Hungarian Little Plain - Restoration and conservation of priority-listed Pannonic sand land habitats in military owned area of the Hungarian Little Plain

LIFE08 NAT/H/000289

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Contact details:

Contact person: Ferenc DUNDICS
Tel: +36 1 3586174
Fax: +36 1 3586175
Email: kornyezetvedelem@hm.gov.hu

Project description:


Once covering vast areas of the Little Hungarian Plain (western Hungary), between the towns of Győr and Esztergom, as a result of human activity only remnants of the priority habitats Pannonic sand steppe and Pannonic inland sand dune thicket Junipero-Populetum albae remain in the region. A few patches can be found in the military sites near Győr where, as elsewhere in Europe, military ownership has left the habitats relatively undisturbed. For the same reason, these sites also provide a refuge for several rare species including: Adonis vernalis, Stipa pennata, Stipa borysthenica, Oxytropis pilosa, Dianthus serotinus, Onosma arenaria and Gypsophila fastigiata ssp. arenaria. A preliminary environmental management plan was created for the area, through co-operative work between environmental and military organisations.


The overall objective of the project was to manage one Natura 2000 network site in the Little Hungarian Plain – the military practice ranges at Gönyü – to restore degraded habitats, particularly the endangered Pannonic sand habitats, and populations of notable species. The project aimed to preserve biodiversity by establishing a network of ‘seed areas’ to support the dispersion of pioneer species and the regeneration of these habitats and, most importantly, to find a balance between ongoing military activities and nature conservation needs. Conservation actions were targeted at threats from invasive species, illegal motor sports and waste disposal. In addition, the project planned to address the threat of nutrient accumulation in the grasslands through controlled burning, build artificial sand dunes to help restore the unique habitats. The project beneficiary will apply knowledge gaining through another LIFE project on military-owned land, in the eastern Bakony Mountains (LIFE07 NAT/HU/000321), which aimed to eradicate invasive species.


The Little Hungarian Plain project restored the military area near Győr, which in 2011 was officially attached to the existing 248 ha Natura 2000 network site Gönyű Sand Land (HUFH20009), and developed a coherent network of natural sand habitats in this nature reserve. The project removed invasive plant species using a combination of mechanical and chemical methods. For instance, Robinia and other invasive tree species were cut and painted with herbicide; Ailanthus in patches over 10 ha were injected or painted with herbicide, though smaller trees were stripped of bark to kill them; Solidago in all patches over 100 ha was mown. Old biomass was removed from 155 ha, including the controlled burning of 48 ha. The project removed military land forms, such as trenches, and reconstructed dune grassland landscapes on 15.6 ha. In total, 15% more military debris and communal waste were removed than originally planned. Habitats of community importance increased from 42.79% to 55.14% in the area, with the targeted habitat type ‘Pannonic sand steppe’ (6260) increasing by 27.56 ha. Due to the removal of illegal waste dumps, these no longer pose a threat. The installation of fences and gates will help prevent further waste dumping. Regulation of motor sport activities will also reduce the threat it poses.

The project team identified the most effective methods for eliminating invasive plant species (trees, herbs and grasses), without harming the surrounding vegetation. It was found that professional supervision is crucial for this to be effectively carried out. Guidelines on the elimination of three invasive plant species (Asclepias syriaca, Robinia pseudoacacia and Ailanthus altissima) were developed, and these were distribution to the general public.

Grassland burning was shown to be very weather-dependent, and thus not generally reliable. Moreover, besides the positive role in reduced nutrient accumulation in grasslands, burning had several negative impacts, for example, promoting the dominant grass species at the expense of biodiversity. On the other hand, grazing by Hungarian gray cattle was shown to be very effective, even for normally non-palatable plants. The project identified optimal machine and manual seed collection techniques for the re-grassing of the restored terrain.

The project’s dissemination activities included online communication, for example, via websites, and various media platforms to highlight conservation actions and the role of cooperation between the military and conservation organisations. Field education activities organised for the military were considered to be very effective.

The project addressed priorities set out in the 7th EU Environment Action Programme, in particular priority objective 1 on the protection, conservation and enhancement of the EU’s natural capital, through the elimination of invasive plants and guidelines that spread awareness of these plants, and priority objective 5 on improving knowledge for environment policy, through the sharing of data and information gained during the project’s survey/monitoring work at scientific conferences and in scientific periodicals. Innovative electronic tools were used by the project team to monitor biota (multispectral air photos in GIS) and to survey public perception (GoogleDocs). Concrete species-specific methods for effective and harmless invasive plants elimination were developed, as well as a manual and a novel machine seed-collection method for quick restoration of natural grassland habitats.

Good relationships were established between the military personnel (especially the local corps), the forestry service and nature conservation experts. As a result of the project, the naturalness of forest and grassland habitats was improved. This will be sustained by ongoing cooperation, through extensive grazing coupled with mosaic-like scything and the continuous control of invasive plant species, as set out in the After-LIFE Conservation Plan.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan/After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Grasslands


restoration measure‚  disused military site

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Regulation 1143/2014 - Prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien ...

Target Habitat types

  • 6260 - Pannonic sand steppes
  • 91N0 - Pannonic inland sand dune thicket (Junipero-Populetum albae)

Natura 2000 sites

SCI HUFH20009 Gönyüi-homokvidék



Coordinator Defence Economic Bureau (ex Armament and Quartermaster Office), Ministry of Defence
Type of organisation National authority
Description MODDEB - Defence Economic Office of the Hungarian Ministry of Defence (MoD)- is a public authority responsible for tasks related to state-owned MoD properties including environmental and nature protection.
Partners Budapest Forestry Stock Company, Hungary Fertő-Hanság National Park Directorate, Hungary AQUAPROFIT Engineering, Consulting and Investment Corporation, Hungary


Project reference LIFE08 NAT/H/000289
Duration 01-JAN-2010 to 31-DEC -2015
Total budget 1,764,300.00 €
EU contribution 1,279,755.00 €
Project location Kozep-Magyarorszag(Hungary Magyarország) Kozep-Dunantul(Hungary Magyarország) Nyugat-Dunantul(Hungary Magyarország) Del-Dunantul(Hungary Magyarország) Eszak-Magyarorszag(Hungary Magyarország) Eszak-Alfold(Hungary Magyarország) Del-Alfold(Hungary Magyarország) Extra-Regio(Hungary Magyarország) Associated Hungary (H)(Hungary Magyarország)


Read more:

Brochure "The Hungarian Little Plain LIFE+ project: Nature protection in the Gönyü military site: LIFE08 NAT/H/000289" (3.18 MB)
Brochure "Kisalföldi Homokpuszta LIFE+ project: Honvédelem és természetvédelen a Kisalföldön LIFE08 NAT/H/000289" (37.4 MB)
Leaflet "Útmutató a bálványfa, az akác és a selyemkóró veg ...
Leaflet "Kisalföldi homokpuszta: Honvédelem és természetvé ...
Leaflet "Hungarian Little Plain: Nature protection in the ...
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Book "A kisalföldi meszes homokpuszta katonai használat ...
Publication: Case study "National Survey: Civil perception on the particip ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Proceedings "Rehabilitation of dry and semi-dry grasslands: In ...
Publication: Proceedings "Nature protection in military areas: Internationa ...
Publication: Research findings "Regional survey: Civil perception on the particip ...
Video link "Hungarian Little Plain Life+ Project: Video with English subtitles" (14'31)
Video link Project's video 1 (4.24')
Video link Project's video 2 (1.15')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version