Kiskunság, HU

Site location and background
The Hungarian infrastructure and experimental site Kiskunság (46°53N 19°23E) is located on the territory of the Kiskunság National Park 20 km west of the city of Kecskemét. It represents a forest-steppe transitional biome between temperate deciduous forests and continental steppes in Europe. The area is under protection since 1975. Formerly it was exposed to military activities.

 Roofs at Kiskunság

The vegetation of the Kiskunság sand region developed on the Pleistocene sand of the river Danube and is a hierarchical mosaic of different grassland and woody formations. Despite of historical human landuse (extensive grazing, small-farm agriculture) this unique type of ecosystem still preserves high biodiversity and many endemics.

At the study site, the stands of white poplar trees and shrubs form a mosaic with the open xeric grassland of ca. 40-60% vascular plant and high cryptogam (lichen and moss) cover. The dominant species are the deciduous clonal Populus alba and the perennial C3 bunchgrass Festuca vaginata. Other important species are the C3 grass Stipa borysthenica and the C4 grass Cynodon dactylon.

The coarse sand soil is very poor in organic matter (<1%), and has extreme heat and water regime. Mean monthly temperature ranges from 1.9 °C in January to 21.1 °C in July, and in the vegetation period (April-October) the average is 16.4 °C. Peak precipitation usually occurs in June (72.6 mm) often followed by a midsummer drought.In the hot and dry summers the activity of C3 grasses decreases, C4 grasses are activated, while the activity of poplar clones are continuous. Extreme drought events are rather frequent in the region.

Climate change manipulations
In three plots (4*5m) we increase temperature (ca. 1°C) by covering the plots with a reflective material at night throughout the year. In three other plots we simulate drought by covering the plots by a transparent water-proof material during rain events in May and June. We exclude 5-20% of the yearly precipitation depending on the yearly amount. Three untreated plots serve as control.

Due to transitional (grassland-shrubland-forest) character of Kiskunság, this ecosystem is expected to be sensitive to predicted changes in climate, thus being an ideal target system for climate change studies. This infrastructure located in the Pannonian ecoregion with strong continental climatic influence enable scientists to test or compare their results obtained previously in different ecosystems. The mosaic of shrubs (Populus alba) and grasses (both C3 and C4!) provide a good opportunity to study a transitional ecosystem in an experimentally altered climate.

Research activities and research ideas
Associated with the climate manipulation instruments are a series of equipments partly installed permanently at the site, partly carried regularly to the site. These devices (air and soil thermometers, rain collectors, permanent and portable soil water sensors, lysimeters, litter collectors, infra-red gas analyser, data-loggers, multichannel field spectrometer) are used to monitor treatment effects and collect samples for lab analyses.

Research activities and possibilities at the infrastructure cover several fields including plant phenology, primary productivity, ecophysiology, plant population biology, role of functional groups, plant biodiversity, biodiversity of some animal groups, litter decomposition, N-mineralisation, soil respiration, etc. The regular collection of basic environmental and biological data for 8 years at the site provide a large set of background information that enables scientists to interpret their results they obtain in a short-term campaign at the infrastructure.

Other facilities offered
Associated facilities are a standard automatic meteorological station and a field station in walking distance from the infrastructure.

The on-site team
The on-site team for Kiskunság includes Dr. György Kröel-Dulay, Prof. Edit Kovács-Láng, Eszter Lellei-Kovács, Dr. Sándor Barabás, Dr. Tibor Kalapos, Dr. Miklós Kertész and technical assistant László Kanyó.

For more information
Please, contact György Kröel-Dulay, site coordinator, email:

Institute of Ecology and Botany, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, H-2163 Vácrátót, Hungary.

 Under roof at Kiskunság