Case study:Marsh protection in Egyek–Pusztakócs

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Location: 47° 37' 21", 20° 56' 57"
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Project overview

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Status Complete
Project web site
Themes Environmental flows and water resources, Habitat and biodiversity, Land use management - agriculture
Country Hungary
Main contact forename János, Judit, János
Main contact surname Fehér, Gáspár, Tamás
Main contact user ID
Contact organisation GWP Eastern Europe
Contact organisation web site http://
Partner organisations
Parent multi-site project
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encompassing the following
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Project summary

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Since its foundation in 1973, the Hortobágy National Park has aimed to restore and rehabilitate the Great Plain landscapes that has been transformed for centuries by human activities.

The first habitat rehabilitation programme in Hungary was initiated in the Hortobágy region. The landscape level rehabilitation programme of the Egyek – Pusztakócs marsh system stand out of all similar restorations. The first phase of this programme (1976–1997) involved the rehabilitation of the marshes and meadows after the hydrological reconstruction of the water supply system. The second phase, which is still on going, focuses on the restoration of grasslands and on the management and protection of the already revitalised marshes.

The Egyek–Pusztakócs marsh system that used to be regularly flooded by the river Tisza has been drained gradually since the early 19th century. However, the regulation of the river Tisza, which has occurred since the 1860s terminated the most important source of water supply to the marsh system. The construction of the system to drain inland waters, which started in the 1900s and accelerated between 1930 and 1950, has drained most marshes, and led to the sinking of the ground water table and to the emergence of a general water deficit in the habitats. Canal constructions, done as part of the Egyek area melioration programme in the 1980s, have led to a near-fatal drought, and an almost irreversible degradation of the marsh system.

As a result of river regulation, flood control and drainage works, the sources of natural water supply have almost vanished. The drying was mainly caused by theses changes, and was only exacerbated by the extremely long low-precipitation period between the late 1970s and early 1990s. Most of the natural water catchments of the marshes were ploughed and the connections between the marshes were terminated by filling upof the former natural depressions which connected the marshes.

Parallel to the drying of the area, ploughing broke up an increasing amount of grasslands and meadows, and the proportion of arable lands have gradually increased. In addition to the reduction of wetland habitats, characteristic edge habitats and zonal transitions (e.g. dry grassland-wet meadow-tussock meadow-marsh) have disappeared. In many areas, patches of homogeneous habitats separated by sharp, sudden, non-transitional edges have appeared.

The aim of the rehabilitation was to construct and operate a water supply system that could mimic the flooding that had been characteristic to the area before river regulation, and to achieve a hydrological reconstruction and revitalisation of the marshes. The construction of the water supply system was started with Fekete-rét (1976) and continued with Kis-Jusztus, Bőgő and Meggyes marshes, and was completed in 1997 with Hagymás and Csattag marshes. The canal system has brought the water of river Tisza back to the marshes.

The habitat-level changes following the hydrological reconstruction have caused a regeneration and revitalisation of the marsh habitats. In a few years, the areal extent of marshes has approached the level estimated before human activities had started to transform the area (Fig. 2). Today the marsh system is characterised by a mosaic-like landscape structure, the most im-portant elements of which are the ancient riverbeds running mostly from N to S, the loess covered higher grounds between the marshes, the meadows in the edges of marshes, the alkali grasslands and pastures, and the small pockets of woodlands, tree lines and dry loess grassland fragments.

The overall objective of the project was the large-scale restoration of grasslands and the protection of marshes in the Egyek-Puszakócs area. In particular, the project aimed to reduce the negative effects of grassland fragmentation and the impact of intensive agriculture on natural grasslands and marshes.

Specifically, the project aimed to:

Eliminate goose farms that degrade surrounding grasslands and restore arable land to grasslands;

Develop grazing capacity in the area;

Increase the diversity of marsh habitats using grazing and fire management;

Protect and improve the habitats of Annex I waterfowl and birds of prey.

Grasslands and marshes were expected to reach a favourable conservation status. The successful implementation of the project would also lead to greater public awareness of conservation and of the role of the Natura 2000 network.

Funding - EU CONTRIBUTION 700,302.00 €

Monitoring surveys and results

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The success of the hydrological reconstruction was seen by the very rapid changes in the bird fauna. In the years after the reconstruction, rare and valuable species of birds such as the Pied Avocet (Reeurvirostra avosetta), Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) and Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanoeephalus) appeared in unprecedented numbers in the marsh system. A decelerating stabilisation process, during which bird assemblages became more characteristic to stagnant waters, followed the initial re-colonisation, and species less typical in Hortobágy marshes disappeared.

Today reed beds, interspersed with stands of Broad-leaved and Narrow-leaved Bulrush, Softstem Bulrush and Common Clubrush, cover most of the marshes. The re-colonisation of the once extensive submersed vegetation has been extremely fast and White Waterlily, Yellow Waterlily, Yellow Floating-heart, Water Chestnut and Floating Fern cover increasingly larger areas.

The marshes see a limited number of fish, whereas the Grass Snake and European Pond Turtle are abundant. Among mammals, the Eurasian Otter is worthy of mentioning, which lives in great numbers in the canals and nearby fishponds.

The project achieved all its aims in spite of unsolved problems regarding land purchase and land swapping. Moreover, several targets were even exceeded:

Two ecological corridors were established by purchasing 11 ha arable land, restoring grasslands on 42 ha arable land and by extensive cultivation of 31 ha arable land;

Buffer zones were established in critical areas by restoring grasslands on 364 ha arable land on 135 parcels adjacent to marshes;

Grassland was restored on an additional 341 ha arable lands, which reduced the proportion of arable land within the protected area from 32% to 14%;

The restoration of two Natura 2000 priority habitat types was carried out on 747 ha, of which 93 ha was loess steppic grasslands (habitat 6250) and 654 ha was alkali steppe grasslands (habitat 1530);

59 ha of arable land were purchased for grassland restoration;

Two goose farms were eliminated from alkali steppes by purchasing 306 ha grasslands and by transforming the area to sheep- or cattle-grazing;

A grazing scheme was established, involving 18 farmers/farming companies on 2580 ha grasslands, which includes 820 ha grasslands not grazed before the project and newly restored grasslands depending on their conservation status;

Grazing on 400 ha was applied on four marshes and fire management was carried out on a 120 ha marsh in order to open up homogeneous reeds.

148 ha arable lands were cultivated extensively (without the use of chemicals) to enhance populations of small mammals and thus strengthen the food base for Annex I bird species.

In short, the project significantly contributed to the improvement of the conservation status of marshes and Pannonic grasslands in the Egyek-Pusztakócs region in Hungary.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).

Lessons learnt

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Image gallery

The hydrological reconstruction has caused the rapid regeneration of the marshes, with their areal extent increasing to 26-28% (habitat map from 2001) (Source: GWP Eastern Europe, See file in references).

Catchment and subcatchment


River basin district Danube
River basin Danube


River name Danube
Area category more than 10000 km²
Area (km2)
Maximum altitude category Less than 100 m
Maximum altitude (m)
Dominant geology
Dominant land cover
Waterbody ID

Other case studies in this subcatchment: Conservation of alluvial, Hainburg River Restoration, INTERREG MED WETNET - Memoradum on Participation in Wetland Conservation in Ljubljansko Barje Nature Park, National Park Danube-Auen, Regelsbrunner Aue, The Bulgarian Wetlands Restoration and Pollution Reduction Project, Witzelsdorf Pilot Project


WFD water body codes
WFD (national) typology
WFD water body name
Pre-project morphology
Reference morphology
Desired post project morphology
Heavily modified water body
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present
Invasive species present
Species of interest
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use
Average bankfull channel width category
Average bankfull channel width (m)
Average bankfull channel depth category
Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
Average channel gradient
Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m)
Project started 2004/09/01
Works started
Works completed
Project completed 2008/12/31
Total cost category 1000 - 5000 k€
Total cost (k€) 1040
1,040 k€
1,040,000 €
Benefit to cost ratio
Funding sources European Union

Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
Stakeholder engagement and communication
Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure Land drainage, Flood risk management
Hydromorphology Quantity & dynamics of flow
Other reasons for the project


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications
Floodplain / River corridor Restoration of riparian marshes, Restored species-rich wet grasslands
Planform / Channel pattern
Non-structural measures
Management interventions
Social measures (incl. engagement)


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Biological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
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Physico-chemical quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
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Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Monitoring documents

Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

Link Description files/idmp-cee/idmp-case-studies-final-pdf-small.pdf Link to a document with all the information displayed on this page proj id=2667 Additional information about the project, used to supplement this page

Supplementary Information

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