A WWF project to save Hungarian steppe woods wins an EU ‘Best LIFE Nature’ award
The project aimed at the conservation of Euro-Siberian steppe woods and Pannonic sand steppes of Nagykőrös - the largest and most indigenous stand of sand steppe forest in Hungary, which is found exclusively in the Carpathian Basin. The project targeted the main factors that threaten these habitats: the spread of alien species, problems with natural forest regeneration, improper forest management practices, fragmentation and lack of public awareness.
WWF Hungary worked together with Duna-Ipoly National Park Directorate, the leader of the awarded project, and the municipality of Nagykőrös.
The project removed invasive species like black locust and black cherry from the target area of 420 ha. Native species were planted to transform the forest and return the natural state of the area. Oak woods were reclassified from timber production to soil protection. Commercial logging was ceased and private forest was reserved for nature conservation after special 90-year leasing contracts were signed. “As a result of the project this unique habitat is now safe and free to grow for almost a century”, said Akos Fath, Director of WWF Hungary.
A forest education centre was built together with volunteers. Its name - Pál fája or Paul's Tree - comes from a 500-year-old local oak tree. In the first three years it received more than 15 000 visitors. An educational path with 10 stops was also built and a trail guide was published. “For the long-term survival of the steppe oak woods it is very important that an increasing number of people are aware of this formerly unknown natural oasis”, said Fath.
The scientific data gathered were published in a Rosalia research paper compilation on sandy grasslands and forest habitats of the sandy ridge of the Danube-Tisza confluence and discussed at an international conference with more than a hundred participants.