The Southern Great Plains of Hungary are significant in terms of climate change and its impact on the environment, society, economy, and energy. The region is highly vulnerable to climate change and increasing global temperatures, which has resulted in droughts, salinification, and desertification due to the general decrease in groundwater.
The agricultural sector is a major contributor to the Hungarian economy. In the 19th century, wetlands and swamps were drained for agricultural expansion, which has had a long-term impact on the soil morphology and hydrology of the region. The immediate benefits of agricultural expansion have been overshadowed by the consequences of this policy.
During socialist rule in Hungary, extensive canal systems were built to prevent floods. However, this system has over time decreased the overall water table and is now threatening the available drinking water base. Newly developed and revised climate and water strategies and plans are being considered to utilise soft engineering solutions for controlling the two major rivers, Tisa and Danube. These policies plan to restore wetlands, to protect and re-establish biodiversity, and to strengthen ecosystem services while maintaining agricultural output and providing sufficient flood protection.
Without intermittent flooding, the biological, chemical, and physical properties of the soils have changed, resulting in the loss of beneficial soil properties such as sufficient water retention capacity. The restoration of such soils will be a great challenge. Additionally, land ownership issues are problematic to this day, and can hamper the restoration of the region’s ecosystem services.
In summary, the hydrology of Great Plains of Hungary has been altered by hard engineering solutions, which has resulted in a lack of intermittent flooding, which is deteriorating the properties of the soils. Efforts to restore ecosystem services will require a hydro-geographical landscape management approach, changes in land use and agricultural practices, and addressing land ownership issues.
The End-User Community (EUC) of the RethinkAction project is gradually growing and its member profiles are spread out across the sectors. Since the case study region is dominantly rural with a focus on agronomy, stakeholders beyond citizens are manifold. Farmers and foresters have been identified and approached by Geonardo, as well as companies working in the energy sector and offering services in ecosystem management. The local EUC also invites non-governmental organisations and foundations that focus on nature conservation and ecological thinking. Beyond the above sectors and actors, the local and regional decision-making bodies as well as public water management authorities have been involved.
Land-use based Adaptation and Mitigation Solutions (LAMS) that promote the sustainability of land and intensive agriculture are the most relevant for this case study region, since it is predominantly used for intensive agriculture and the area is prone to droughts and soil degradation. LAMS that promote bioeconomy are also of importance since the Central and Eastern European region is generally lagging behind in this topic even though it has a high biomass potential. LAMS related to forestry that could also promote bioeconomy and aid biodiversity and ecosystem services restoration are also relevant. Hungary aims to increase its forest coverage from 20% to 27% by 2050 as described in the National Forest Strategy.
Image Source: GMV