The Bureau is very pleased to announce that the Government of Hungary has designated two new Ramsar sites as of 14 August 2001, both contiguous with the borders of the Slovak Republic and ecologically associated with recently-designated Ramsar sites in that country. The "Baradla Cave System and related wetlands" (2,075 ha; 48°28N 020°30E), a National Park, MAB Biosphere Reserve, and World Heritage site, is the Hungarian part of the 25 km long Baradla-Domica Cave System that is a typical and the largest subterranean hydrological system of the karst plateau in the territory of Hungary and Slovakia. The site is characterized by a permanent subterranean stream, ponds, rich dripstone formations, and diverse representatives of subsurface fauna as well as rich archaeological remains. The extended underground world of the Aggtelek & Slovak Karst, of which the site is a large part, provides a habitat for more than 500 species of troglobite, troglophile and trogloxene animals including endemic species (such as Niphargus aggtelekas), as well as species first described from this region. The most important archaeological sites are the settlements of Bükk culture both inside and in front of the cave entrance, with charcoal drawings unique in Central Europe. The importance of the karstic springs was recognized by local people as early as the Middle Ages, particularly for milling grain and crushing ore. More than 200,000 tourists visit the site annually, for whom tours and study trails, as well as hotels and campsites, are available. The site is integral with Slovakias Domica Ramsar site (designated January 2001) and part of a single Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst World Heritage site since 1995.
Baradla Cave System
The second new site, "Ipoly Valley" (2,227 ha; 48°04N 019°07E), also a National Park, is a long, flat, and narrow valley containing oxbow lakes as well as shrub and alder bogs which serve to minimize risks of flood damage. Seasonally flooded meadows are partly grazed by cattle and partly mowed, and groundwater recharge supplies drinking water to the population. The site is an important stopover for migratory waterbirds and offers habitat to a significant number of fish species, some of them endangered, though its role as an important fish spawning ground has declined. Few serious threats to the site are foreseen, though increased overgrazing and greater use of artificial fertilizers would not be welcome. Expanded recreational and eco-tourism for the Budapest region may bring benefits, and a return to traditional, sustainable fishing methods is contemplated. The site is ecologically integral with the Slovak Republics Poiplie Ramsar site (1998), and a unique ethnographic and cultural character binds the sites, as evidenced by the Csadó-tanya prehistoric settlement remains.
Niphargus aggtelekas, resting for a moment in the Baradla Cave System Ramsar site.
The Convention welcomes these valuable new sites, which bring Hungary's Ramsar total to 21 sites covering (or underneath!) 154,147 hectares.