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Hungarian Little Plain project

Restoration and conservation of priority-listed Pannonic sand land habitats in military owned area of the Hungarian Little Plain (LIFE08 NAT/H/000289).

The general objectives of the project are the implementation of Community Environmental policy through its integration to military practice and supporting the further development and implementation of the Natura 2000 network.

The specific objectives of the project are managing future Natura 2000 sites in the Hungarian Little Plain (West Hungary) and rehabilitate natural habitats that have been degraded by neglect and past military actions.

The project site is the Győrszentiván military practice range area (at the north-eastern section of the municipal border of Győr) in the Hungarian Little Plain. The area includes remnants of endangered Pannonic sand land habitats priority-listed on the Council Directive 92/43/EEC concerning the conservation of natural habitats. The sand land habitats once covered a significant portion of the Hungarian Little Plain (between the towns of Győr and Esztergom), however, by today, only their traces remain. The main factors leading to the near disappearance of the habitats are the rapidly growing settlements along the Danube River, along with intensive agricultural activity and forestation of the last couple centuries.
Natural sites owned and used by the military are characterized by relatively undisturbed environmental habitats due to their isolation from the general public.
However, military ownership and activity did not prevent the area of all threats, such as invasive species, illegal motor sport traffic and waste deposition. If the appropriate conservation measures are not taken, natural values of these habitats can completely disappear in the course of a few decades. This alarming realization has placed conservation and rehabilitation of the Pannonic sand land habitats of the Hungarian Little Plain to the centre of attention of conservationist and military stakeholders involved. As a result, environmental research of the area has been initiated including the surveillance of species and natural habitats and assessment of threats imposed on them. A preliminary environmental management plan has also been created for the area through cooperative work between environmental and military organizations (TAKÁCS et al. 2006, 2007). This planning, and the results of subsequent research strongly implies that the conservation of several priority-listed habitats in the area (Pannonic sand steppes, Pannonic inland sand dune thickets) require immediate actions.

The objective of the project is the development of a network of ‘seed areas’ for natural sand land habitats. Conservation actions will take place in one-third (394 ha) of the military estate of Gönyü and Győrszentiván and it will aim for the restoration of well-preserved sand land habitats, management of natural and anthropogenic threats and linkage of fragmented habitats.

Consequently, focus is set on the following objects:

  • Ensuring the long-term sustainability of priority-listed Pannonic sand land habitats in the Hungarian Little Plain;
  • Conservation of preserved open and enclosed sand land steppe habitat remnants;
  • Rehabilitation of degraded open and enclosed sand land steppe habitats;
  • Conservation of the indicative species and ecosystems of the grasslands;
  • Advocating the dispersion of pioneer Pannonic inland sand dune thicket habitats.

Another important objective is to disseminate the long-term results and present best practices applied during the project to the management of other LIFE+ project sites, in order to raise their level of awareness and prevent harmful activities due to lack of information and understanding. This way partnership between the military and environment organizations could be strengthened for mutual benefit. This objective is concordant to (9) of EC Regulation No. 614/2007 concerning the Financial Instrument of The Environment (LIFE+) that advocates networking, mutual learning and the exchange of best practice for the effective implementation of environmental policy. Additionally, the project aims to communicate positive message about Natura 2000 sites and the LIFE+ Programme.