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Pilis Biosphere Reserve

<p><span style="color: #34495e;"><strong><span lang="EN-GB">The Pilis Biosphere Reserve is a regional cooperation of Pilis State Forestry (Pilisi Parkerdő Zrt.), the Danube-Ipoly National Park Directorate, the local governments and NGO-s of the area in order to protect the natural values, support the development of local economy and education. As Ecotourism is one of the strengths of the site, related developments are beneficial for every participant.</span></strong></span></p>

The UNESCO Man& Biosphere programme since 1976 is addressing one of the most important task of modern world: to harmonise sustainable development with nature conservation and the protection of biodiversity.

The Pilis Biosphere Reserve (PBR) had been established by dr. László MADAS, first director of Pilisi State Park Forestry in 1981.

Goals of the PBR to enhance:

  • Protection the biodiversity of species, the ecosystems and the landscape of in the a Pilis-Visegrád Mountains.
  • Sustainable development of local economy, cultural and social life based on the natural values of the region.
  • Research, monitoring, education, interpretation on nature protection, forestry.


The zonation system of Pilis BR – considering that PBR is an “old generation” biosphere reserve, established before the 1995 delivery of the Seville Strategy – has been under a modification procedure since 2012 in line with the criteria of the Statutory Framework. The different zones of the PBR have been identified and mapped, buffer and transition zones have been replanned to promote sustainable development and preservation of the core area.


The role of the core area is to protect biological diversity, monitoring minimally disturbed ecosystems, and undertaking non-destructive research and other low-impact uses (such as education). In addition to its conservation function, the core area contributes to a range of ecosystem services. Employment opportunities can also complement conservation goals (e.g. environmental education, research, environmental rehabilitation and conservation measures, recreation and eco-tourism). On one part of the core zone the main goal - as basic activity - is conservation, and here the silvicultural use is only for the preservation of the natural wealth. There are no settlements inside the zone. Almost the whole core zone is state-owned forest. Besides this there are few hiking trails leading through these areas. In some cases almost untouched, valuable core zone areas can be found in the PBR, surrounded and bordered upon by urban areas (eg. in Kesztölc) with intensive usage. It happens, when eg. unique rocky grassland patches can be found on rock walls towering above the settlement – but in this situation these habitats – due to their exposure - are difficult to reach and their protection can be guaranteed despite the proximity of the town itself. Thanks to their location these natural assets are not at risk, their conservation can be guaranteed.


The buffer zone surrounds or adjoins the core areas, and is used for cooperative activities compatible with sound ecological practices, including environmental education, recreation, ecotourism, and applied and basic research. They also have an important connectivity function in a larger spatial context as they connect biodiversity components within core areas with those in transition areas. These areas are also covered by state-owned forests. Forestry is controlled and supervised. Conservation is the main objective during forest management planning. The goal of the BR’s buffer zone, in particular, to preserve the core zone and mitigate the effects coming from outside, although the buffer zone is also very valuable itself. Because the management is done mainly with conservation purposes, all activities may strengthen the conservation function of the core zone. Its functions are research and preservation with professional and educational purposes. Specialized active nature management and research are supported. Here we can find 5 settlements, which are surrounded by the buffer zone. The area is a very important target to make excursions from the capital. Many tourists, hikers come here for recreation every day, but especially on the weekends.


Transition area with a central function in sustainable development which may contain a variety of agricultural activities, settlements and other uses and in which local communities, management agencies, scientists, non-governmental organizations, 15 cultural groups, economic interests and other stakeholders work together to manage and sustainably develop the area's resources. As opposed to the core zones and buffer zones, which are declared by a ministry decree, the designation of transitional zones are based on voluntary signatures of involved participating municipalities. In the transition zone the goal is to achieve a land and landscape usage that guarantees the conservation of the natural assets and provides the benefit of the land users at the same time. In this zone the main land use is forestry, but viticulture, fruit production, grazing and plant cultivation are also important activities. Hunting and silviculture are the first to be mentioned among the historical land uses. Throughout this hilly region there was a vast hunting ground reserved for royalties and later for the State. The Catholic Church owned forests here in the past too. Viticulture and wine-growing is the second to be mentioned, which had flourished from medieval times till the turn of this century (in that time Szentendre –Buda wine-growing region was well known and appreciated in Europe). Then there was a major set-back caused by a pest. It played an important role in this region from the beginning of this century to World War II. After the war II fruit production was finished. Secondary steppes were formed at the place of abandoned orchards, and small gardens and holiday camps were established in the 1960s and 1970s at the place of steppes. Four settlements are completely situated inside the zone.


The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the administration and coordination of biosphere reserves in Hungary.

National park directorates and other organisations are responsible for the management and development of the sites.


  • It is convened once a year.
  • The members are:
  • farmers,
  • state-owned- and non-governmental nature reservation organizations,
  • the mayors of the 16 settlements,
  • touristic organizations and education institutes operating on the territory of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve;
  • promotes education of local residents in terms of the objectives of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve;
  • provides opportunities to exchange and harmonize opinions and interests of residents of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve;
  • provides a scientific basis for the management of Pilis Biosphere Reserve.


It is convened once a year.

Members of the Advisory Body are elected by the Forum:

  • The Chairman of MAB National Committee – permanent member
  • Representative of the Directorate of Duna-Ipoly National Park – permanent member
  • Representative of the State Forest Management – permanent member
  • Representative of mayors – annually elected member
  • Representative of local non-government organizations – annually elected member
  • Representative of local private farmers – annually elected member

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UNESCO MAB program

The UNESCO Men&Biosphere (MAB) programme launched in 1971 is an intergovernmental scientific programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environments. It combines the natural and social sciences with a view to improving human livelihoods and safeguarding natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable.

By focusing on sites internationally recognized within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the MAB Programme strives to:

  • identify and assess the changes in the biosphere resulting from human and natural activities and the effects of these changes on humans and the environment, in particular in the context of climate change;
  • study and compare the dynamic interrelationships between natural/near-natural ecosystems and socio-economic processes, in particular in the context of accelerated loss of biological and cultural diversity with unexpected consequences that impact the ability of ecosystems to continue to provide services critical for human well-being;
  • ensure basic human welfare and a liveable environment in the context of rapid urbanization and energy consumption as drivers of environmental change;
  • promote the exchange and transfer of knowledge on environmental problems and solutions, and to foster environmental education for sustainable development.

This international network of sites is one of the most important and most effective organisation to implement the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) world wide.

The 714 BRs of the world are in 129 countries, including 21 cross border sites:

31 countries 85 sites in Africa

12 countries 33 sites in the Arab states

24 countries 157 sites in Asia and the Pacific

38 countries 302 sites in Europe and North America

21 countries 130 sites in South America and the Caribbean

The main MAB governing body is the International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. It consists of 34 Member States elected by UNESCO's biennial The main MAB governing body is the International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. It consists of 34 Member States elected by UNESCO's biennial General Conference. From 2013 to 2017 Hungary had been a member of the Council.

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UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

World leaders committed themselves to ending poverty, combating climate change and fighting injustice at an historic UN summit in New York in September 2015. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers a better future for billions of people around the world and for our planet as a whole.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were unanimously adopted by 193 countries, set a new universal standard for development which aims to ensure that no one is left behind. The targets and indicators behind the goals provide a benchmark for measuring success.

Universal and indivisible, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for action by all countries - developed and developing countries - as well as all people to end poverty, address inequalities and tackle climate change by 2030.

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EuroMAB is the largest and oldest of the MAB Regional Networks: 302 biosphere reserves in 36 countries, including the United States and Canada. Meetings of the MAB National Committees and biosphere reserve co-ordinators of EuroMAB have taken place almost every two years since 1986. Since 2013 representatives of PBR have been attending the conferences.

EuroMAB 2019

2019 April, Dublin Castle, Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve, Ireland

For this meeting all sites had to prepare a short film to introduce their most important values and achievemnts.

Short film on PBR

Booklet on PBR

EuroMAB 2017

2017 April, Sarlat, Bassin de la Dordogne Biosphere Reserve, France


EuroMAB 2015

2015 May, Haapsalu, Estonia


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Natural values

The Pilis Biosphere Reserve is where the volcanic andesite hills of the Carpathian Mountains meet the sedimentary dolomite- and limestone mountain ranges. This is also the source of diversity of the flora, being home to species native to the Carpathian and South-European regions. The territories the biosphere reserve are also part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park and the Natura 2000 network. The flower of the Carpathian is the Purple hellebore(Helleborus purpurascens), while the limestone rocks nurture Greater pasque flower (Pulsatilla grandis). Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) nest on the mountaintops, and the rare hunter of the forest is the Short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus). Under the limestone ranges, more than 300 caves have been discovered so far. The 7.4 km long Ariadne Cave System accommodates Transdanubia’s largest caverns and dripstones.

The Danube-Ipoly National Park Directorate is responsible for the management of protected naturas values, ecosystems and biodiversity. National park rangers are involved in monitoring, research and control on protected areas.

Close-to-Nature Forestry

The forests are managed by the 50-year-old Pilisi Parkerdő Zrt. The founders aimed to realize a forest management model that emphasizes the touristic and cultural roles forests play and considers the protection of the landscape and nature as a priority. Precisely this is why our forestry is in the lead in large-scale implementation of close-to-nature forestry in Hungary. Thanks to this method, the forest’s scenic characteristics will not be damaged. Interventions will be almost unnoticeable to outsiders. Close-to-nature forests are forests consisting conifers and deciduous trees of various ages, where the oldest trees are functioning as important habitats, and where dead trunks and the continuous maintenance of the forest climate also play significant roles.

The Nature School located above Visegrád was founded in 1988. Each year, 8000 children are educated here about nature, within the framework of a several days long session. These days, the children of the first students of this nature school are coming back for a camping. Tourism and Natural values education


Cultural heritage

The Pilis Biosphere Reserve is surrounded by the Danube breaking through the Carpathian Mountains and turning to the South, calling for the name Danube Bend. The medieval towns around Budapest and the villages hiding in the forests make this region one of the most beautiful and touristic one in Hungary.

One of the two largest cities of the area, Esztergom is where King St. Stephen was born and crowned, serving as the centre of the Hungarian Catholic Church. The other one, Visegrád was the seat of the Hungarian kings, hosting the famous Meeting of Kings in 1335 with the kings of Hungary, The Castle of Visegrád in the Danube hug. the Kingdom of Bohemia and Poland. The ruins of the roman-style monastery and subchurch built in the 12th century make Dömös a special touristic destination

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The natural cultural and historical values, unique landscape, network of roads and hiking trails, the outstanding number of visitors and its central location within Hungary confirm the development of eco-tourism.

The medieval Danube Bend settlements near Budapest and the mountains sheltering them belong to the most popular tourist destinations of Hungary. In these towns, festivals and several events await visitors.


In cooperation with volunteers, the staff of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve annually assesses the number of visits to these mountains, which shows that on a nice, autumn weekend, more than 17,000 tourists choose to walk along the paths.

As a result today there are data from more than 2000 questionnaires to draw a detailed picture of our visitors and to set up sustainable and successful development projects.


The annual assessment of visitors is carried out by large numbers (in 2020 63 persons) of volunteers. Among them the number of PBR inhabitants is increasing, which is advantageous for the efficiency of the research and also improves the commitment of the locals to the PBR.


Related news

Five-country Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme today added 20 new sites, in 21 countries to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which now numbers 727 biosphere reserves in 131 countries, including 22 transboundary sites, and there is only one in the world connecting five countries.


Annual assessment of visitors in PBR

Since 2017 in cooperation with volunteers, the staff of the Duna-Ipoly National Park Directorate and the Pilis State Forestry annually carry out an assessment to register the number of visitors on the hiking trails of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve (PBR). The number of people, their daily routs are being registered and by a more detailed questionnaire we collect data on their touristic profile. The research is coordinated by a specialist researcher from Debrecen University.


Related places

Duna-Ipoly National Park Directorate

The Danube-Ipoly National Park was founded on 28 November 1997. The present operation area of the Directorate covers Pest, Fejér, and Komárom-Esztergom County.