The land is changing

The areas showed an other face before the launch of the project. The most significant elements of the landscape were homogenous reedbeds, which covered mainly wet lowlands with periodic dehydration.

Hiding in the reeds  (Photo: Tamás ZALAI)

The spreading of reeds and shrubs was intensifying as the level of grazing was decreasing. Later appering of reeds was not the main problem but the developing of large 5 years old rancid reeds and its landscape impairing impact. The endless horizont of the Puszta was broken by long reed walls. The area lost its diverse picture, which is expected in grassland habitats.

Grazing on Kecskés in 2015 (Photo: Dániel Balla)

Open water surfaces on Kecskés project site in 2016 (Photo: Dániel BALLA)
The lack of open water surfaces, wetlands and marsh meadows caused also problems in the character of the landscape. Historical data refer to these mosaics of wetlands, which contributed to the developement of such diverse habitats. In the beginning of the project the ratio of these habitat was evanescent on the whole area.  Conventional agriculture and the serving water management resulted this status.
The bed of Nagyág-ér is covered with reed in 2014 (Photo: Dániel Balla)
All project area has changed a lot since the grazing started. One of our targets is the increasing of the level of grazing here in Hortobágy. Thanks to the livestock of Hortobágy Nature and Gene Conserving Ltd. and its project partners, with the grazing of reeds and grasslands the homogeneity of the vegetation turned into mosaics of diverse habitats.
Nagyág-ér shows open water surface in 2015 (Photo: Dániel Balla)
The most marshy wetlands were grazed by buffalos because with their grazing and trampling they make the biggest impact on the area. The increasing presence of grzing animals helps to recover the traditional landscape of Hortobágy.
Grazing buffalos on Kiskondás (Photo: Dániel Balla)
The preconditioning of the rancid reed banks was very succesful. It is necessary because cattle do not graze old rancid reed banks. The accumulated organic material in the lower wet parts smells bad, so the animals do not stay there, so neither trampling can open these reeds. Shredding and cutting help to reduce rancid reed banks and the new sprouts are delicious for the animals.
Shredding in Kiskondás (Photo: Zsolt Gyömbér)
In the area affected by the project there were riverside forests and floodplain forests on the riverside. They did not correspond to the high ecological value of forest associations, but they proved to be an excellent habitat for opportunistic predatory species threatening the sensitive birdlife of the area. Their felling has begun within the framework of the project. The logged wood and cutted reed are used for pellet production, which will be divided among NGOs and socially in need people.

Making wood chips for the pellet (Photo: Attila Szilágyi)

Wildlife also follows the changing of the area

The fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) is a characteristic but declining species of (1530) Pannonic salt steppes and salt marshes habitat. One of our goals is to reach a 200% of population growth. The aim of the monitoring is to justify the positive effects of the controlled grazing with the increasing of this Natura 2000 indicator species.

Monitoring results in 2016

In most of the waterbodies we could experience a stabile, higher water-level, thanks to the abundant precipitation in winter and early spring in 2016. In comparison of 2015 there is a population growth of Bombina bombina on the following 9 areas: Matyó-fenék (100%), Halas-fenék (100%), Pozsgán (50%), Fekete-rét (36%), Csirés (25%), Kis-Kondás (25%), Kajla (25%), Vince-fenék (18%), Kondás-fenék (14%). Decline can be noticed on the following areas: Kondás-tó (56%) and Nagyág-ér (50%). Overall there is a 20% of population growth of Bombina bombina. That means the effects of the controlled grazing have already appeared.