Six new Ramsar sites in Hungary

Six new Ramsar sites in Hungary

22 August 1997

Ramsar Information Sheets have been completed and have just been received in the Bureau for six new sites in Hungary, all to be dated as of 30 April 1997, along with extensions of the boundaries of two other important Ramsar sites and, interestingly, the normalization of the status of one of the world's two seasonally-restricted Ramsar sites (see the last item below). Hungary can now claim 19 Ramsar sites covering 149,840 hectares of surface area.

Here is a brief description of the new sites and extensions drawn from the Information Sheets on Ramsar Wetlands.

The Rétszilas Fishponds site consists of a system of 14 larger fishponds and several smaller units covering about 840 hectares, which with the remnants of associated marshy river beds adds up to a total of 1508 ha. The complex comprises one of the most significant waterfowl habitats of the Sárrét part of Transdanubia (western Hungary), with excellent nesting habitat for several strictly protected and endangered bird species and a breeding site for the strictly protected otter. Given the small size of the site, its nesting heron population and species composition are considered to be remarkable.

Gemenc (16,873 ha) is a typical representative site for the floodplains of the Danube in its middle region. A complicated system of oxbow lakes covers the territory, and the floodplain plays an important role in sediment trapping and flood control. The undisturbed forests and oxbow lakes of the Danube support high diversity and density of endangered species. Gemenc has been a Landscape Protection Area since 1977 and is part of the new Duna-Dráva National Park.

Béda-Karapancsa (1,149 ha) is a nature reserve, with typical floodplain habitats on the southernmost part of the Danube near the boundary of Hungary. The river Danube in the site is in its middle reach with developing side arms; sand banks arise continuously and wander with floods, and a system of oxbow lakes covers the territory. A Landscape Protection Area since 1996, the site is also part of the Duna-Dráva National Park. Both this and the Gemenc site are also key sites in the WWF Green Danube Programme.

Lake Kolon at Iszák (2,962 ha) is a shallow lake with small open water bodies and extensive reed beds and wet meadows with generally peat soil. As the only large water body in the region, it has a beneficial effect on the groundwater regime of the surrounding areas, and it hosts large numbers of all eight heron species found in Hungary. The site is part of the Kiskunság National Park and a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve.

Biharugra Fishponds (2791 ha) consist of intensively used lakes at the eastern border of Hungary adjacent to Romania, in the floodplain of the river Sebes-Körös on the relatively dry Hungarian Great Plain. Supplied with water by a canal connected to the Sebes-Körös, the fishponds provide important habitat for nesting and feeding of many waterbirds during migration. The site includes a "kunhalom", an elevated hill probably used for burial purposes some 1100 years ago, and there are other archaeological finds. Ownership formally resided with the state agricultural cooperative, but the land tenure is currently changing, and the Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society has been able to buy land in the nature reserve. Intensive fishery activity is carried out, and there is cattle and sheep breeding, as well as farming, on the meadows between the lakes. Threats to the site are listed as poaching, herbicides and pesticides from agricultural activities, and water pollution from the river. The site has been a Landscape Protection Area since 1990.

The Pacsmag Fishponds Nature Conservation Area (485 ha) is situated in a meandering valley of the small stream Koppány; the fishponds were established by the construction of a dam on the stream, and the large water bodies so created now attract thousands of waterfowl, especially during migration, making Pacsmag one of the most significant waterfowl resting and breeding sites in the southern part of Transdanubia in western Hungary.

In addition, Lake Tisza (3648 ha), one of the four sections of the 19,473-hectare Hortobágy Ramsar site, has been extended to about twice its size. This human-made reservoir is supplied with water from the Tisza River, but stabilization of its wildlife is somewhat hindered by the fluctuation of the water level during functioning of the reservoir, specially winter drainage and summer take-off for irrigation. The area has been nominated for protected status as an extension of the Tiszafüred Bird Reserve, part of the Hortobágy National Park.

And finally, the existing Lake Fertö Ramsar site on the Austrian-Hungarian border has been significantly extended from 2,870 hectares of two unrelated sectors to 8,432 hectares in one coherent site covering the whole southern end of the lake. This site is particularly interesting because it is part of a single transboundary international park managed jointly with Austrian authorities responsible for Neusiedlersee, the Austran part of the lake, also a Ramsar site since 1982.

Seasonally-restricted Ramsar sites. Hungary is the only country in the world to have experimented with the concept of "part-time" Ramsar sites, wetlands for which the Ramsar designation only applies for part of the year. Two of the Hungarian Ramsar sites designated in 1990 have, until now, only been covered between October and April (the important period for wintering water birds). The Hungarian authorities have also announced that one of these sites - Tata, Öreg-tó (Old Lake) - now has permanent Ramsar status. Efforts are continuing to achieve the same for Lake Balaton, which is Hungary's most important venue for summer tourism and therefore of great economic interest.