Within the framework of the tender No. LIFE12NAT/HU/001028 entitled “Conservation of Dry Grasslands in Central Hungary”, the habitat restoration works are ongoing in 9 xenotherm project areas.Natura 2000 Network
Starting with Hungary’s accession to the European Union, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive became binding to Hungary. Accordingly, Hungary was mandated to establish the areas forming part of Natura 2000 network to protect the community-wise significant, natural habitats, along with the animal- and plant species living in Hungary.
In addition to the natural characteristics, in many cases, the advantageous conservation conditions of the EU-wise significant habitat types and species (so called marking habitats and species) were established and preserved until today by farming. In the Natura 2000 areas, instead of a reservation-like protection, harmonization of the social, cultural, economic and conservation values is emphasized, wherein preservation of the traditional farming methods and provision of the conditions of a sustainable farming plays a special role.
For the Natura 2000 network area, a so called Natura 2000 maintenance plan is drafted, detailing the conservation values and objectives of each area, and laying down rules to sustain natural values. It’s important to note that these plans are not mandatory, they are not enforced, and violations are not sanctioned. However, for environment-protection experts, these are essential documents, as they contain specific information for each area, along with management suggestions based on the specific habitats. For the most part of Natura 2000 areas, the maintenance plan has been completed, and the remaining maintenance plans are also foreseen for the near future. The completed maintenance plans are available on the official website of the State Nature Conservation (www.termeszetvedelem.hu).
Works Completed in the Tender
One of the dry grassland LIFE tender’s project areas is located within the administrational territory of Máriahalom and Gyermely, stretching across the Epöl Sarmatian Area, a special significance conservation area. This area is adjacent to 8 towns in Komárom-Esztergom county, and it was named after a Sarmatian-era limestone, which emerged 13-16 million years ago.
The project area is home to several marking dry grass habitat types, and associated with these, two marking species, namely populations of echium maculatum and pulsatilla.
One of the primary objectives of the Natura 2000 program regarding the area was the preservation and development of the natural species and structure of marking dry grasslands. From the aspect of management of the area, the most important task is to suppress and transform the closed bushes already widely present, as these emerged in the place of formerly pastural steppes. Replacing populations of alien tree species with indigenous species, and suppression of invasive species in the grasslands would also be a priority. The plan also covers closure of roads in the Nature 2000 areas to eliminate the use of terrain motorcycles and quads damaging grass. Such closure would subject entry to a permission. The area is traditionally used by hang-gliders as a starting position. To avoid conflicts, establishing the exact starting point and appointment of responsible persons is paramount. Designating horse-carriage and bicycle tracks is only possible on existing dirt roads with a plot number.
To achieve the above goals, we suppress bushes in about 6.5 hectares, primarily hawthorns, blackthorns, privets, cornus sanguinea and eglantines to allow for the extension of xerotherms. On top of this, we eliminate invasive species (primarily acacia) on about 4 hectares.