Grasslands Research Centre
University of Debrecen in English Magyarul

      Grasslands, originally covering 30% of the Earth's land area are now severely affected by anthropogenic factors such as land use change and fragmentation related to modern agricultural technology, invasive species, human disturbance and climate change (Daehler et al. 2003, Baer et al. 2010).

      This change has initiated a wide range of conservation efforts to restore native grasslands all over the world (Yurkonis et al. 2010). Grasslands are considered as biodiversity hotspots in several continents (Pywell et al. 2010), harbouring a number of threatened species or those close to extinction (Ishii et al. 2009).

Open Biotic Maps and Databases

Bemutatkozott a szüszin az OpenBioMaps projekt
  • Centre of Agricultural Sciences, University of Debrecen
  • Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Debrecen
  • Department of Ecology, University of Debrecen
  • Department of Conservation Zoology, University of Debrecen - Hortobágy National Park Directorate
  • Aggtelek National Park Directorate
  • Bükk National Park Directorate
  • Duna-Ipoly National Park Directorate
Research topics
  • Effects of climate change on plants, insects and birds
  • Amphibian monitoring, parasitism and climatic relatedness
  • Recovery of natural grasslands applying spontaneous succession and active grassland restoration
  • Migratory behaviour of the Eurasian and Sandhill Cranes
  • Geese migration in Hortobágy
  • Élőhelyfoltok változásai térben és időben
  • Gyeprekonstrukciós program
  • Természetvédelmi kezelések vizsgálata
  • Kollaborációk
  • Open Biotic Maps and Databases
  • Előadóülés a DAB székházban
  • The 9th European Dry Grassland Meeting
  • Publications
  • OpenBioMaps
  • Staff
  • Address
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Centre of Agricultural Sciences, University of Debrecen

H-4032 Debrecen, Böszörményi út 138.
tel: +36- (52) 508-444
fax: +36- (52) 413-385

Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Debrecen

The Department of Evolutionary Zoology and Human Biology, part of the Institute of Biology & Ecology at the University of Debrecen focuses on animal behaviour, conservation ecology, evolution, and population biology in research and teaching as well. Our research subjects range from hydras, through butterflies, firebugs and birds to mice and humans.
Department of Evolutionary Zoology and Human Biology

University of Debrecen

H-4010 Debrecen,
Egyetem tér 1, Hungary.

Phone: +36 52 512-900 / 62331

Fax: +36 52 512-941

Department of Ecology, University of Debrecen

Debreceni Egyetem TTK
Ökológiai Tanszék

4010 Debrecen, Egyetem tér 1., Pf. 71.

tel.: +36 52 512-900 /22619 /22620

fax.: +36 52 431-148

Department of Conservation Zoology, University of Debrecen - Hortobágy National Park Directorate

Aggtelek National Park Directorate

H-3758 Jósvafő, Tengerszem oldal. 1.

tel: (36) 48-506-000

fax: (36) 48-506-001


Bükk National Park Directorate

H-3304 Eger, Sánc u. 6.

tel: 36/411-581

fax: 36/412-791


Duna-Ipoly National Park Directorate

1121 Budapest, Költő u. 21.

tel: 06-1-391-4610

fax: 06-1-200-1168


Effects of climate change on plants, insects and birds

Recent studies have demonstrated that climate change influences distribution areas, population dynamics, migratory and reproductive strategies of many animals and plants. This process seems to affect threatened species with human-induced population declines and habitat losses. Accordingly, intensive research needs to be conducted on the climatic responsiveness of endangered species to match management plans to predicted climatic changes.

Hortobágy is one of the most important bird areas in Europe with more than 150 breeding species and nearly 350 avian taxa on passage, counting over 100, 000 individuals for a number of species. Besides, intensive ornithological studies have been carried out in the national park since the 1970ies resulting in high-quality, standardized data on population and migration dynamics. Based on that, one of our research topics is the study on population dynamics of birds breeding in Hortobágy investigating the effects of local and global climatic indices and those of human-induced population decline and habitat loss. Further, parameters of migration dynamics are also investigated as a function of variation in climatic indices.

Up to now, phenological parameters of many plants show intensive climatic reactions, especially in the timing of blooming and seed maturation. Hungary is in the lucky situation to possess herbarium collections containing orchid specimens of more than 40 species collected since the 1850ies. Our team investigates the blooming date variation of orchids as a function of julian date, life history traits with a phylogenetic control.

Recently, the number of research projects on the climatic responsiveness components of insect behaviour has steadily been increasing. Such studies can be conducted on a dataset consisting of light trap records of more than 300 noctuid moths collected in the Aggtelek National Park since the 1980ies. Using this highly standardized dataset, our team has started to investigate variances in the flight activity of moths, focusing on the effects of climatic variability.

Amphibian monitoring, parasitism and climatic relatedness

The human population grows daily, it’s on the move and it’s carving a deep technological footprint on this planet. We alter landscapes and perturb ecosystems, inserting ourselves and other species into novel regions of the world, leading to potentially irreversible changes in the biosphere. Half a century ago, Charles Elton, a founder of modern ecology, wrote, “We must make no mistake; we are seeing one of the greatest historical convulsions in the world’s fauna and flora.” We are also in the midst of an epidemiological crisis. Climate change alters movements and geographic distributions for myriad species. Transporting people and goods carries countless pathogens around the globe. This brings isolated species into sudden contact. Pathogens encounter hosts with no resistance and no time to evolve any. Maladies rare or unknown two or three decades ago, like HIV and Ebola, West Nile Virus and Avian Influenza — have become commonplace. This is the crisis of Emerging Infectious Disease (EID).

The EID we know are just the tip of the iceberg – 80-90% percent of the world\'s pathogens haven\'t been discovered yet. They\'re discovering us easily enough – weekly outbreaks and endlessly-mutating strains of recent years are ample evidence of that. This succession of crises is the new status quo. Thus far, they have been better at finding us, our livestock, our crops, and the wildlife we wish to preserve and use sustainably for socio-economic development than we have been at finding them.

The current EID crisis is a new manifestation of an old and repeating phenomenon. The rules have not changed. Every episode of global climate change and ecological perturbation throughout earth history has produced new pathogens. More than a million years ago, our African ancestors moved from forest to savannah. Adopting a predatory lifestyle, sharing prey with grassland carnivores, early humans acquired pathogens previously found in hyenas, large cats and African hunting dogs. They carried those pathogens out of Africa where they added native hosts in new environments, while native pathogens returned the favor, infecting the newly arrived humans. Agriculture and urbanization brought people and animals into even closer contact, making infection and transmission easier than ever. In the past 100,000 years agriculture, domestication and urbanization disseminated EID risk on a global scale. If doctors had existed in those times, they would have remarked on a worrisome surge in the number of EID, responding to the crisis as best they could, after the fact. In the past 50 years, exploding human population, rapid transit and climate change made produced the real time crisis you see on television daily.

The EID crisis is an issue of medical/veterinary/wildlife health only in a superficial sense. More fundamentally, it is an evolutionary and ecological issue, a predictable consequence of separated species brought into close contact. The difference today is that humans accelerate the rate of introductions, so outbreaks occur more frequently and over a wider geographic range than ever before. The potential for EID is a “built-in feature” of evolution. Research shows that those species best at surviving climate change will be the primary sources of EID. Pathogens are not only good at finding us, they are really good at surviving. There are many, not a few, evolutionary “accidents waiting to happen” out there, requiring only the catalyst of climate change, species introductions, and the intrusion of humans into areas they have never inhabited before.

Today’s crisis stems directly from fundamental ignorance about the biosphere: we simply don\'t know what\'s out there. And what you don’t know can hurt you. Undiscovered pathogens and their vectors lurk beneath our feet like evolutionary land mines as we move into novel habitats, trans-locate species and alter ecosystems. More than 50% of the species on this planet are parasites of some form. They threaten human health, agriculture, natural systems, conservation practices and the global economy. Each EID will exact an economic cost, and even when host immune systems catch up to a particular “new” pathogen, it will not go away. It will persist as pathogen pollution. West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease are not major public health problems, the chytrid fungus that has killed so many amphibians in other parts of the world, is not a wildlife disease problem in Hungary. But those pathogens are here, and will always be a chronic problem, with the potential for acute outbreaks. Others will follow, each repeating that pattern.

Information about the diversity and distribution of known and potential pathogens is critical for limiting their socio-economic impacts. Yet, our knowledge of the identities, geographic locations and threat potential for the world’s pathogens can only be called fragmentary. At most, 10% of the world’s pathogens have been documented – the rest remain utterly unknown.

This massive ignorance is reason to be concerned about our preparedness to handle the crisis. It’s impossible to prepare for a threat whose very existence is unknown. You can’t monitor, much less seek cures or develop vaccines for undiscovered maladies. We act as if EID were a rare phenomenon and engage in crisis response mode. The evidence is that the potential for EID is large, and climate change will make more of the world accessible to more pathogens.

This makes the planet an evolutionary minefield into which millions of people, not to mention their crops, livestock and pets, wander daily. In the near future - if it’s not already true – our crisis response abilities will be overwhelmed.

We need strategic planning based on solving the problem rather than managing it. We must learn the lessons of the past if we are to cope with the future in a timely and economical manner. We need to monitor pathogens so we can assess EID risk before medical or veterinary clinicians see their symptoms. We need evolutionary models that tie together climate change, biodiversity and EID.

Nothing substantial can be accomplished until we know what we’re up against. It’s essential that we complete a global inventory of species rapidly. It sounds daunting. But 500,000 years of experience in hunting and gathering; cheaper, faster DNA analysis; faster, cheaper computers—all this makes the task feasible. It’s a massive undertaking, but it must be done. It’ll be costly, but it’ll never be cheaper, and the alternative is to let this chance slip away, passively accepting the consequences. To be useful in the real world, the information from that inventory must be online. This will require massive societal support for natural history collections and the taxonomic specialists who can identify each species by name, using those names as indices of information. No name, no information, wrong name, wrong information. An incorrect diagnosis by a clinician is a taxonomic mistake with devastating consequences. It’s as simple and critical as that.

A global decline in amphibian populations is well-documented. Although Hortobágy is a less known area in terms of amphibians, the national park might be of European importance in many respects (e.g. one of the most significant gene-pools of the Fire-bellied Toad Bombina bombina). Thus, information on habitat preferences of the ten species living in the region might add important aspects to wetland management planning in the region. Besides, investigations on amphibian parasitism in the region might contribute to the conservation of this taxa, especially when climatic effects are taken into account. A landmark publication by a team of Hungarian parasitologists in 1982 provided a checklist of parasites inhabiting amphibians in the Hortobagy at that time. This provides a valuable baseline for comparisons with contemporary inventory results. Developing non-invasive techniques, based in DNA bar-coding, will allow us to monitoring parasites without harming the amphibian populations.

Recovery of natural grasslands applying spontaneous succession and active grassland restoration

During the past century the area of natural grasslands has dramatically decreased as a result of intensive agricultural activities and large-scale land use changes throughout Europe. To stop the decrease of fragmented grasslands and to maintain the biodiversity of remaining grasslands one of the most straightforward methods is the connection of fragmented patches and the creation of buffer zones with active grassland restoration interventions. It is especially important both in scientific and practical point of view that the results of theoretical succession studies are connected to real grassland restoration activities. Grassland restoration can be based either on purely spontaneous succession or this process can be driven and accelerated by using technical interventions such as seed sowing and hay deposition. The focal element of our study supported by OTKA (PD 100192) is the vegetation dynamical evaluation of spontaneous succession processes and active grassland restorations. The aim of this investigation is to test a number of classical succession hypotheses from a restoration ecology point of view (effects of the initial species composition, colonization window, and seed bank as succession memory). In this project we study the process of grassland development using complex vegetation surveys (species cover, phytomass) and seed bank analyses and applying space-time replacement methods in abandoned agricultural areas. We evaluate spontaneous succession in different soil types by pre-selecting various soils (sand, loess and alkaline) and agricultural areas of different lengths of abandonment (1-30 years) and actively managed grasslands.

Dr. Török Péter

Migratory behaviour of the Eurasian and Sandhill Cranes

We would like to extend a previous study on the migratory behaviour of the Eurasian Crane to a comparative study carried out on Sandhill Cranes on passage in Nebraska. In this study we found that cranes hatched in Finland far from human disturbance prefer undisturbed roost sites on the migratory site in Hortobágy.

Geese migration in Hortobágy

As Hortobágy is one of the largest grassland-wetland complexes in Europe, it hosts one of the most important stopover-sites for migratory geese in Europe with up to 200,000 White-fronted Geese during autumn migration. Geese migration has been monitored since 1989 including population counts and habitat preference studies. Additionally, long-term data on migration dynamics and daily activity can be analysed controlling for climatic effects.

Dr. Gyüre Péter
DE AGTC MÉK Természetvédelmi Állattani és Vadgazdálkodási Tanszék

Élőhelyfoltok változásai térben és időben

A téma keretében az egyek-pusztakócsi mocsárrendszer és környéke (7000 ha) hosszú és rövid távú változásait vizsgáljuk tájtörténeti kutatás és élőhely-térképezés alkalmazásával. A természetes vagy természetközeli mocsarak, rétek, valamint szikes és löszös gyepek flórájának és faunájának hosszútávú változásait háromévente (2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 stb.) kivitelezett alapállapot-felmérés keretében vizsgáljuk több taxonra (virágos növények, egyenesszárnyúak, poloskák, pókok, futóbogarak, madarak).

Egyek-Pusztakócs projekt
DE Ökológiai Tanszék, Konzervációökológiai Kutatócsoport
projektvezető: dr. Lengyel Szabolcs

Gyeprekonstrukciós program

Európa jelenleg legnagyobb kiterjedésű gyeprekonstrukciós programjának hatását a biológiai sokféleség kitüntetett jelentőségű komponenseire több projektben vizsgáljuk. A rekonstrukciót követő természetvédelmi kezelés (legeltetés, kaszálás) hatását a szikes és löszös gyepesítések növényzetére, valamint a szénaráhordás mint rekonstrukciós módszer alkalmazhatóságát terepi kísérletekben, állandó mintavételi négyzetek alkalmazásával vizsgáljuk. A gyeprekonstrukció és az azt követő természetvédelmi kezelés faunára gyakorolt hatását több taxon felmérésével követjük nyomon (lepkék, fullánkos vadméhek, egyenesszárnyúak, poloskák, pókok, futóbogarak, madarak, kisemlősök: cickányok, pockok, egerek).

Egyek-Pusztakócs projekt
DE Ökológiai Tanszék, Konzervációökológiai Kutatócsoport
projektvezető: dr. Lengyel Szabolcs

Természetvédelmi kezelések vizsgálata

A 2004 és 2008 között folyó LIFE-program keretében számos természetvédelmi kezelés indult. Az égetés és legeltetés hatását a mocsarak kétéltűire és madaraira a Fekete-réten vizsgáljuk, míg a legeltetésnek a mocsárszegélyek madár-együtteseire kifejtett hatását a Csattag-laposban mérjük fel. A legeltetés gyepekre gyakorolt hatását terepi kísérletekben, állandó mintavételi négyzetekben vizsgáljuk a növényzetre, ill. állandó számlálási pontok alkalmazásával a madarakra. Az extenzív és intenzív szántóművelés hatását a madarak és a kisemlősök felmérésével hasonlítjuk össze.

Egyek-Pusztakócs projekt
DE Ökológiai Tanszék, Konzervációökológiai Kutatócsoport
projektvezető: dr. Lengyel Szabolcs


A Szent István Egyetemmel és a Szegedi Tudományegyetemmel folytatott együttműködés keretében a szén-dioxid-fluxus mérése történik a gyepek szénkötésben játszott szerepének felmérése érdekében.
Az MTA Talajtani Kutatóintézete és a DE Agrár- és Gazdálkodástudományi Centrum kutatóival folytatott együttműködés keretében a természetes és féltermészetes élőhelyek ökoszisztéma-szolgáltatásait vizsgáljuk, utóbbi projektben a különböző szántóművelési rendszerek függvényében.

Egyek-Pusztakócs projekt
DE Ökológiai Tanszék, Konzervációökológiai Kutatócsoport
projektvezető: dr. Lengyel Szabolcs


Prof. Barta Zoltán

Prof. Nagy Géza
Prof. Tóthmérész Béla

Dr. Végvári Zsolt


Department of Evolutionary Zoology
Egyetem tér 1.


Open Biotic Maps and Databases

Bemutatkozott a szüszin az OpenBioMaps projekt

Előadóülés a DAB székházban

Debreceni Egyetem Füves-élőhelyek Kutatóközpont: tervek és lehetőségek

2011. november 10. 10.30 óra


Várunk minden érdeklődőt!

The 9th European Dry Grassland Meeting

19-23 May 2012 Prespa, Greece

Main topic of the meeting:
Dry Grasslands of Europe: Grazing and Ecosystem Services

Details: pdf


Gyepek égetésének természetvédelmi megítélése magyarországon: problémák és pozitív tapasztalatok
Deák Balázs, Valkó Orsolya, Schmotzer András, Kapocsi István, Tóthmérész Béla, Török Péter
Tájökológiai Lapok 10 (2): 287–303. (2012)


Gyepek kontrollált égetése, mint természetvédelmi kezelés – alkalmazási lehetőségek és korlátok
Valkó Orsolya, Deák Balázs, Kapocsi István, Tóthmérész Béla és Török Péter
Természetvédelmi Közlemények 18, pp. 517-526, 2012



Az openbiomaps projekt célja egy nyílt forráskodú szabadon használható térképi szoftverekkel felépített adatbázis keretrendszer létrehozása, ahol biológiai térképi adatbázisokat lehet üzemeltetni.
A projekt technikai üzemltetője a Füves Élőhelyek Kutatóközpont.