This region includes all of Hungary, parts of Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania, stretching out of the EU into Serbia, Croatia and the Ukraine. It has specific regional features. As a flat basin surrounded by hills and mountains, its climate and biodiversity are heavily affected by its sheltered position and the influences of the nearby regions. One of the largest grasslands left in Europe, it includes two major rivers.
To best protect the Pannonian region, the relevant Member States and key stakeholders team up to devise nature protection measures, tailored to suit the particular needs of this biogeographical region and target its specific pressures.
The list of sites of Community importance for the Pannonian biogeographical region, included in Natura 2000, is updated every year.
The Pannonian Region is dominated by a large flat alluvial basin, divided from north to south by two major rivers – the Danube and Tisza – and almost completely enclosed by the Carpathians, the Alps and the Dinarics. This sheltered position has a significant impact on the climate. Wet weather from the west is tempered by drier warmer winds rising up from the Mediterranean and cooler temperatures coming from the Carpathians and Alps nearby.
The basin used to be covered in oak-dominated forests and forest steppes. They were gradually cut down to make way for Puszta, an extensive grasslands plain maintained for centuries by low-key grazing and cultivation. Not only is it one of the oldest man-made habitats in Europe, but also one of its largest remaining continuous grasslands. In the north, the hills merge with the Carpathians to form a typical karst landscape, with a massive underground maze of caves, rivers and aquifers carving its way through the porous limestone rocks.
The surrounding hills and mountains are an important source of water in this otherwise arid landscape. In the past, vast areas of the basin were regularly flooded by the Tisza and Danube rivers. Water permeated across much of the plain, creating shallow patches of ephemeral marshes and lakes. Huge deposits of sand, silt and mineral-rich loess were left behind and eventually blown over long distances. They have formed an intricate mosaic of different habitats, such as inland sand dunes, sand steppes, loess grasslands and maple-oak loess forests.
With its many diverse and contrasting habitats, this region has a particularly rich biodiversity, with many endemic species. Despite covering just 3 % of the EU territory, it harbours 118 species of animals and 46 species of plants listed in the Habitats Directive, as well as around 70 birds strictly protected in the Birds Directive.
The hills that encircle the flat plains exert a major influence on species dispersal and migration. Species are more vulnerable due to their restricted distribution. Many have evolved into species unique to the region. They include endemic plants like the sand saffron (Colchicum arenarium), the pink carnation (Dianthus diutinus) and the Hungarian pasqueflower (Pulsatilla pratensis ssp. hungarica) as well as animals like the Hungarian meadow viper (Vipera ursinii ssp. Rakosiensis), the Pannonian snail (Sadleriana pannonica) and the translucent Aggtelek cave shrimp (Niphargus aggtelekiensis).
The region is particularly rich in invertebrates, with 67 species listed in the Habitats Directive, including some of Europe’s rarest and most colourful beetles: the striking stag beetle (Lucanus cervus), the nocturnal Morimus funereus and the little red Cucujus cinnaberinus. The region is also home to 24 species of fish included in the Habitats Directive and 10 listed species of bats found in its extensive underground caves and natural forests.
Above all, the region is of major importance for birds. Many species endangered in the rest of the EU still breed here in significant numbers. Geese, ducks and other waders flock to the shallow wetlands every year. Amongst them are rare species like the lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) and the spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia). Higher on the hills are found other species: the great bustard (Otis tarda), the ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca), the imperial eagle (Aquila heliacal) and the saker falcon (Falco cherrug). The raptors often feed off the small rodents of the sandy steppic plains, grasslands and thickets, like the souslik (Spermophilus citellus) and the southern birch mouse (Sicista subtilis). These are now very rare due to habitat loss.
For thousands of years, the Pannonian Region has been heavily influenced by human activity. Today over 60 % of the land has been converted to arable lands. At first, grazing and farming on the Puszta was done in a relatively sustainable manner. But large-scale canalization and land reclamation schemes launched in the late 19th century have resulted in the destruction of many seminatural and natural habitats. Substantial areas of floodplains and the Puszta have been carved up and drained to make way for arable crops and fast growing non-native trees.
To reflect the changes proposed by Member States to the list of SCIs, and to ensure that all new sites have a clearly defined legal status, the Commission proceeds to an annual updating of the Union Lists.
The list of updates as well as the first version of the Pannonian list are available here
The Reference list of habitat types and species of the Pannonian Region includes protected habitat types (Habitats Directive Annex I) and species (Habitats Directive Annex II) present in this bio-geographical region by Member State. These are all habitat types and species for which the Member States have to propose Natura 2000 sites. The Reference Lists derive from the conclusions of bio-geographical seminars and are updated when new scientific information becomes available.