Naturalness of the geographical regions in Hungary

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Based on the existing vegetation, the naturalness of the Hungarian macro-regions is similar, the proportion of habitats with habitat quality 4 and 5 is between 35 and 38%, only the Kisalföld region has strikingly low values (23%). The proportion of habitats with the highest naturalness category (5) is far the highest on the Alföld - 6.5%, and does not reach 2% anywhere else. But at the same time, the extension of the habitats with the worst natural-based habitat quality (category 2) is the largest on the lowlands (Alföld, Kisalföld) as well and on Dunántúli-dombság (20-23%)(BÖLÖNI et al. 2008).

Table 1. Proportion of naturalness categories in the geographical macroregions of Hungary based on existing vegetation

Percentage area of naturalness categories (%) in existing vegetation
Geographical regions 2 3 4 5 4 and 5 together area of the region
Alföld 20,9 43,3 29,3 6,5 35,8 583.332 ha
Kisalföld 23,0 53,9 21,6 1,5 23,1 47.694 ha
Nyugat-Dunántúl 12,2 50,8 35,4 1,5 36,9 125.564 ha
Dél-Dunántúl 20,0 44,9 34,0 1,1 35,1 186.659 ha
Dunántúli-középhegység 12,1 49,6 37,0 1,3 38,3 179.804 ha
Északi-középhegység 13,6 49,8 35,6 1,0 36,6 332.008 ha

We should note that the naturalness-based habitat quality of the remained – though small amount – (semi)natural vegetation of the Alföld is on the same level as that of the remained – though more extended – (semi)natural vegetation of colline-montane regions. It can be explained by two main reasons. Firstly, within the remained habitats the heavily stressed ones (mainly the alkali habitats) have great proportion. These sites avoided the drastic transformation, like ploughing or afforestation. Secondly, among the remained vegetation of the Alföld, there are several habitats with good regeneration potential (e.g. marshes and euhydrophyte vegetation) that recovered after past disturbances.

Considering the proportion of the remained (semi-)natural vegetation in the macro-regions provides a more complex picture. While on Kisalföld the area of the natural habitats does not reach 10%, it is more than 30% in the mountains (Északi-középhegység and Dunántúli-középhegység). Among the macro-regions in Hungary, the less (semi-)natural vegetation (2%) remained on Kisalföld. This region is also the most affected area by invasive species (Botta-Dukát 2008). Historical and environmental factors may jointly explain the state of this region; due to the formerly dominating large-estate system this is one of the mostly exploited agricultural regions of the country. At the same time, because of the more moderate and more humid climate, the proportion of the ecologically strongly stressed vegetation types (e.g. alkali, and sand steppes) should have been originally smaller than on the Alföld (5%). The other macro-regions differ essentially only in the area of the remained (semi)natural vegetation (Nyugat- and Dél-Dunántúl 6-7%, in the mountains 12-13%).

Table 2. Proportion of naturalness categories in the geographical macroregions of Hungary based on total area of the macroregions

Percentage area of naturalness categories (%) in total area of the region
Geographical regions 2 3 4 5 4 and 5 together Proportion of vegetation heritage of the landscape (%)
Alföld 2,7 5,5 3,7 0,8 4,6 12,8 %
Kisalföld 2,2 5,1 2,1 0,1 2,2 9,5 %
Nyugat-Dunántúl 2,2 9,3 6,5 0,3 6,7 18,3 %
Dél-Dunántúl 3,3 7,5 5,7 0,2 5,9 16,7 %
Dunántúli-középhegység 3,7 15,2 11,3 0,4 11,7 30,6 %
Északi-középhegység 4,8 17,5 12,5 0,4 12,9 35,2 %