the Forest Management Institute

[email protected]

16 June 1999 - Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (Na Šabatce 17, 143 06 Prague 4 - )

Persons present



Drahomíra Leontovycová

Dept. of Water Quality

[email protected]

Josef Hladný

Deputy Director of Experimental Hydrology Dept.

[email protected]

Viera Straškrábová

Hydrobiological Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences Faculty of Sciences, University of South Bohemia

[email protected]

16 June 1999 - Hydrobiological Institute, Academy of Sciences CR (Na sádkach 7, 370 05 Ceské Budejovice - )

Persons present



Zdenek Brandl

Dean, University of South Bohemia, Faculty of Biological Sciences

[email protected]

Josef Matena

Director, Hydrobiological Institute, AS CR

[email protected]

Viera Straškrábová

Chairman of the Scientific Council, Hydrobiological Institute, AS CR and University of South Bohemia, Faculty of Biological Sciences

[email protected]

Country Assessment on the Environment, Hungary

Dr. Katalin Török

GTOS National Focal Point for Hungary,

Regional GTOS Coordinator at Sub-regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe, FAO

1. Country profile


10, 135, 358 (January 1998)

National product:

GDP-purchasing power parity: $74.7 billion (1996 )

National product per capita

Ppurchasing power parity: $7, 500 (1996)


GDP in agriculture: 7.3%

Main agricultural products: wheat, corn, sunflower seed, potatoes, sugar beets, pigs, cattle, poultry, dairy products


Temperate: cold, cloudy, humid winters, warm summers

Bio-geographical zone: forest steppe


The country is made up principally of flat or rolling plains, with low mountains on the Slovakian border. Vast flat lands, called The Great Plain (puszta) lie in the central-eastern region and form two national parks. The Bukk Mountains are also a protected area. Large caves in the north (Aggtelek) are part of the World Heritage. Central Europe's largest lake (Lake Balatan) is a popular tourist attraction but has considerable air and water pollution problems. Annual flooding occurs.

Lowest point: Tisza River 78 m

Highest point: Kekes 1, 014 m

Natural resources

Bauxite, coal, natural gas, fertile soils, thermal springs

Land use

Arable land: 51% Permanent crops : 4% Permanent pastures: 12% Forests and woodland: 19% Other: 14% (1998 May)

Irrigated land: 2, 060 km2 (1993)

International agreements

Party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

Signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Law of the Sea


Current issues: a recent government study (1996) identified 179 areas that suffer from air pollution, 54 areas with polluted soil, and 32 areas with polluted underground water.

The study estimated clean-up costs at $350 million, but the 1996 government budget allocated only about $7 million for this purpose

2. Major Environmental Threats

Environmental threats are discussed in relation to GTOS issues and priorities. Pollution, loss of biodiversity and land quality are all very important issues in Hungary, but setting priorities is more subjective. Since these issues interact in a complex way, it is often difficult to make distinctions and to separate them.

2.1 Pollution and toxicity

Pollution and toxicity are major environmental problems. The interaction between pollution, loss of biodiversity and land quality frequently makes prioritisation difficult. Therefore these problems must be considered together.

With regard to air pollution, the emission of sulphur dioxide and particulate matter had already decreased before 1990 as a result of the use of nuclear power, the gas programme and the introduction of new technologies in oil processing. In the 1990s further drastic reductions occurred (e.g. emission of sulphur dioxide decreased from one million to 670 thousand tons per year between 1990 and 1996 (Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 1999) when heavy industry collapsed as a result of political changes. At the same time some resources were invested to reduce pollution.

The amount of nitrogen oxide emission has not changed significantly and discharge deriving from traffic remains almost constant. A great achievement of the past few years, however, is the significant decrease in lead emission originating from the reduction in the use of leaded petrol (lead emission decreased from 634 to 126 thousand tons per year from 1980 to 1996). In 1999, leaded petrol was totally eliminated from the market and this will further reduce pollution. The use of chemicals depleting ozone layer has been reduced by 70% between 1990 and 1997 (HSCO 1999).

Methane is the only significant agricultural air pollutant. The decrease of emissions since 1990 is the result of a reduction in fuel consumption for financial reasons. The emission of methane also decreased due to a decline in stock numbers (a decrease from 29% to 54% for various livestock species from 1990 to 1997, Szabo, 1999). The stock number of cattle decreased from in 2 018 000 in 1950 to 871 000 in 1997 (HCSO 1997).

Despite improvements following economic and political changes, air quality is still unsatisfactory. 3.9% of the territory of Hungary suffers from considerable air pollution and 9.3% from moderate pollution. Nearly half of the population is living in polluted urban and industrial areas (GRID 1998).

Water pollution is another serious problem in Hungary. The country's geographical position means that it receives only 11% of the catchment area of the Danube, while 95% of surface water comes from other countries. This water is subject to considerable pollution from foreign sources. Even land use in the neighbouring countries can have a major effect on water quality and quantity (floods) in Hungary. The quality of water is directly related to the availability of freshwater (Section 2.4).

The number of sources discharging waste and used water into surface water has increased drammatically in the last few years: from 7 187 in 1994 to 56 903 in 1997 (HCSO 1999). Economic changes have brought a reduction of water consumption (877 million m3 in 1980 and 817 million m3 in 1997, HCSO 1997). The development of water treatment resulted in treating double the amount of water. In 1997, 60% of the population was connected to public sewerage. Among the regularly monitored discharges, 45% comes from urban areas.

In 1996, two million m3 of waste water were discharged to surface waters transporting 430 tons of organic matter each day. This can cause eutrophication, oxygen deficiency, fishery and human health problems (GRID 1998). The high level of organic matter is partly due to poor agricultural practices leading to soil erosion (e.g. use of heavy machinery, lack of erosion control).

Agriculture activities, such as irrigation practices, the use of fertilisers or liquid manure, the application of herbicides and pesticides, exert an important influence on water quality. However, in the past few years agricultural production has taken on a more extensive, and at the same time, less environmentally polluting character (Szabó 1999). For example, the use of fertilizers has decreased from 1045 thousand tons in 1980 to 350 thousand tons in 1997 (HCSO 1997).

Human activities have a significant effect on the hydro-geological character, quantity and quality of ground water. Nitrate contamination of shallow ground water is caused by the lack of sewage treatment or inappropriate use of liquid manure (GRID 1998). Industrial areas are characterised by heavy metal and hydrocarbon contamination of ground water, especially where mining activities destroy protecting layers. On the other hand, due to improvements in drinking water supplies, the number of settlements having undrinkable water has been significantly reduced in the past 7 years, from 475 in 1990 to 33 in 1997 (HCSO 1999).

Soil quality and soil processes are influenced by human activities such as industry, traffic, urban development, landfill, mining, waste deposits and agricultural practices. These activities also exert major effects on land quality (Section 2.3).

Over 66% of the territory of Hungary is dominated by agricultural production. Agricultural practices mostly focus on improving soil in the short term. Land property rights are also important for sustainable land use: the fact that there is no link between land use and land ownership demotivates farmers to take long-term effects into consideration (Szabó 1999).

There are about ten thousand polluted localities in Hungary. Although soils have a remarkable self-regenerating, buffering and storing capacity, heavily polluted soils, such as those in the former soviet military camps and airports, need to be improved by programmes such as those under the Environmental Remediation Programme (GRID 1998).

In Hungary almost 110 million tons of waste is produced each year. Only 30% of communal landfills meet the environmental standards to varying degrees (GRID 1998). The amount of municipal solid waste has increased during the last few years (17 thousand m3 in 1990, 19 thousand m3 in 1997), a great part of which is discharged in an uncontrolled manner (16% in 1997). About 40% of municipal solid waste contains potential secondary raw material that is not re-used. However, the total amount of hazardous waste generated in Hungary has decreased from 4.4 million tons to 2.6 million tons between 1991 and 1996. The majority of hazardous waste (72%) is of mineral origin i.e. metal waste or waste of chemical conversion (HCSO 1999).

2.2 Loss of biodiversity

The intensification of agriculture and rapid development of industry in the 1800's in Hungary, as elsewhere in Europe, constituted a threat to biota at all levels (genetic, population, habitat and landscape). However, the extension of Hungary's land, its diversified geomorphology and transitional type of climatic zone, has ensured a relative equilibrium in nature. Secondary habitats of high natural value, such as hay meadows and the alkaline grasslands, have also been created. The variety of bed rock types provides habitats for different species groups. The present, rather low, level of industrialisation and infrastructure contribute to the protection of such habitats. Due to a certain isolation of the country during the communist period, unknown natural values were found in the early 1990's (Kiraly et al. 1999).

Although public awareness of environmental issues in Hungary has grown over the last few years, the situation is still problematic. Severe threats remain in the form of habitat loss, extinction of species less able to adapt to environmental changes, the reduction in number of variations of species and invasion by alien species. Intensive agricultural practices, poorly controlled deforestation, agricultural, industrial and human pollution are the principal direct causes for biodiversity loss. Efforts have been made recently to comply with EU regulations regarding sustainable agricultural practices but the transfer of property rights into private hands has made controls difficult to enforce. Short-term interests, with little regard for sustainability, continue to be a problem (Megyery 1998).

Agriculture is not the only reason for habitat loss. Urbanisation, industrialisation and development of infrastructure pose major threats. However, the 1995 Act on the Regulation of the Protection of the Environment (Act LIII) imposed strict regulations on the issue of building permits. Other problems for the environment arise from factors such as lowering of the water table, changes in agricultural management (e.g. cessation of mowing of hay meadows) etc. Hungary's application for admission to the European Union (see also 2.3) will probably incease preservation of natural habitats. In areas of low agricultural production, it is likely that agriculture will be abandoned and rehabilitation programmes will encourage expansion of natural habitat areas. Nature conservation in these regions will be reinforced by the recently established Ecological Network (Ministry of the Environment, 1998).

The invasion of alien species, principally from America but also from Asia, can impact significantly on nature. Despite customs regulations regarding transport of plants and soil, there has been a significant rise in the amount of non-indigenous plants which pose a serious threat to the local natural species and could result in the extinction of some species. Research is being carried out to study the reasons of different sensitivity of communities to such an invasion.

Among the alien species which have invaded Hungary are some plants which cause notable human allergic responses. In particular species of ragweed (e.g. Ambrosia artemisiifolia) have increased. The pollen of this plant causes allergic reactions in a quarter of the population with negative repercussions on the working force. This plant has spread over fallow lands very rapidly in the past few years and a monitoring system has now been set up to study its development.

Deterioration in different types of habitats usually results in extinction of rare species since alien species, which are more resistant, tend to take over these habitats. This can result in loss of biodiversity. The introduction of alien species, such as black locust (Robinia pseudacacia), into plantations can also contribute to the deterioration of habitats since it causes changes in the lower layers of the forest. Although forestry is turning towards the plantation of native tree species in clear-cut areas, the area of black locust plantations has increased by 25% since 1981 (HCSO 1999).

Fragmentation of habitats caused by different types of land use is another threat to biodiversity at all levels. It is now recognised that linear objects like railway, roads, pipelines and artificial canals separate habitats in a way that is harmful to biological diversity. Several technical solutions have been designed (such as frog tunnels) to reduce the influence of fragmentation. There are several examples for such investments in Hungary. Unfortunately these efforts are focused on new establishments.

The diversity of a particular habitat is inversely related to its size and also to the distance from other natural habitats. This rule should determine the priority setting of environmental management: few large natural habitats have a higher priority than many smaller habitats of the same total size. The future establishment of the Ecological Network by building ecological corridors, besides the natural corridors like river valleys (Gallé et al. 1995) will hopefully reduce the threat of fragmentation (Ministry for Environment 1998)

Pollution of all the components of the environment detailed in Section 2.1, causes biodiversity loss. The different sensitivity of species to pollutants results in a change of species composition: in most cases the rare species with narrow tolerance become extinct. Urban and industrial regions tend to produce high amounts of pollutants and this results in the impoverishment of surrounding habitats. For example, lichens, which are sensitive to air pollution suffer and so-called lichen deserts develop in large cities, like Budapest (Farkas et al. 1985). The biota of water courses and lakes is mostly threatened by pollution and eutrophication. The contamination of wellheads and aquifers has a detrimental effect on the surrounding water-dependent biota.

Tourism is a problem particularly in the scenic, more often hilly, areas. In the Buda and Visegrád mountains, which are close to the capital, rock grasslands are damaged by trampling. These valuable local habitats are the home of ornamental and aromatic plants which are removed indiscriminately by visitors. Rock grasslands also suffer overgrazing of moufflons (Ovis musimon), an introduced game species.

Hungary possesses natural sites that are unique to Europe. Efforts are being made to protest these more effectively. Tables 2.1 and 2.2 give a short summary of achievements by the nature protection authorities during the last few years (HCSO 1999, Ministry of Environment 1998).

Table 2.1 Protected areas

Conservation category

Number 1994/1998

Area in 1000 ha 1994/1998

Strictly protected in 1000 ha 1994/1998

National parks (NP)


178 /422

29 /76, 7

Landscape protection areas (TK) (became parts of the NPs)


467 /341, 7

56 /30, 6

Nature conservation areas (TT)


26 /26, 4

1, 6/1, 3

Natural monument




Total of national protected areas


670 /790, 9

86, 6 /108, 6

Protected areas of local importance

1 067

35, 8



1 253

826, 7

108, 6

Percentage of Hungary

8, 88%

1, 17%

Table 2.2 Protected species

Global sp. No.

Hungarian sp. No.

Protected 1994/1998

Strictly protected 1994/1998

Total 1994/1998




456 /463

47 /52

415 /515










38 /38






1 /1










1 250.000


781 /771

76 /84

857 /855


1 205.000


389 /389

- / -

389 /389




383 /382

76 /84

459 /466




































1 600.000


1237 /1234

123 /136

1360 /1370

Although these data look encouraging, insufficient funds and lack of staff means that nature conservation authorities are unable to control the frequent violations of the law in this field. Even when protection of the environment from direct human impact is achieved, habitats are often destroyed as a result of other forms of degradation detailed above. A methodology for the assessment of the state of vegetation was developed in Hungary on the basis of ecological indicators and natural conservation of species (Borhidi 1995). The application of this system provides a tool for an early assessment of vegetation degradation. A similar approach of species evaluation was developed for vertebrates (Báldi et al. 1995)

2.3 Land quality

In this report land quality refers to a review of the state of a particular terrestrial area and analysis of the equilibrium between man and nature. Such a review involves focussing on a number of environmental components, such as loss of soil productivity, landscape elements, the intensity of erosion, the sustainability of land use, the state of native biota.

The Carpathian Basin is well suited for agricultural production: arable lands and grasslands have covered the lowlands for centuries. Soil erosion on slopes, caused by precipitation and wind, occurs in the Middle-Range and in the higher parts of the Transdanubian region. Erosion causes loss of the humus content in the soil, a change in texture and reduced productivity potential. Some alluvial areas have been exposed to sedimentation during floods. This process has been halted or greatly restricted through the building of dikes in the last century.

Over the last century water and land regulation has benefited form important state subsidies. These investments, however, were reduced during periods of political change: land improvement was carried out on 200 000 ha in 1985 but on only 21 000 ha in 1997 (HCSO 1999).

During the 1960's, considerable financial resources were invested in very large arable lands which could be worked with heavy machinery. The excessive size of the plots, the changes in the water drainage system as a result of the filling in of ditches and soil erosion, resulted in severe flooding in 1998, when rainfall was unusually high. In 1999 violent rainstorms raised water levels in various small rivers, again causing flooding. It is estimated that one-third of Hungary's territory is affected by intensifying soil decay and erosion (HCSO 1999).

By the end of 1998 almost the entire former cooperative land property and the majority of state land had been transferred to private ownership (Szabó 1999). This privatisation (on a compensation basis) resulted in fragmentation of land and consequent increase in the number of landowners (up to 700 000). The majority of landowners do not cultivate the land themselves but lease out the land to others. Land can be rented out for a maximum of 10 years. This system does not encourage sustainable land use and consequently has detrimental effects on land quality.

General economic problems have influenced agricultural inputs (chemicals and energy as discussed in 2.2.), resulting in a decline of soil fertility. At the same time, the reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers is more environmentally friendly. Organic farming is also practised in Hungary and the Biocultural Association counts approximately 1500 members. Quality control is assured by the Bioculture Control Association. The total area monitored reached 21, 5 thousand hectares in 1998 (Szabó 1999).

In 1985 there was a 2% reduction of land under agricultural cultivation. Further reductions were only 0.05% in following years but increased to 0.08% in 1997 (HSCO 1999). The majority of abandoned area is arable land and grassland. It is probable that, when Hungary becomes a member of the EU, further agricultural lands will be abandoned. This land is, at present, often afforested, but as forestry is also turning towards more productive areas (Gobölös 1994), it is likely that further abandonment of low productive arable land will take place.

About 7% of the total area of Hungary is covered by low-fertility sandy or alkaline soils. These areas were previously used for grazing, but as livestock production decreased considerably, these territories have been abandoned. The current economic and social situation anticipates a concentration of agricultural effort to the most productive areas of Hungary, though programmes of rural development focus on underdeveloped areas. The transitional nature of development will most probably have an important influence on land quality of Hungary in the near future.

2.4 Availability of freshwater resources

There is no shortage of freshwater in the Carpathian Basin, so its use is highly dependent on its quality (see 2.1.). The main water resources consist of surface and sub-surface water. The total natural surface water resources are 2, 3 thousand m3/s and the utilisable surface water is around 1, 1 thousand m3/s. Sub-surface water production has decreased during the last few years from 4, 4 thousand m3/day in 1985 to 2, 9 thousand m3/day in 1996. The majority is produced from stratum water (46%, 1996) and bank-filtered water (34 %), karstic water only reaches 15% of sub-surface water production. Decrease in water production by the water services corresponds to the decrease in water consumption. The latter decreased from 1 888 million m3 in 1992 to 1 230 million m3 in 1996 (HSCO 1999).

A large part of the population is dependent on bank-filtered water (e.g. Budapest). The exploitable bank-filtred water is 7, 5 million m3 per day in Hungary, whereas the sub-surface dynamic water resources in the mountains reaches only around 1, 5 million m3 per day (HSCO 1999). Bank-filtered wellheads are endangered by river and surface pollution. Dredging of the river beds, anaerobic conditions in the sediment and increased speed of ground water flow also deteriorate the quality of this type of water (GRID 1998).

The level of the water table underwent a remarkable decrease in the 70s and 80s in Hungary as a result of overuse, drought and excessive canalisation. In the Danube-Tisza interfluvial region the water table decreased by 50 mm each year. This process has slowed down and even halted in some areas due to elevated precipitation and efforts to retain water by closing canals.

Hungary has a significant quantity of karstic water produced by a combination of mining and precipitation factors. Karstic water lifting was reduced by 50% in the 90s resulting in a positive balance, reaching a level of 1 million m3 per day. Hungary is also famous for its thermal springs that are widely used for health purposes.

2.5 Climate change

Hungary joined the Climate Change Convention in ??? to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Due to economic recession, this did not require vast changes in policies.

Climate change is considered the least important among the GTOS issues in Hungary. The public has very little knowledge or interest in this problem although scientists are aware of its potential threats. This apparent indifference is due to a number of reasons. In such a relatively small area, local and regional heterogeneity and fluctuation tend to conceal global tendencies. In addition, the diversity of climate change prediction models and consequent contradictory forecasts at the regional level induce lack of confidence.

In Hungary, climate change is mostly identified with global warming. Regional characteristics of global warming were assessed for the Carpathian Basin as early as 1988 (Mika 1988, 1993). According to this prediction, the frequency of drought months would rise from 1, 4 month/year to 2, 2 in the lowland within 10-30 years.

Climate models predict climatic zones to shift towards the poles by 150-550 km in the mid-latitude regions by 2100 (WMO 1998). Humans and ecosystems will have to adapt to these conditions. Changes in water resources and evapotranspiration patterns will influence agricultural production and the composition of the biota.

As Hungary lies in a transitional biogeographical zone (forest steppe), these changes are likely to occur at an early stage. Forest coverage is likely to diminish in favour of grasslands. The number of different species is likely to decrease drastically. These changes would be a useful indicator of climate warming. Long-term monitoring of biota has already contributed to the detection of existing effects of climatic change, e.g. appearance of Mediterranean moth species in the last few years that were not detected earlier (Leskó & Szabóky 1997).

Ecological indicator values, reflecting the water and the temperature requirements of plant species is a useful tool in assessing compositional changes (Borhidi 1995). Ecophysiological and plant ecological research projects being carried out in Hungary seek effective methodology to assess the influence of climate change on vegetation. However, separating climate change effects from other environmental influences is difficult. New occurrence or extinction of species can be the result of multiple environmental stress (Section 2.2).

3. Status of National Environmental Observing Systems

3.1 Institutional framework

The Department of Environmental Statistics of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (HCSO) is responsible for the collection of environmental data. A law of 1993 determines the framework of data collection. About 20-30% of the available environmental data is gathered through the Official National Data Collection Programme (OSAP). Each year, Ministries suggest which data should be collected under the OSAP. The Department then reviews suggestions to avoid duplication. The result is a regulation of data collection by the Office of the Prime Minister on a yearly basis. The non-official part of the database is gathered on a voluntary basis. Data requests of Eurostat - OECD also have to be satisfied by the Department once every two years. A central database for environmental statistics is under elaboration for different indicators. The Department produces yearbooks on aggregated environmental data that are freely accessed by the public. HCSO is permitted by law to request sensitive data from industries on their levels of emission, but this can only be distributed in an aggregate form. The HCSO collects, sorts and presents data but it does not interpret them.

The Ministry for Environment is the national reference centre for data on the status of the environment. The Ministry has a network of regional authorities responsible for the protection of the environment and nature: 12 regional environmental inspectorates and 9 national parks. These authorities have the responsibility to provide investment permissions, accept or refuse environmental impact assessments and to gather environmental data or operate monitoring networks. The Ministry has an internal electronic network with 5 locations in Budapest and the environmental inspectorates and national parks will be linked in the near future.

The Department for Environmental Information System of the Ministry of the Environment has the responsibility to manage data. A yearly report is prepared, with the help of the regional authorities, on the state of the environment based on aggregate data. There is no legal obligation to have a centralised database, however a plan has already been made to develop an environmental information system. The plan is in accordance with the Aarhus Convention signed by the Government of Hungary on data policy. Data on pressures on the environment are public; data on technology and balance of material is considered reserved and available only to the authorities. Internet access to data with time series at the level of municipalities is planned for the end of 1999, but the format still needs to be improved to make it more user-friendly. The Department has a joint task with the HCSO to develop an Integrated Environmental Economical Information System. The Department has been involved in the CORINE land cover programme and is still promoting the use of the database and the preparation of the next phase in 2000.

The GRID Center in Budapest is under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment. Two regional information centres have been set up to gather national data in a geographical information system, one at Székesfehérvár (environment) and one in Debrecen (nature). A GRID meta-database has been set up with 10 fields and 100 records, but, since there is no incentive to join or share data, it seems to be of little interest to potential participants. There could be a role for GTOS in promoting data sharing.

The National Authority for Nature Conservation in the Ministry of the Environment supervises the national parks that collect data on natural resources. A detailed survey of the present state of biota was carried out during the last few years, but the results have not inserted in a central database so far. While the Hungarian Biodiversity Monitoring System was launched in 1997, the full implementation of the national programme requires several more years of work. This centralised programme could serve the needs of GTOS in relation to the "loss of biodiversity" issue in Hungary.

The Institute for Environmental Management is supervised by the Ministry of the Environment and is responsible for diverse management tasks including collection and analysis of water quality data, monitoring of 241 sampling sites and the implementation of a standard methodology to assess and classify quality of water under the management of different bodies.

The Ministry of Welfare and its subordinate institutions such as the National Public Health Service (ANTSZ) and the National Institute for Environmental Health (OKI) are responsible for environmental problems relating to health, including air and drinking water quality. Basic air pollutants are monitored at 666 urban, industrial and control sites. Data are shared with the Ministry of the Environment. Air quality reports are produced twice a year covering the summer and winter seasons. The latter takes account of the effects of heating. The Hungarian Environmental Health Action programme aims to further develop the air quality monitoring information system.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has considerable responsibilities since two-thirds of Hungary is under agricultural production. The Ministry is also responsible for forest lands and supplies information on crop yields and timber production. New agricultural regulations, based on EU accession requirements, will have a significant impact on land use changes.

The Ministry of Agriculture also operates a network of Plant Protection and Soil Conservation Services. The inspection of diseased plants is monitered through the use of a network of pest traps (mainly Coleopteran insects) in agricultural areas.

The Institute for Geodesy, Cartography and Remote Sensing (FÖMI) is the national reference centre for remotely sensed image distribution and the development of environmental and agricultural applications. The institute is interested in making its data available to potential users such as GTOS.

It is a governmental institute supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. About one fifth of the staff works direcltly with remote sensing. Since 1992 this Centre has been in charge of the CORINE Land Cover programme. However, due to uncertainties regarding the thematic interpretation of the maps, these are seriously under utilized. The land cover map was prepared at a scale of 1:100 000 based on satellite images of the early 90s.

The institute participates in the Hungarian Agro-environmental Programme (in cooperation with the Ministries of Agriculture and the Environment) in the filelds of environmental policy development and monitoring of activities in environmentally sensitive areas.

The Centre has many archives of satellite images dating back to 1973, including a cadastral map series for towns and settlements (1:1000), villages (1:2000) and rural areas (1:4000). Small-scale maps are also stored with the copyright of the Ministry of Defence (from 1:130000 to 1:100000). A great collection of aerial photographs (500.000) dating from 1952 also exists. The data on geodetic triangulation network with 55000 points plus 1000 GPS points is part of the collection similar to the digitised database of the administrative boundary of Hungary. The National Committee for Technological Development for Hungary is in charge of developing a meta-database.

An important task of the institute is to forecast agricultural crop yields, including mapping of crop yields at a scale of 1:50000. A newly developed methodology for image interpretation allows to forecast with a 2-3% precision. The Institute provides expertise and support to the cadastral, land information and geo-information databases (TAKAROS and TAKARNET).

The Scientific Institute for Forestry (ERTI), also supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture, undertakes research concerning forest production and health. An important activity of ERTI, relevant to GTOS, is the operation of a forest light trap monitoring network, which was established in 1962. This institute is responsible for monitoring forest health as part of the International Cooperative Programme and for the integrated monitoring network (14 basic sites).

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) has a network of research institutes, some of which are doing research in relation to environmental sciences in very specific fields and data on the environment is often not accessible.

The Research Institute for Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry (RISSAC) of HAS has identified and mapped the soil types of Hungary. Information on soil quality, salinity and degradation has been stored in GIS format. The RISSAC has taken a major part in the elaboration of the concept of TIM.

Hydrobiological research of the lake Balaton has been carried out for several decades by the Balaton Limnological Institute of HAS in Tihany. Investigations of the chemical composition of the lake helped in understanding the eutrophication process. Research carried out at this site is part of the Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) network.

The Institute of Ecology and Botany has a long tradition in terrestrial and aquatic ecological research. With the help of HAS and the Ministry of the Environment, the Institute is attempting to build up a network of ecological research activities in Hungary. Phytosociological and plant ecological investigations are carried out in various terrestrial ecosystem types. Recently research activities have been concentrated in the Kiskunság region, where an LTER site with a field station is being developed. The Hungarian Danube Research Station, a department of the Institute, has gathered hydrobiological data along the Danube for over 40 years.

Several universities are undertaking research on the quality of the environment, mainly in departments for botany, zoology, ecology or rural development (e.g. Eötvös Lóránt Univesity, Budapest; Kossuth Lajos University, Debrecen; József Attila University, Szeged; University of Forestry, Sopron; Debrecen Agricultural University).

3.2 Analysis of existing observation sites

There are 14 integrated monitoring sites operating in Hungary under the auspices of the ERTI where different deposition indicators (e.g composition of precipitation and stem flow) and productivity are measured. Only one of these integrated sites is listed in the TEMS database (Méntelek). Other TEMS sites include national parks or Biosphere Reserves, where various investigations are carried out from time to time although no standard monitoring is operated. Since data from these sites are not gathered and analysed in a central data base, but stored in separate institutions, their use by GTOS would require structural reorganization.

The LTER sites of Kiskunság, Sikfokút and lake Balaton could be included in the TEMS database. Another possiblility would be to include data collected by two major environmental projects: the construction of a dam and power plant on the Danube, which has changed the hydrology of the Szigetköz region, and the initiative to protect water quality of lake Balaton. At both sites ecological, hydrological and chemical monitoring has been carried out over a period of 6-8 years with data stored centrally.

The full operation of the Hungarian Biodiversity Monitoring System will enable all national parks to be involved in regular, site based, standardised monitoring (more detail in 3.3). The System is, at present, only partly operative but should be fully active in 3 years time.

3.3 National networking

Monitoring of the physical environment is well developed in Hungary. Air quality is measured at hundreds of sites for different variables by the National Institute for Environmental Health and the National Public Health Service with an online information system on urban air quality that is publicly available. A network of sites, with a centralised geographic information system, is available for soil quality (pollution included) within the TIM programme. Water quality monitoring is carried out for selected running water bodies. An overall estimate of water quality classes is produced annually for each main river. CORINE Landcover is not a monitoring system but provides a full coverage of Hungary and aims to be updated on a fine scale based on recent satellite images.

Monitoring the biological component of the environment is labour-intensive and needs a high level of expertise for interpretation of data. Remotely sensed crop yield assessment is carried out for the whole agricultural area of Hungary with several measurements per year at a high level of accuracy. A pest-monitoring network has been operating for agricultural and forested areas for some time. Recently, lack of funds has resulted in the abandonment of several sites and the consequent decrease in number of species groups analysed. Forest health is monitored in a grid system following international standard methodology. The CORINE Biotopes programme resulted in a database of valuable habitats that provides an opportunity for periodic state assessments similar to the network of Biosphere Reserves. Currently, no standardised monitoring is carried out at these sites.

Measurement of biodiversity and assessment of the state of the biota is complex. The Hungarian Biodiversity Monitoring System (HBMS) was launched in order to fulfil the monitoring requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity. However, it is proving difficult to monitor all species and habitats.

Information recorded at different Organizational levels (populations, communities/associations and landscapes) can be compared by focusing measurements to selected sites. A network of 5 by 5 km sampling quadrants (124) has been set up, where mapping at landscape level consititutes the framework within which the more detailed, standardised community and species-oriented repeated investigations can be carried out.

The National Biodiversity Monitoring Service was created to fulfil these tasks. Nine regional national parks coordinators, a central coordination unit and an independent Advisory Committee were set up in 1997. For the activities that do not require special expertise the cooperation of schools and nature conservation NGOs will be sought. The implementation of this programme will require extensive time.

There are three LTER sites in Hungary, which monitor principal biome types: wetland (lake Balaton), sand forest-steppe (Kiskunság) and oak forest (Síkfokút).

Table 3.1 A summary of monitoring networks

Network name

Target component

Responsible institution

Number of variables measured

Site No. (coverage)

Establishment date

Emmission network


National Public Health Service

4 basic + additional

666 and less


Water quality


Institute for Environmental Management




Plant Protection and Soil Conservation Services



CORINE Landcover

Land use types

Institute for Geodesy, Cartography and Remote Sensing

9 land classes



Crop yield

Agricultural crop

Institute for Geodesy, Cartography and Remote Sensing

X species



Agricultural pest monitoring


Plant Protection and Soil Conservation Services

Few pest species

Forest pest monitoring

Larger moths (and other insects)

Scientific Institute for Forestry

Over 700 species




Forest health

Scientific Institute for Forestry



Ecosystem dynamics

Institute of Ecology and Botany, Balaton Limnological Research Institute, Kossuth Lajos University

Diverse and specified indicators



Hungarian Biodiversity Monitoring System

Biota, habitats

National Authority for Nature Conservation of MoE

Over a dozen components organized in 10 projects



3.4 International networking

Most conventions do not require standard monitoring activities to fulfil reporting obligations. In general the responsible officer in each Ministry collects data from subordinate institutions and compiles a report which is approved by the relevant departments. The lack of centralised databases makes the procedure time consuming and rather subjective.

An example of international networking is the CORINE Landcover programme, is a European initiative and the map produced for Hungary constitutes part of the continental map. Environmental quality measurements in relation to human health are carried out in accordance with the National Environmental Health Action Plans with the involvement of 6 European countries. The forest health and integrated monitoring is part of international networks (ICP-forests and IMP network) with specified methodology and reporting. The LTER sites are part of the International LTER network, the site requirements are gradually fulfilled (meteo station, productivity measurements etc.).

3.5 Analysis of legal framework for data handling

A detailed data policy (including price policy) has to be developed for environmental data. At present, aggregated data on monitored physical properties of the environment are published annually. The data are stored in the responsible institutions and are provided for a fee. The amount is set arbitrarily by the institution. The data policy of the HCSO is well regulated (see 3.1).

Data on natural resources are only used internally. It is recommended to set up a mechanism based on three levels of data availability: classified (data on protected species only available for internal use); public and professional (for exchange of data between scientists). A legal instrument for the implementation of this mechanism must also be developed.

Use of data belonging to research institutes follows general practice: data in publications are open to use by others but must be cited. All other unpublished data are considered the private property of the researcher. This often results in the loss of valuable data. It is hoped that this attitude will change as a result of current trends: funding agencies promoting the distribution of research results.

3.6 Use of environmental information

Decisions on environmental matters require up-to-date information at all levels. At present this information is often not available in a useful format and much data is collected only on an annual basis. The setting up of a centralised environmental information system with well-regulated access has been planned and will be implemented by the Ministry of the Environment. Data policy will need to be developed at the same time.

Information on the environment is very often cited in the media, mostly in relation to pollution events. Although this has the positive effect of increasing public awareness on problems of pollution it can also be the cause of misinformation. There have recently been public protests regarding financing of programmes for environmental protection. A programme of information and education in this field, directed to the responsibility of the individual, is required.

4. User Needs Assessment

This section is based on the results obtained from the interviews carried out druring visits to the countries in the region. Two types of user needs can be identified: one is the type of data used regularly, the other covers the needs of potential GTOS users.

4.1 Data and information needs

In order to supply decision-makers with relevant data and information, research must be undertaken to analyse and categorise the mass of data available. Decision-making is best supported by interpreted, aggregated information with a clearly identified quality assessment or an identification of trends supported by monitoring. This requires centralised databases, integrated analysis and a well defined interpretation and application methodology. Greater cooperation between sectors would facilitate exchange of information.

Lack of access to data and information on the environment is a major problem in Hungary. The lack of metadata sytems hinders access to existing data. Data on all scales (monthly and annual, local, regional or national) are required. Analysed, interdisciplinary data are also required. At present these are to be found only in reports or publications and are often not available or not easily comprehensible (e.g. correlation between different environmental variables, like land use and invasion of species).The high cost of detailed information is also a limiting factor for users.

4.2 Requirements raised by potential users of GTOS

All institutions and programmes contacted recognised the potential benefit of participating in GTOS to facilitate fund raising and international collaboration. Data providers like FOMI believe that GTOS has an important potential for further use of their data. Data collection must be supported by the development of a methodology on how to apply data. This methodology should then be disseminated through handbooks on how to prepare an output, how to interpret data, and how to use the information for different practical purposes.

The main objective of a terrestrial observing system like GTOS, based on remote sensing and ground confirmation at the same time, is to assist nature conservationists on how to cope with and interpret global changes. It is especially difficult to assess the effects of climate change as it is interlinked with other types of environmental changes, such land use and natural succession. Since climate change seems to result in more frequent unpredictable changes of the weather conditions, the early warning capability of the GTOS programme could be of great assistance in decision-making. Situated within the Carpathian Basin with only 11, 4% of the catchment area of the Danube, the main river, a regional outlook of environmental measurements has a great importance for Hungary. During the interpretation of observation data on terrestrial systems the difficulty of dividing human induced changes from natural succession has to be taken into account.

5. Development of Standard Methodologies for Data Handling

The network of environmental quality measurements is already well developed in Hungary for physical variables while a new sophisticated monitoring system for biota is in the early phases of implementation. The main drawback to the effective use of monitoring information is the lack of centralised databases on projects and the lack of proper data policy. Sufficient data and information is gathered but the arrangement of information, its handling and access must be further developed.

5.1 Need for standard methodologies in integration

New methodologies have to be developed for the establishment of information centres. Management of data-bases must be improved particularly in ministries and assistance should be attained from international sources. Very little attention is paid to the elaboration of application methodologies and interpretation requirements. The joint interpretation of different variables sampled by different sectors is especially weak and help in modelling is required.

Since the integration of environmental data in Hungary is still in its first stages, it would be useful to reflect international agreements on information management, dissemination and exchange in the internal re-Organization. GTOS could play an important role as a facilitator of data integration. It is important to develop a system of public data access. The public is usually not aware of the diversity of existing information and their possible links so that judgement is mostly based on data provided by the media. A user-friendly public database could also raise awareness of environmental problems and eventually of personal responsibility.

5.2 Institutional framework

The institutional network is well developed in Hungary and expertise is sufficient to satisfy the needs of environmental monitoring. The weak link is the lack of funds, which often results in the loss of skilled personnel to more developed countries (mainly the USA and Western Europe). This drawback is most evident in the case of information officers: companies are ready to pay an information expert several times more than what he is paid by the government in Hungary. International cooperation could help in solving these problems by providing tested frames for databases and by giving consultancy support to information centres.

5.3 Need for a national meta-database

The Ministry of the Environment has already initiated the establishment of a meta-database for environmental information. This programme is of the highest priority in order to continue with on-going programmes and to ensure synthesis of available information. The monitoring institutions have to select the type of information that can be stored in a meta-database. Information on homepages and their links could facilitate this activity. Institutions should be encouraged to provide Internet access to relevant information.

5.4 Training needs

The level of higher education is sufficient in Hungary to produce the experts needed for specialised environmental studies. Lack of finance, however, limits the number of personnel for advanced data and information management In most cases specialist in other topics develop their skills in informatics to fulfil the requirements of data management. In this case, training is required.

Concerning biodiversity assessments, there is a need for taxonomist specialists (mostly zoologists), since, in many cases, the selection of monitoring objects is guided by the availability of specialist to identify the samples. Hungary is not particularly at a disadvantage in this respect since this type of expertise is difficult to find worldwide. Nature conservationists are encouraging universities to promote specialisation in these fields.

5.5 Missing international linkages

The institutions themselves have a good overview of international programmes relating to their speciality. Problems mostly rise in the lack of information on programmes in linking topics and in more general type of international activities. The use of internet information is not a routine exercise. The reason for this is the work load and the working habits of experts. The meta-database could help in this respect by providing quick and successful searches.

5.6 Identification of main potential users of a future GTOS information supply

Expectations and needs of national information network from the international initiative is detailed in user needs (4.2).


Báldi A., Csorba G., Korsós Z. 1995. Nature conservation evaluation of the vertebrate fauna of Hungary. (in Hung.) Natural History Museum, Budapest.

Borhidi A. 1995. Social behaviour types, the naturalness and relative ecological indicator values of the higher plants in the Hungarian flora. Acta Botanica Hungarica 39:97-181.

Di Castri, F., Hansen, A.J. & Debussche, M. 1990. Biological invasion in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Kluwer, Dordrecht. pp. 463.

Drake, A.J., Mooney, H.A., Di Castri, F., Groves, R.H., Kruger, F.J., Rejmánek, M. & Williamson, M. 1989. Biological invasion. A global perspective. John Wiley, Chichester.

Farkas E., Lokös L. & Verseghy K. 1985. Lichens as indicators of air pollution in the Budapest agglomeration I. Air pollution map based on floristic data and heavy metal concentration measurements. Acta Botanica Hungarica 31:45-68.

Gallé L., Margóczy K., Kovács É., Gyorffy Gy., Körmöczy L. & Németh L. 1995. River valleys: are they ecological corridors? Tiscia 29:53-58.

Gobölös A. 1995. Forestry policy. (in Hung.) Biotechnológia és Környezetvédelem 8:6.

GRID 1998. State of the Environment in Hungary. ( GRID3VER/AINDEX.HTM)

Hungarian Central Statistical Office (HCSO)1997. Hungarian Statistical Year Book.

Hungarian Central Statistical Office (HCSO)1999. Environmental Statistical Data of Hungary, 1997.

Király G., Kun A. & Szmorad F. 1999. The vegetation of the Vas-hegy and its floristic peculiarities. (in Hung.) Kitaibelia IV:119-142.n

Leskó K. & Szabóky Cs. 1997. The greater moth fauna of the Great Plain based on the data of the forestry light traps (1962-1996). (in Hung. with Engl. Summary). Erdészeti Kutatások 86-87:171-200.

Magyary T. 1998. Nature conservation in the agricultural areas. (in Hung.) in: Kiszel V. (ed.) Nature conservation for land managers. Göncöl Alapítvány, Vác. 147-262.

Mika J. 1988. Regional characteristics of global warming in the Carpathian Basin. (in Hung.) Idojárás 92:542-559.

Mika J. 1993. Climatic change of the Great Plain in relation to global climate change. (in Hung.) Alföldi Tanulmányok XV:11-29, Békéscsaba.

Maastricht-The Hague, 1995. Habitat fragmentation and infrastructure. Proceedings of the international conference "Habitat fragmentation, infrastructure and the role of ecological engineering". 17-21 September 1995. The Netherlands.

Ministry for Environment 1998. Homepage (

Szabó G. 1999. Country report on the present environmental situation in agriculture - Hungay. p. 16-35. in: Present Environmental Situation in Agriculture, Central and Eastern European Sustainable Agriculture Network. FAO SEUR, Humbolt University of Berlin, Gödöllo University of Agriculture.

Török K. & Halassy M. 1999. Fighting invasive species: a case study of open sand grasslands in Hungary. Proc. Of the VIth International Rangeland Congress. 610-612.

WMO. World Meteorological Organization, 1998. Homepage (

List of Institutions and Contact Persons Visited in Hungary.


Name, Email


FAO SEUR Budapest, Benczúr u. 34. 1068

Mr. J. Suchman.

Jaroslav [email protected]


Hungarian Central Statistical Office Budapest, Keleti K. u. 5/7. 1024

Mr. Ferenc Németh

[email protected]

Head of the Environmental Statistics Dept.

Authority for Nature Protection Budapest, Költö u. 21. 1121

Dr. A. Demeter

[email protected]

Director of the Division of Nature Conservation

Ministry for Environment Budapest Fo u. 44-50. 1011

Mr. P. Bozó

[email protected]

Chief Information Officer, Dept. for Environmental Information System and Head of GRID - Budapest

Institute of Geodesy, Cartography and Remote Sensing (FÖMI), Budapest, Bosnyák t. 5. 1149

Mr. G. Büttner

[email protected]

Head, Environmental Applications, Remote Sensing Centre

Mr. P. Winkler

Head of the Remote Sensing Centre

Danube Basin Ecological Convention Temporary Secretariat, Budapest, Költö u. 21. 1121

Dr. Ödön Rádai

[email protected]

Head of Department

Regional Environmental Centre

Mr. Alexander Juras

[email protected]

Dept. executive director

Szentendre, Ady E. u. 9-11. 2000

Mr. Jerome Simpson

Information Service Officer

Ms. Mira Mileva

Biodiversity expert

Ms. Eva Izsák

Hungarian Local REC officer

Country Assessment on the Environment, Poland

Dr. Marek Baranowski

Environmental Information Centre UNEP/GRID-Warsaw

1. Country profile


38, 660, 000 (31 December 1997 est.)

National product:

GDP-purchasing power parity: $246.3 billion (1996 est.)

National product per capita

purchasing power parity - $6, 400 (1996 est.)


GDP in agriculture: 6% potatoes, milk, fruits, vegetables, wheat; poultry and eggs; pork, beef


Temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation; mild summers with frequent showers and thunderstorms


Mostly lowlands, with mountains along the southern border and low mountains in the southern central part. The average elevation is marginal 574 feet (175 meters) above sea level. Southern Poland houses the High Tatra Mountains which reach as high as 1.5 miles (2, 499 meters) and is a popular destination for winter sports. Wooded lakelands decorate the northern central region, which also contains beach fronts on the Baltic coast as well as interesting desert dunes (in Slowinski Park - pictured). Lowest point: Raczki Elblaskie -1, 8 m below sea level Highest point: Rysy (Carpathian Mountains) 2, 499 m. Territory: 322577 km2 (land area including inland waters - 311904 km2). Main rivers: Wisla: 1047 km, Odra, 854 km (of which 742 km in Poland)

Natural resources

Coal, sulphur, copper, natural gas, silver, lead, salt

Land use

Arable land: 47% Permanent crops : 1% Permanent pastures: 13% Forests and woodland: 29% Other: 10% (1993 est.) Irrigated land: 1, 000 km2 (1993 est.)

International agreements

Party to: Air Pollution, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling (signed, but not ratified), Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Law of the Sea


Current issues: situation has improved since 1989 due to decline in heavy industry and increased environmental concern by post-communist governments; air pollution remains serious because of sulphur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and the resulting acid rain has caused forest damage; water pollution from industrial and municipal sources is also a problem, as is disposal of hazardous wastes. Poland has many regions of unspoiled natural beauty, such as the Bialowieza forest - the last virgin forest of the European mainland - which is home to the largest surviving herd of European bison. However, forests suffer damage due to air pollution and resulting acid rain. Hazardous and industrial waste, water and air pollution also pose some environmental problems. Natural hazards: NA

2. Major Environmental Threats

2.1 Air pollution

The main air pollutants in Poland include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust. Most of these atmosphere-contaminating emissions originate from fuel combustion processes. The largest share of sulphur dioxide is emitted by power generating utilities, nitrogen dioxide - by mobile sources, and dust - by power utilities and industrial processes. The reduction by almost 50% of sulphur dioxide emission over the last decade demonstrates the effectiveness of the legal and economic instruments implemented in the early nineties and of the technologies applied. A possibility to further reduce SO2 emissions is increased use of gas and change in household heating systems which should play an important role in the already improved air quality in cities.

A reduction in emission of nitrogen oxides is also recorded. The installation of low emission burners in many plants has further reduced the NOx emissions from stationary sources. However air pollution by nitrogen oxides is principally due increasing numbers of mobile emissions. The currently binding national regulations, as well as introduction of the EC rulings on pollutant emission from motor vehicles, and the introduction of the requirement of international compliance certificates, should bring about some concrete reductions not only of nitrogen oxides, but also of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and lead.

Dust produced at fuel combustion and some industrial processes typically includes some compounds of heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and chromium. The air quality in Poland is also affected by contamination originating in the neighbouring countries. The main air pollutant concentrations (SO2, NO2, dust) in the vast majority of Poland's territory are relatively low. Excesses of SO2 and dust over allowable concentrations are most often recorded in the industrialized areas of southern Poland , and particularly in the cities, where individual heating systems prevail. An excess of concentration of nitrogen dioxide is rarely reported. Ozone concentration is growing frequently above allowable levels.

Poland is striving to further reduce hazardous pollutant emissions and, as party to many conventions and international agreements, has assumed numerous obligations in this respect.

2.2 Water pollution

Most of Poland's territory lies within catchment of Poland's two largest rivers: Vistula (54%) and Oder (33, 9%). Poland's hydrological network includes also some maritime region rivers flowing directly to the Baltic Sea.

Poland's water resources are scarce. Surface water resources are crucial for water supplies to the Polish national economy. Ground water resources provide good quality drinking water to the public.

The annual water consumption amounts to ca. 12000 million m3, which includes 71, 4% for industrial use; 19, 8% municipal use and 8, 8% agricultural and forestry applications.

85% of water intake returns to surface waters as sewage. The yearly volume of sewage amounts to about 10 100 million m3, out of which 17% are municipal wastes, and 82% industrial wastes. The yearly volume of sewage for treatment amounts to ca. 2 900 million m3 which is mainly municipal originated sewage. A significant share of industrial sewage holds cooling water, which, as "conventionally clean", does not require biological treatment.

The volume of municipal and industry originated sewage has continued to fall over the last six years, resulting from the rationalization of water consumption for both manufacturing and household applications enforced by the legal and economic instruments. At the same time, large-scale investment projects over the recent years have resulted in an increase in the number and efficiency of sewage treatment plants. There are currently ca. 5000 sewage treatment plants operating in Poland, including 1759 industrial, 1471 municipal and about 1770 other small treatment plants, including farm plants.

Most municipal treatment plants are small and designed to solve local water protection problems. However the discharge of untreated sewage still remains a very serious problem in large cities. Only 43% of sewage originating from 42 major cities in Poland is biologically treated.

Limitation of point and surface contaminator discharge (rationalization of chemical fertilization) has resulted in gradual improvement in the state of rivers in Poland. The number of river segments in which the water is of lower quality than allowable by binding Polish standards, has decreased. At the same the amount of river water meeting drinking water quality criteria has increased. A continued fall in biogenic substances, organic compounds, heavy metals, and phenols and other toxic compounds content has been recorded, although neither the river waters' salinity, nor their suspension has improved.

The most important problem of the Polish rivers is still their poor sanitary condition. Despite a slight improvement, still ca. 80% of river segments carry waters contaminated with bacteria in excess of the standard limits. This is the result of discharges of untreated municipal sewage into the rivers and area run-offs from rural sites with unregulated water and sewage management.

The most commonly employed classification method takes into account the following mandatory indicators: dissolved oxygen, BOD5, CODCr, phenols, chlorides, sulphates, dissolved substances and suspensions.

Poland participates in international programmes for the Baltic Sea survey and protection within the framework of the Helsinki Convention. A survey shows a gradual improvement in the Baltic Sea marine waters with a fall in pollutant loads denoted by the BOD7 indicator over the last few years. Nitrate and phosphate concentrations in marine waters, which are responsible for algal blooms, are also decreasing. Oxygen deficits in the Borholm, Gotland and Gdask deeps are still observed, worsened by lack of oceanic in-flows into the Baltic Sea. Apparent improvement in the sanitary condition of water in the coastal zones has been noted.

2.3 Biodiversity

Poland has many species of both flora and fauna found only in that country. Considerable biodiversity and ecosystems unique in terms of natural resources and landscape characterize the Polish nature. There are 33 066 different species of wildlife, including some31 000 invertebrates and about 600 vertebrates, of which 434 species reproduce in Poland. Most of the vertebrates are subject to legal protection. The successful protection of endangered species in Poland includes restitution of European bison, beaver and elk, as well as the maintenance of Europe's largest wolf population.

To maintain this biodiversity, a system of protected areas has been developed, particularly since late eighties. The protected areas cover over 29% of the country, more than six times the area of fifteen years ago. In the same period the number of landscape parks have grown sevenfold, while the number of national parks and reserves over 1, 5 times (in 1996 alone two new national parks were inaugurated).

Poland actively participates in numerous international initiatives and programmes of environmental protection and cooperates actively in this respect with neighbouring countries. It also participates in the development of the European network of protected areas (Natura 2000, ECONET).

The MaB (Man and Biosphere) program, under UNESCO's auspices, is developing a global biosphere reserves network. Poland has contributed one nature reserve (£uknajno Lake) and six national parks, three of which are included in trans-border protected areas, to this program.

2.4. Land quality

Two forms of land use dominate in Poland: farmland and forests. Together they occupy over 88% of the total territory of the country. The location of Poland in the belt of the great European plains has significantly influenced the way land is utilized. The plains and large hilly country areas are suitable for cultivation despite the poor quality of the soil. As a result 59.77% of land in Poland is farmland. Arable land totals 14, 269, 000 hectares and permanent pastures occupy about 4, 100, 000 hectares.

However, the area of land being farmed is systematically decreasing. In 1994 the total area of farmland was 18, 690, 000 ha and this was 879, 000 ha less than in 1979 and 411, 000 ha less than in 1980. In comparing current acreage of farmland with that in 1970, it is apparent that the decrease in acreage was accompanied by an increase in acreage of forestry (270, 000 ha), settlements (260, 000 ha), idle land (135, 000 ha), terrain used for transportation (about 100, 000 ha), surface water (over 30, 000 ha) and mineral extraction (14, 000 ha). Compared to 1946 the share of farmland fell from 65.6% to 59.8% in 1994. With the increase in population of Poland there has therefore been a decrease of per capita acreage of farmland. In 1980 this figure was 0.54 ha per person, in 1994 it was only 0.48 ha.

Permanent grassland, both permanent meadows and pastures, occupy only 4, 100, 000 ha, which is 13.1% of total land area. Poland has one of the lowest areas of permanent grassland in Europe. In 1991 the acreage of permanent grassland in Poland was 3, 891, 000 ha. Permanent pastures occupied 1, 512, 200 ha or 38.9% of permanent grassland, while permanent meadows occupied 2, 375, 800 ha or 61.1% of the total.

Meadows in Poland are to a large extent artificial. They were formed as a result of riverside forest clear-cutting or by turning former tillable fields into meadows and pastures. Natural concentrations of meadows exist only in small areas, mainly in the mountains.

The second largest form of land use in Poland is forests. In 1994 forests occupied 8, 720, 000 ha, which amounted to 27.89% of total land area. Their distribution is very uneven. The greatest number of forests exist in the western and northwestern part of the country where the densest forests in the country. In the north the largest compact forest area is Bory Tucholskie, (120, 000 ha). Forest complexes near the border of Lithuania and Byelorussia are a relict of former great forest areas. They are the Puszcza Augustowska (107, 000 ha), Puszcza Piska (about 100, 000 ha), Puszcza Knyszynska (58, 000 ha), Puszcza Bialowieska, (58, 000 ha).

Almost 78% of forests, that is 6, 801, 600 ha, is covered by coniferous forest (Bory). This predominance of coniferous forests is especially visible on the lowlands, although it also occurs in the highlands and higher parts of the mountains. Coniferous forests occur particularly in land unsuitable for cultivation.

Deciduous forests occupy over 1, 924, 000 ha (over 22% of forests). They exist in larger complexes near Szczecin (Puszcza Bukowa), in Puszcza Knyszynska and Bialowieska and in the Eastern Carpathian mountains.

In 1990, the total acreage of forests increased by 2, 224, 000 ha, a growth of 34.37%. Coniferous forests increased by only 20% while the acreage of deciduous forests grew 228.8% to 1, 924, 000 ha (in 1994). These figures show a significant change in the species composition of forest stands. To a large extent this is caused by the necessity of introducing species which are more resistant to poorer environmental conditions, especially air pollution. Many forests in Poland are under 40 years old (I and II age classes).

The national afforestation program has project an increase of 30% in the area of forests by the year 2020 and up to 33% by 2050. State owned forests cover about 83% of the forested area, while the rest is private property. In 1997 legal protection was extended over 37, 8% of the total forested area (against only 20, 2% in 1980).

The habitat forest structure is predominated by coniferous forests covering 66% ca. of the forested area, the remainder is made up of leafy forests. The species structure features coniferous species over 77, 5% of the total forested area. Over the last 50 years the share of leafy species has increased from 13% in 1945 up to 22, 5% in 1996.

The environmental health of forests is assessed over fixed test areas on the basis of defoliation (i.e. decline in tree-top assimilation apparatus) and tree bark decolorization. Since 1995 a noticeable improvement in the condition of forest stands has been observed. The most prominent improvement in the coniferous species is in pine and fir, while improvement in spruce is only marginal. The condition of beech and birch has improved the most among leafy species, but oak only marginally. This improvement has resulted from continued reduction of air pollution and increase in precipitation over vegetation period.

Adoption and implementation of forest management based on the principle of sustainable development and nature conservation and upgrading of the national environmental regulations, have laid a foundation for effective forest protection.

2.5. Climate change

Human activities influence the climate of Poland mainly through the changes in the land utilization and air pollution. Both factors cause changes in the energy balance of the atmosphere and earth's surface, and thus of the circulation of heat and water in this system.

With regard to land use, deforestation and urbanization are the major problems. Deforestation causes an increase in thermal contrasts in the lowest layer of the atmosphere and a decrease in the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. By changing the ground roughness the process of deforestation leads to an increase of the wind speeds, which lowers the humidity of air and increases evaporation of water. In the last 15 years (from 1975) the total surface of forests increased slightly (by 1.7%). However parts of southern and western Poland the area of the forests decreased.

Urbanization increases air temperature (so called urban heat islands), lowering the amplitude of temperatures, weakening the inflow of solar radiation and changing the precipitation system.

Air pollution disturbs the balance of solar radiation by increasing atmospheric obscurity, changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere and of the drops of water that are in the atmosphere (acid rains), increasing the ozone concentration in the troposphere, decreasing it in the stratosphere, and delivering additional amounts of thermal energy to the atmosphere which changes its thermal structure.

A systematic increase of ozone concentration in the troposphere in the highly industrialized regions has been observed. Ozone is a result of photo-oxidation of carbon monoxide, methane and other volatile organic compounds in the presence of sulphur dioxide or nitrogen oxides. Because of the short lifespan of ozone in the lowest layers of the atmosphere, it does not have a large influence on climatic conditions, but it is a deterrent to living organizms.

According to international scientific institutions, the changes in the global climate result from the emission of gases into the atmosphere which cause the greenhouse effect. These emissions are the result human activities. The most important greenhouse gases are: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (freon gases). Freon gases have a great heat capacity and are used, among others, for cooling. A growing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes a rise in temperatures in the lowest layers of the atmosphere.

The increase of temperature and reduced precipitation in Poland is also related to the rising trend in the global temperatures. The average annual air temperature in Poland has risen by about 0.5oC from the late 1960's to the 1990's, and average annual precipitation has fallen by about 70 mm.

One of the problems of a global concern is the destruction of the ozone layer in the stratosphere due to the emission of freon gases (chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs). Ozone has a very important and beneficial function in the stratosphere - it absorbs ultraviolet radiation that is harmful to living organizms. Freon gases which, in the lowest layers of the atmosphere, act as greenhouse gases, decompose in the stratosphere freeing atoms of chlorine and bromine, which cause the break up of ozone particles.

Precipitation over the whole country follows a different trend. From 1931 to 1980 in urbanized and industrialized areas there was an increase of the total amount of precipitation, while in the rural areas there was a downward trend in precipitation. In the 1980s a downward trend of the total amount of precipitation occurred throughout the country. Studies of Cracow's climate indicate that from the middle of the 1970s the following changes in the climate occurred: decrease in the amount of clouds (as observed in much of Europe) and a fall in the amount of insolation due to increasing atmospheric obscurity and a worsening of city ventilation conditions.

Over the years city temperatures grew faster than temperatures observed globally. This is undoubtedly a result of an overlapping of both factors, urbanization and industrialization of urban areas together with global warming.

If urbanization and deforestation take place at a similar rate in the future, this tendency will continue causing unfavourable changes in the climate. An expected further increase of concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lead to an increase of air temperature. The size of this increase depends on economic strategy, especially on how the power-generating industry develops world-wide. It is estimated however, that an increase of the average annual temperature to the end of the next century may range from 2 to 4 degrees. In a scenario of predicted climate changes in Poland to year the 2000, average annual air temperature are supposed to grow, mostly as a result of the increase of temperature during winter. At the same time, a slight increase of precipitation in the winter should be expected with a decrease in precipitation during other seasons. This means that a decreasing trend of annual precipitation should continue to the end of this century.

Another problem that will occur in the future is the further decrease of ozone in the stratosphere. In light of the long lifespan of freon particles in the atmosphere (up to 150 years) it cannot be expected that concentrations of freon gases in the atmosphere will fall. This is why in 1985 on the initiative of the United Nations Environment Program, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was signed. In 1987 the Montreal Protocol was enacted. This document defines the strategy of gradual reduction of gases that destroy stratospheric ozone. Poland ratified this convention in 1990.

3. Status of National Environmental Observing Systems

3.1 Institutional framework

In Poland two central administration institutions are responsible for collecting of environmental data: the Inspection for Environmental Protection and Central Statistical Office. The first one is developing the state environmental monitoring system and environmental information system for central administration. The Inspection is in charge of reporting on the state of environment as well as for checking the proper use of environment. The similar functions are performed by the regional inspectorates in voivodships. The Inspection plays coordination role in regard to inspectorates, which are directly subordinated to voivodship administration (before 1999 they were subordinated to the Inspection).

The Central Statistical Office collects a lot of data on environment within the framework of state statistical activities. All administration and economic institutions are obliged to report to the Office on various matters including environmental indicators. The Office publishes a year-book dedicated to environment called "Environmental Protection" where one can find a vast amount of data.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry is supervising the environmental activities in country. The particular departments initiate and coordinate some data collection on environment. Especially data on nature, geology and forestry are collected with the involvement of the Ministry. The Secretariat of the Minister is responsible for maintaining the information system for the Ministry, and is in-charge of providing internal and external databases.

The Institute of Environmental Protection is research institute specialized in environmental studies and development works. The Institute is involved in air pollution monitoring, noise monitoring, lakes monitoring and biological monitoring of Baltic Sea as well as studies on biodiversity. The Institute has a number of regional units including several monitoring stations where they perform specialised observations. They also maintain the protected areas database for Poland as well as database on institutions dealing with biodiversity in Poland.

The Forest Research Institute main goal is to conduct the studies on the stability of forest resources threatened by the abiotic, biotic and anthropogenetic factors and also on the formation on the multiple-use forest to ensure the protection of soil and water, richness of flora and fauna which affect the climate and create opportunites for recreation activities. The Institute consists of 15 scientific departments and 4 separated scientific and research laboratories. The Institute carries out scientific and development research in the field of forestry science. The main research directions are:

The Institute of Botany of Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow is dealing with paleobotany, taxonomy and ecology. Recently they were involved in a 3 year tropospheric ozone monitoring (active and passive) programme in the Carpathians - with Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and US (started 1997, till end of 1999).

The UNEP/GRID-Warsaw Centre is one of 14 nodes of the Global Resource Information Database network. Its main interest is related to the geo-referenced environmental information. The Centre developed several GIS-based databases for Poland and Europe (among others Base Map 1 : 100 000 database of Poland for environmental studies and management). They are also specialized in environmental mapping, especially for environmental reporting (among others maps for two publications of the European Environment Agency). One of scientific focus deals with biodiversity studies in general and its investigations on the basis of remote sensing. The Centre is also involved in implementation of NATURA 2000 programme for Poland and was in charge of constructing nature monitoring database for the country. The UNEP/GRID-Warsaw elaborated meta-database on environmental information four times since 1991.

The Institute of Nature Protection of Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow is specialising in research on methods of nature protection and Organizational forms of designated areas arrangements. The Institute was in charge of CORINE Biotopes database development and maintain it updated till nowadays.

The Institute of Geodesy and Cartography is leading institution in applying remote sensing in many fields. The Institute was in charge of the CORINE Land Cover project for Poland resulting in medium scale (1 : 100 000) database of the country, elaborated on the basis of satellite images of the period 1992-1993. Many applications of that database have been developed by the Institute especially for the local and regional authorities. The Institute is also involved in mapping of the protected areas using air photographs as a source.

The Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization of Polish Academy of Sciences was in charge of elaboration of National Atlas of Poland. The environmental studies are concentrated in the Department of Biogeography where a lot of vegetation mapping has taken place. That activity is focused on the changes of biodiversity and consequences of climate change. They took part in the nature monitoring in Poland.

The National Foundation for Environmental Protection is specialising in biodiversity studies, both national and international, as well as in nature monitoring and environmental impact assessment. They also assist Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry in elaboration of national reports to many international Organizations like Agenda 21 realisation.

The Institute of Geography of A. Mickiewicz University in Poznan is responsible for coordination of the integrated monitoring consisting of 7 stations in representative locations for different landscape. The works are conducted since 1992.

3.2 Analysis of existing observation sites

The integrated monitoring network was established in Poland in 1992 to help predict and explain environmental changes. Its focus is on fluxes of energy and matter and bioindication methods. The measurements include: precipitation, soil water, air and ground quality, nutrients, changes in quality and quantity of plant cover, invertebrates, lichens. Each station has its own special programme with a Core set of common variables measured according to standard protocols.

This is a national network of integrated monitoring consisting of 7 sites established in different major Polish ecosystems (glacial moraines, central plains, mountains). The following site selection criteria has been used:

3.3 National networking

Each sector monitoring has its own network. The most suitable for GTOS seems to be integrated monitoring, and just initiated nature monitoring. The last one consists of several networks of observations focused on specific groups of species or methods of data gathering. The same sites are expected to be revisited in 5 year intervals.

There are also other networks maintained by institution which are not involved in the state monitoring system supervised by the Inspection for Environmental Protection. The Institute of Cultivation and Soil Fertilization perform each year observations of heavy metals in soil at 7 500 sites. The network is densified in the five consecutive years reaching number of 45 000 sites which will be revisited after 6 years.

The Sanitary and Epidemiology Inspection also maintains its own network of air monitoring.

3.4 International networking

There are several international programmes of terrestrial observations with participation of various Polish institutions. Three of them are compatible with the European Union initiative called CORINE. Poland participated in the CORINAIR, CORINE Biotopes and CORINE Land Cover projects resulting in three databases covering all country. The first one - CORINAIR deals with data on air emission recorded in industrial plants. The second consists of a specific register of all valuable biological sites. The third one - CORINE Land Cover describes the forms of land use / land cover of all country with the unified nomenclature for Europe.

Seven national parks are included in the UNESCO MaB Biosphere network. They are involved in internet information exchange.

The national reporting to the various conventions' secretariats (UNEP, EU, EEA, etc.) are prepared on the basis of existing data, mainly collected in the framework of national environmental monitoring programme.

The European Environment Agency created environmental information network called EIONET as an infrastructure for environmental data and information exchange in Europe. Poland and other European countries participate in this initiative delivering data to two pan-European state of environment reporting. The data gathered within the framework of data collecting process have been structured and stored in the EEA data warehouse. It is now under development and updating procedure.

Poland has just started process of Natura 2000 network establishment. The Natura 2000 Programme is principally based on two EC Directives, i.e. Birds Directive and Habitat Directive. In 2000 the primary designated area network will be proposed and documented.

The European network of ecologically valuable areas called ECONET has been also implemented in Poland. It consists of core areas and corridors important for species to be able to migrate.

3.5 Analysis of legal framework for data handling

At the moment no legal regulations for the data handling and distribution have been introduced. Every data provider applies its own rules in that matter. Some of them are general for all users but in many cases the data are provided on the individual basis. Generally, source data (like monitoring observations) are not subject of distribution. They are interpreted and usually aggregated and in such a form are offered to users.

Some of data are published in the yearbooks and are also provided in the digital form. For instance, the Central Statistical Office delivers a lot of data related to the smallest administrative units electronically. Unfortunately, that kind of service is still very expensive.

On the other hand, there are some datasets more widely available to the public. Usually they are results of the programmes, financed by international institutions. Phare Programme supported development of several databases on the environment. The CORINE Land Cover, CORINE Biotopes and CORINAIR databases are good examples of projects resulting with data covering whole country. They can be available for non-commercial use by applications delivered to the EC office.

Another examples of free of charge data are regional databases. For instance, Black Triangle region laying in the border areas of Poland, Czech Republic and Germany has been covered by a number of GIS databases widely available to all local authorities and scientific institutions.

There is strong demand for clearing house mechanism development by the major data providers. This mechanism should be developed on the basis of the mature data policy prepared by some higher level legal regulation.

3.6 Use of environmental information

There are many users of the environmental information, naming decision-makers, scientists, media, international Organizations, universities, schools and general public. Each of these groups requires specific form of that kind of information. Usually the source data are significantly processed and provided as graphs, maps and tables. The environmental data are subject of interest merely for scientists, international Organizations and some decision-makers.

There is growing group of users demanding digital form of data. They require them in specific format useful for further processing. There is also strong demand for data distributed by Internet means.

The international cooperation especially through the European Environment Agency seems to be a major catalyser for developing national environmental data infrastructure.

4. User Needs Assessment

The information on user needs assessment should be developed on the basis of answers to the questionnaire. Unfortunately, only two institutions answered the questionnaire elaborated by GTOS Secretariat, so the content of this chapter is based mainly on the knowledge of the author.

4.1 Data and information needs

Decision-makers should base their decisions on the reliable and up-to-date information. Usually the existing information systems do not fulfil requirements of this group of users. Then they rather avoid referring to the information since it consumes too much effort. This means that most of decisions are taken without considering information.

The second group consisting of scientists is much more interested in reliable information which can be accessed not necessarily instantly. They usually collect data and information for some time, so existence of the efficient information system is not the most crucial. What would be more desired is a metadata system enabling access to data and information characteristics.

The environmental data are more frequently required by institutions involved in the international cooperation. Many international Organizations need data and information for the monitoring of realisation of various conventions and agreements. These Organizations usually stimulate development of information systems in the member countries.

The general public, schools and media are interested in environmental information which is processed to the form easily understandable, but usually also easily accessible. So the Internet information services are of their great interest.

The analysis of the particular thematic scope of data and information needs shows that the most frequently required information deals with land use. This phenomenon describes the geographic space in such a way that can be useful for locating other objects and phenomena. The fragmentation of the terrain provided by land use background is taken into account in many more sophisticated analyses.

The second theme deals with biodiversity which is very much related to the previous one. The location of particular species and habitats as well as their state and detail characteristic seems to be an object of growing interest.

The pollution data gathered in the framework of environmental monitoring networks are required for decision-making, scientific research and by average citizen. Unfortunately, most of these data need specialised interpretation and can not be used straightforwardly.

There is also clearly demanded a standardised background information for various spatial analyses and presentations. The lack of digital topographic map of Poland available to many users is treated as a stopping factor for development of computer science use in terrestrial analyses.

4.2 Requirements raised by potential users of GTOS

The potential users of GTOS expects the following roles to be played by the Programme:

1. Facilitating data and information access by putting together and standardising existing data from many sources;

2. Stimulating data policy development within the network and in particular countries;

3. Development of scientific methodology for interpreting, modelling and general processing of terrestrial data;

4. Elaboration of manuals and guidelines for terrestrial data processing, especially useful for decision-makers;

5. Processing source data using sound scientific methodology developed within the Programme framework;

6. Creating terrestrial data and information network facilitating exchange of data, information and ideas.

5. Lack of Observation and Methodologies for Data Handling, Need for Development

The observation methodology and data handling are fairly well developed in many areas of investigations. What needs development is information and data infrastructure which would facilitate access to information, its complex processing and efficient distribution.

5.1 Need for standard methodologies in integration

The international scientific Organizations introduce a lot of standard methodologies for observing systems, data interpretation, data processing, scientific modelling and data delivery formats. It is not a role of GTOS to repeat all these efforts. Much more required is harmonization of those standards in relations between various disciplines, groups of interest and data collection programmes.

5.2 Institutional framework

The following institutions should be taken into account when establishing the network of cooperating partners within the GTOS Programme:

- Inspection for Environmental Protection

- Central Statistical Office

- Ministry of Environment

- Institute of Environmental Protection

- Forest Research Institute

- Institute of Meteorology and Water Management

- Institute of Nature Protection of Polish Academy of Sciences

- Institute of Botany of Polish Academy of Sciences

- UNEP/GRID-Warsaw

- Institute of Geodesy and Cartography

- Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization of Polish Academy of Sciences

- National Foundation for Environmental Protection

- Institute of Geography of A. Mickiewicz

Most of them established already cooperation platform in many fields, so the development of mutual connections in new area seems to be feasible.

5.3 Need for a national meta-database

The environmental information meta-database was subject of the UNEP/GRID-Warsaw activity from the very beginning of its operation in 1991. The first such a database was created in early 1992. After that tree updating attempts have taken place. Unfortunately, the last update has been accomplished in the end of 1997 and since then no external data (other than UNEP/GRID-Warsaw owned) were introduced to that meta-database. The UNEP/GRID-Warsaw's data sets are systematically described in that database, immediately after their creation.

The external financing is needed in order to continue these efforts. The Ministry of Environment and the Inspection for Environmental Protection should be main interested parties.

The new version of the meta-database should be available in Internet and use it as a main tool for data distribution. So all available links to Websites providing data in Internet would be established, facilitating data access.

5.4 Training needs

The partners of the network enumerated under the section 5.2 have well educated personnel capable to solve most of scientific and managerial problems. The use of Internet browsers and data access interfaces as well as use of geographical information systems are the only areas where the training is required. It is true especially for the governmental and local administration.

5.5 Missing international linkages

The international cooperation of most potential partners in the GTOS Programme from Poland is fairly advanced, so there is lack of particular gaps in international relations.

5.6 Identification of main potential users of a future GTOS information supply

The general list of potential users of a future GTOS information supply can be structured as follows:

Country Assessment on the Environment, the Slovak Republic

Pavol Bielek

GTOS National Focal Point for Slovakia


Soil Science and Conservation Research Institute, Bratislava

1. Country Profile


5 300 000 approx.

National product

Growth rate - 5-6% /1996-97)

National product per capita



2 4446 000 ha.




· Total area 49 035 km2

· 40% of land lies at 300m asl, 45% at 300-800m.asl and 1% at over 1 500m asl.

· Two main geomorphological formations: Carpathian mountains and adjacent lowlands. Highest mountain: Gerlach - 2 655 m.

· Three main rivers with catchment areas cross Slovak Republic: Danube, Tisa and Dunajec. Large number of natural lakes particularly in High Tatras region. Longest river: Vah (378 km.).

Natural resources


Land use

Arable land: 1 483 000 ha.

Forests: 1 991 ha. Urban areas and other: 373 000 ha.

International agreements

Party to agreements on: wetlands, natural heritage, trans-border environmental influences, climate change, ozone layer.

Party to Washington Convention, Bonn Convention, Bern Convention, Danube Convention, Baziley Convention, Geneva Convention.


Current issues: soil erosion due to floods, industrial pollution of land and water - from metal, lime, cement and magnesium industries. Decrease of animal density due to pollution and use of pesticides. There are 724 protected areas covering 9 200 km2.

2. Major Environmental Threats

The Slovak Republic is an industrialised country focussing on the production of steel and machinery. It also has well-developed chemical and food industries. Agriculture plays a relatively important role in the country's economy. All these activities have affected the environment to a certain extent but in recent years awareness of pollution problems has increased and steps are being taken to control air, land and water contamination.

2.1 Pollution and toxicity

The main industries in the Slovak Republic are responsible for heavy metals pollution (mainly Dc, Cr, and Mn). Ten particularly affected areas were identified in 1998. It is estimated that 30 000 ha of agricultural soils are polluted by heavy metals. Although emissions of S02 and Nox are still cause for concern, there has been a general decrease of these substances from 569 000 tons in 1989 to 199 000 tons in 1997. In the same period emissions of Nox decreased from 226 000 tons to 123 000 tons. Soil acidification as a result of air pollution by these substances affects at least 425 000 ha.

Levels of CO2 have fallen from 60 million tons in 1990 to 46 million tons in 1996. These levels are however still cause for concern. Likewise methane emissions have fallen from 400 000 tons in 1990 to 320 000 tons and N2O from 13 000 tons to 8 000 tons.

In the last decade the use of nitrogen fertilizers has decreased (from 90 kg per ha in 1989 to 37 kg per ha in 1997). A decline of almost 50% in animal density per ha, reduction of pesticide use and improvement in substitute pesticides have also led to a notable improvement in water pollution. Likewise improved manure technology has led to improved water quality. Drinking water is strictly controlled and from 97% to 99.9% of drinking water contains safe levels of nitrates, Mn, Fe, ammonium nitrites, pH, and microbiology.

2.2 Loss of biodiversity

Industrial and agricultural emissions have had negative impacts on air, soil, forest biota, and water sources resulting in changes in biodiversity. Damage to forests in Slovakia from pollution is high and it was estimated in 1997 that only about 18% of trees were not damaged. Large scale agriculture also decreases the habitat of wild living organizms. Drainage of soils destroys populations of wetland plants and animals.

2.3 Land quality

Soil erosion caused by high rainfall and floods is a major problem. More than 50% of agricultural soil and more than 90% of forest soils are suffering from soil erosion. As a result, vast sedimentation is taking place in many lakes to the detriment of the ecosystems of the land.

2.4 Availability of freshwater resources

The quality of surface water has stabilised in the past few years due to new water cleaning stations and a decrease in industrial activity. The purest irrigation water is found in the Danube River Basin. Water suitable for irrigation now accounts for 31.6%, conditionally acceptable water for irrigation for 43.1% and water unsuitable for irrigation for 25.3%. A gradual decrease of water surpluses has been observed.

2.5 Climate change

Global changes in the climate have affected the Slovak Republic over the past decade. Extreme rainfall and flooding have increased, together with a gradual rise in air temperature. This trend is expected to continue

3. Status of National Environmental Observing Systems

3.1 Institutional framework

The two main bodies concerned with the environment in Slovakia are the Ministry for Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land Management. The Agency for Environmental Protection, under the auspices of the Ministry for Environmental Protection, is the body responsible for the implementation of national environmental policy. Problems related to air, water, biota, protected areas, biodiversity and meteorology are all referred to the Environment Ministry.

The Ministry of Land Management, on the other hand, is responsible for the protection of soil, water resources and forests. Data on soil, forests and water are collected by three institutes (the Institutes of Soil Science and Conservation Research, of Forest Management, and of Water Management) under the direction of the Ministry of Land Management. Other Ministries, such as those for the Economy, Transport and Construction, each have departments which deal with problems of the environment related to their field. The Ministry of Internal Affairs also has a Regional Office for Environmental Protection that works in cooperation with other government offices.

Some universities (in particular the Commenius University of Bratislava and the Agriculturla University of Nitra) collect data on natural resources.

The Statistical Office of Geography and Cartography provides detailed maps and edits those of other institutions on soil, geology, ecology etc. Official data is compiled annually by the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic and published in its Statistical Yearbook.

Remote sensing methods have been developed by specialised institutions, in particular the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute. Use is made of satellite information for weather forecasting and other applications. Other institutes using remote sensing methods such as aerial photography and satellite images include the Institute of Forest Management (Zvolen), the Institute of Geography (Bratislava) and the Soil Science and Conservation Research Institute (Bratislava). Under the EU Project MARS/MERA (1994-97), data was collected on soil use structure, soil degradation processes, forest management and a model of yield prediction was formulated. Despite the above, there is a need for improving remote sensing techniques in Slovakia.

3.2. Analysis of existing observation sites

The Ministry of Environmental Protection coordinates the work of institutions monitoring factors concerning the environment. In 1993 a Partial Monitoring System was set up to cover various headings. This system covers:

Soil - Soil Science and Conservation Research Institute, Bratislava

Water - Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute, Bratislava

Air - Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute, Bratislava

Biota - Slovak Agency of Environment, B. Bystrica

Waste - Slovak Agency of Environment, B. Bystrica

Settlement - Slovak Agency of Environment, B. Bystrica

Utilization of region - Slovak Agency of Environment, B. Bystrica

Geological factors - Geological Servis, Bratislava

Forests - Research Institute of Forestry, Zvolen

Foods - Research Institute for Food, Bratislava

Population - National Institute for Health Service, Bratislava

Radiation - National Institute for Health Service, Bratislava

Meteorology, Climatology - Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute, Bratislava

Each institute works according to an approved programme coordinated by the Partial Monitoring System. The system is financed by the Ministries for the Environment and for Land Management.

3.3. National networking

There are numerous networks which collect data on soil, water, air and forests.

Data reliability is based on the accreditation of institutions carrying out analyses and twice yearly controls by the Partial Monitoring System Centers.

3.4. International networking

Efforts in international coordination of environmental monitoring have, so far, not been successful. Cooperation, particularly in monitoring of soils, was proposed by the Liaison Centre in Hungary but has not to date led to any follow-up. It is hoped that further cooperation may be set up under the European Environmental Agency.

3.5. Analysis of legal framework for data handling

All information regarding the environment is by law accessible to the public free-of-charge, except for operational costs (computer time, labour cost). Incentives are given for environmental data with relation to market enterprise activities. To avoid incorrect interpretation of data by non-specialized bodies, primary data is normally not released but assessed by competent bodies.

International exchange of data has no strict legal background in Slovakia and is carried out with traditionally trustworthy national or international users.

3.6. Use of environmental information

A Central Office for the coordination of environmental data collected by the various institutions is required in Slovakia and this information should be more widely available to the public to increase general environmental awareness. This information should also be part of the educational curriculum. Data collected by small firms or institutes must be carefully evaluated by specialised authorities to avoid distribution of incorrect information.

4. User Needs Assessment

4.1. Information needs for decision-making

Decision-makers must have the support of expert and authorised systems related to their activities. At present there is a lack of experts in the GIS field. This is a field in which improvements are urgently needed. Cost of creating specialized software is very high and this curtails the ability of institutions to improve their systems.

4.2. Information needs for resource managers and researchers

Geographically referenced data is also essential to environment and natural resource management. The resolution should be a minimum of 1:50 000, but on a scale of 1:10 000.

Permanent updating and upgrading must be carried out, at least every 5 years to ensure quality of data on natural resources. Links from data collectors through data managers to users must be improved. The compatibility of software is also a problem which requires rapid solution.

4.3. Priority needs for international reporting

Data exchange is organized mainly on a bilateral (or personal) level. GTOS could play a decisive role in improving the exchange of data on a bilateral or unilateral basis, with the cooperation of SOTER and SOUVER. For example, soil classification in border areas must be compatible with that of other systems. Cooperation is needed in this field. Some transboundary projects require greater input from internationally collected data.

4.4. Data integration in environmental decision-making

A meta-database on information systems was only recently developed under the Ministry of Environment. Since integration of international data is required universally, it is recommended that projects should be coordinated by international bodies such as the FAO and EC or other international institutions. The creation of an international information journal or web-site for integration of information is recommended.

4.5. Financing of environmental information management

Environmental information services should, at the national level, be financed by the state budget. International systems are financed by international institutions or by contributions from national governments.

Data should be free-of-charge although operational time should be paid by users. All new data, including that obtained by research institutes, could be collected with support of national governmental budget.

5. Observation and Methodologies for Data Handling

In Europe there appear to be blocks of information; that of western Europe and that of central and eastern Europe with marked differences between the two. A primary task is to improve the compatibility of data both within and between the blocks.

5.1. Need for standard methodologies in integration

International handling of data depends on high level decisions. In each country, competent institutions must be nominated for international handling of data. Only data of those institutions should be accepted at the international level. This information should be coordinated by international institutions (FAO, OECD). Each level of coordination requires rules on methods of data producing, data processing, principles of data transports, and data handling. ISO norms, where are acceptable, should be adopted.

5.2. Institutional framework

The network currently existing in Europe is satisfactory although there is still scope for improvement. Lack of funds in central and eastern European countries is a handicap in the setting up of improved networks. Greater cooperation and exchange of information between institutes, both nationally and internationally will greatly benefit all concerned. In this field, GTOS can provide an important point of contact and assistance.

5.3. Need for national meta-database

The creation of a national meta-database would produce benefits in many fields such as environmental protection, agriculture, land use, and socio-economic development. At present, data on soil properties in Slovakia are used daily. GIS data is for farmers, state agricultural policy and economy tools, but also for soil sealing control and soil market, soil damage evaluation, natural disasters assessment, etc.

5.4. Training needs

Training on new methods of data processing would be useful. Such training would only be required on a limited basis and would not require large financial input.

Training is currently given every two years to map users, mainly on decoding of soil properties codes, on new maps products, and on new possibilities for data use etc. Mainly specialists from regional agricultural offices participate in these training programmes.

International training of specialists on data processing, such as that undertaken on remote sensing data interpretations in Paris, Warsaw and Prague organized by international coordination centres for remote sensing are of prime importance. Other databases (water, forest, meteorology) are permanently upgraded (technically and personally) and responsible institutions organize training courses for data users.

5.5. Missing international linkages

Greater cooperation should be established with the European Environmental Agency environmental databases, international centres of remote sensing services and international projects (e.g. MARS Project)

5.6. Identification of main potential users of future GTOS information supply

The potential users of GTOS in Slovakia are research institutes and universities, the Agency of Environmental Protection, Ministries for the Environment, Agriculture and the Economy) and its regional offices, and governmental offices (for economy and development, and regional development). Information from GTOS would be helpful in updating, upgrading and improving the current information situation in the country. It would offer the possibility for international comparison and improvement for national institutions and assist in motivating the setting up of new data collection and processing systems.


Bielek, P. - Šurina, B.: Agricultural Soils. Facts about Slovak Republic. VUPU Bratislava, 1995, 32 pp.

Bielek, P.: Code of Good Agricultural Practice in Slovak Republic. Soil Protection. Ministry of Agriculture of the Slovak Republic, 1996, 54 pp.

Demo, M. - Bielek, P. - Hronec, O.: Trvalo udrate¾ný rozvoj (Sustainable development). SPU Nitra - VUPOP Bratislava, 1999, 400 pp.

Green Report of the Slovak Republic. Ministry of Agriculture. Bratislava, 165 pp.

Klinda, J. - Lieskovská, Z.: Správa o stave ivotného prostredia v SR v roku 1997 (Environmental situation in the Slovak Republic). MP - SAP Bratislava, 1998, 156 pp.

Monitoring of the Environment. Annual Report. Ministry of Environmental Protection, Bratislava, 1998

National Environmental Policy. Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic, 1995, 130 pp.

Šimeg, I. - Smolinská, I.: Slovakia for the world. PEAS Publishing, Bratislava, 1996

Statistica Yearbook of the Slovak Republic. Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic. VEDA - Publishing House of the Slovak Academy of Sciences 1998, 726 pp.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page