About the Tisza-LIFE programme
Relation with partners
Outreach Activities
Viktória Siposs,
Tisza Programme Officer




Tisza LIFE project has been finished.

WWF Hungary offers the experience of the Tisza LIFE project to share with local municipalities, farmers and other stakeholders.

Project location Middle Tisza Landscape Protected Area/Hungary
Project start date: 1 January 2001
Project end date: 31 December 2005
Total Project duration (in months) 60 months
Total budget 435 326 €
EC contribution: 217 663 €
(%) of total costs 50 %
(%) of eligible costs 50 %

Following key deliverables and outputs have been achieved and provided:

  • Restoration and improvement of grassland habitats at the project sites Nagykörű-Tóalj, Tiszajenő, and Tiszakürt (about 290 ha).
  • Restoration and creation of water bodies at Nagykörű-Tóalj and Nagykörű (about 96 ha).
  • Establishment of an orchard at Nagykörű-Tóalj (about 6 ha).
  • Promotion of the protection status at Tiszajenő and Kőtelek (about 710 ha).
  • Reintroduction of the beaver on the Middle Tisza after more than 100 years extinction (46 specimens).
  • Support the nomination of the Middle Tisza as a Natura 2000 site under both, the Habitats and Birds Directives (Middle Tisza HUHN10004, SCIHUN 20041015), including the sites at Tiszajenő and Kőtelek.
  • With considerable lobbying contribution of WWF Hungary, it has been achieved, that extensive land use in floodplain areas, which has been shown up under the LIFE project, is a topic under the new overall flood management programme "Improvement of the Vásárhelyi Plan".
  • Several conferences, festivals and seminars have taken place as well as numerous press releases and 50 press articles issued.


Pastures and grazing grey cattle reversing the non-native Amorpha shrubery

Regular, systematic grazing and stem crushing distroys the Amorpha within 3-5 years. As the floods yearly take the seeds, the grassland maintenance requires continuous management - a floodplain grassland is even more sensitive for the skipping of management than a non-floodplain because of the seed expansion and the active production speed of the floodplain. The continuation of the work is still going on, the contract between WWF and the farmers ends in 2012. After the expiration of the contract, the Association probably will continue the activity as a stronger, experienced party.


The targeted sluices have been constructed. Altogether nearly 5 kms long section of the pit series are now operating in 3 separate pit-system. The water level is controlled: the open sluice lets the spring flood water come into the pits. The sluice closing retains the water and supports wetland species, like fish nursery and bird feeding area. In the end of the season the system is drained into th Tisza giving place to the new turn in the next spring.

The sluices are operated and the maintenance work is done by the Nagykörű Local Municipality.


The Tóalja now works as a harmonic system of a natural lake, a pasture and a floodplain orchard. In the spring, after retaining the floodwater of the river Tisza, the water level is so high that keeps almost 100 ha lake. This lake supports nesting and feeding birds. As the shallow lake shrinks due to evaporation during the summer, gives more and more place for the terrestrials, providing fresh green pasture for the grazing cattle. The lake takes about 40-50 ha in October. In the end of the season the shrinked lake is drained into the Tisza, taking the young fish generation to the river.

The undesigned non-indigenous shrub, the Amorpha fruticosa has faded out gradually from most of the sight, thanks to the grazing Hungarian grey cattle. They are grazing in the floodplain from May to October-November as weather allows. The systematic grazing shows the positive impact: the shrubbery has given its place to the pasture.

The floodplain orchard next to the project site is enlarged by 6 hectares. Original floodplain varieties were planted: plum, apple, pear and walnut varieties.


The grazing is taking place since Summer 2002. The site is well managed, the spots where the Amorpha fruticosa has been growing is now turning back to a grassland. The edges where Amorpha is the largest are managed by a stem crusher yearly. The sight is grazed by the Hungarian grey cattle bought from the project and the farmer's own cattle and water buffaloes.

The hybrid poplar plantation next to the grazed site is partly transformed to grassland. 8,4 ha is transformed, the rest appr. 4 ha is going to be replaced by native poplar forest within 10 years.


The over 200 ha large grassland is now in good condition, the small spots of Amorpha inside and the larger spots along the edges are now developing into a grazed grassland. Stem crushing were done in winters, resulting the conversion of the shrubbery into a grassland. WWF ha provided 60 Hungarian grey cattle to achieve the project goal, which stay in the management of the farmer under the contract signed till 2014.

The other aim of the project at the Tiszajenő site was the water retention to provide better circumstances for the grassland. During the preparation of this work, the water quality of the Körös-creek was examined. Based on the results, the Environmental Inspectorate has not approved this plan. This way the water retention has to wait until the water quality is improved, which is beyond the control of this project.

Enlargement of the Middle-Tisza Landscape Protection Area

This site of about 500 ha at Kőtelek as well the site at Tiszajenő of about 210 ha (see site 4) has been foreseen by the Hortobágy National Park Directorate for the enlargement of the Landscape Protection Area. Though the two sites have not been included in the Middle-Tisza Landscape Protection Area yet according to the Hungarian registration, the Natura 2000 network includes the entire Middle-Tisza Landscape Protection Area with the planned enlargement sites according to both the Habitats and Birds Directives. The registration code ofthe sites is "Middle Tisza HUHN10004", SCIHUN 20041015.

Sustainability of the measures

Following guarantees for management of the sites also after the project period can be given:

Site Ownership Management responsibility Management Plan Letter of acknowledgem. by the MoE Contract site management Contract cattle keeping
Nagykörű (clay pits) State owned Community Yes Yes    
Nagykörű-Tóalj (pond/ grassland/ orchard) Private FMC Yes Yes   WWF and FMC
Tiszakürt (grassland) State (former state cooperative, now under dissolvent) HNPD, liquidation company Yes Yes Permission from HNPD for farmer (valid until 31 March 2010) WWF and farmer
Tiszajenö (grassland) State, JASC HNPD, JASC Yes Yes HNPD and farmer for part A (valid till Dec. 2010); JASC and farmer for part B (valid until the end of 2009) WWF and farmer for part B
Tiszajenő, Kőtelek (protection) State/ JASC Private     Yes    

JASC : Jászkarajenö Agricultural Shareholding Company
HNPD : Hortobágy National Park Directorate
FMC : Floodplain Management Cooperative
MoE : Ministry of Environment

Beaver reintroduction

After more than 100 years of extinction from the Tisza, the beaver has been reintroduced again. Within the framework of the LIFE project 46 specimens in families and couples (8 families plus 6 couples) were released in 8 appropriate oxbows in the project area within the Middle­Tisza Landscape Protection Area on the 25 October 2004 and 30 October 2005. First monitoring results from 2004 and 2005 show that beavers stay in the project area.

The decision of the locations of the release was based on a habitat evaluation made by Mrs Orsolya Bozsér, beaver expert. The animals for the releases were provided by the official German beaver expert and manager of Bavaria, Dr. Gerhard Schwab (www.gerhardschwab.de). He is responsible for the management of the meanwhile extensive beaver population in Bavaria. The overpopulation or "problem beavers" are being captured in living-traps and are being made available especially for re-introduction projects in Europe.

Nature benefits

A small beaver population has been established in the Middle Tisza, for the repopulation of the entire river and its tributaries. It is well known that activities of the beavers in the floodplain area have positive effects and increase the biodiversity in floodplain areas. The beaver is a species of Annex II of the FFH Directive.


Beaver monitoring

All beavers were marked with a microchip in order to receive additional information during the monitoring. The microchip can be identified only if a beaver is captured. The microchip was injected into the beavers by a vet from the Budapest Zoo just before the release.

A study on monitoring was conducted and carried out. First results from 2004 and 2005 of the monitoring show that beavers stay in the project area. It has been proven by the beaver castles, marked trees, footprints and activities of their presence on the oxbow shores. The footprints, the castles and the bites can be best detected during the winter time.

Overall ecological monitoring

For the year 2005 a status report was developed, which includes habitat maps. The status report was conducted by collecting field data on site visits and also used reference data from the previous years. The mapping was also conducted of the vegetation and investigation of birds with special focus on targeted species.

Following species and habitats were included in the programme:

Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive: Willow Formations, Salvinia Covers Salvinia natans, Floating Broad Leaved Carpets Nymphea alba albae, Beaver Castor fiber, European Swamp Turtle Emys orbicularis, Aspius aspius

Birds Directive: Black Stork Ciconia nigra, Corncrake Crex crex, Dryocopus martius, White-Tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. Additional species: Trapa natans, Picus viridis, Grey heron Ardea cinerea and Essox lucius.

Public Awareness

LIFE Tisza brochure

A starting publication was prepared which gives a wide overview of the project - about the nature conservation problems of the Tisza, the objectives and measures under the LIFE project - as well a short introduction into the LIFE Nature programme of the EU. 4000 Hungarian and 1000 English copies were produced and most is distributed widely - to project partners, to the communities related to the project, to scientific experts, to people involved and interested in the Tisza issues, both in the governmental and NGO sector. Additionally, the LIFE project and the brochure was presented in all different kind of forums and public occasions were WWF was involved thus raising awareness on conservation and sustainable use of the Tisza floodplain.

An English issue was used in order to raise public awareness and knowledge about the project and the nature conservation values of the Tisza also outside of Hungary and also in order to exchange experience with foreign experts related to floodplain issues.

Leaflet - Floodplain management Nagykörű-Tóalj

A bilingual leaflet about the clay pit restoration and complex floodplain management in Nagykörű-Tóalj was prepared. It was disseminated not only among interested people in Nagykörű but also on the occasions of several meetings and seminars, festivals and press events. 2400 copies in Hungarian and 800 in English were produced.

Seminars for stakeholders

The main aim of the seminars was to provide a forum for discussion, information and experience exchange in order to promote a better understanding and support amongst various local and regional stakeholders (farmers, majors, ministries, business etc.) about traditional floodplain management and its ecological benefits and social and economic opportunities.

Several new initiatives and case studies were presented. As good examples they have served and still will serve WWF Hungary in the promotion of nature friendly land use and sustainable river basin management.

Furthermore, with the contribution of these forums, seminars, meetings and conferences, and with support of publications, WWF Hungary could promote sustainable land use practices to be considered in particular in the Tisza integrated flood management.

Festival on extensive products

This festival aimed at presenting the LIFE project and the ecological and economic benefits of traditional floodplain management. Sustainable produced products (fruit and milk products, baskets, meat, etc.) were presented and marketed by the farmers. The acceptance of traditional floodplain management was increased.

Between 2001 and 2005, altogether 9 Festivals were organised on two locations.

The aim was to give a platform to farmers (e.g. from Nagykörű) - about 10 farmers participated on each festival - and their products (e.g. extensive-resistant varieties of fruits from the Tisza floodplain, basket and other storing equipment from willow branches, pörkölt cooking from Hungarian grey cattle meet, wood carver) and to communicate the importance of extensive land use towards consumers: If people buy nature friendly produced products they promote not only the market e.g. of healthy food and traditional handicrafts but also serve nature conservation. The farmers exhibited their products and described the way of their cultivation to interested people.

Leaflet on beaver re-introduction

A leaflet about the beaver, its biology, history, habitat and re-introduction on the Tisza was issued. It was disseminated amongst interested people in the project area as well as several meetings and seminars, festivals and press events which were organised in the frame of the LIFE project. 10,000 copies in Hungarian were produced.

Project End-publication

The publication contains the results of the project: the problems and solutions for nature conservation. It combines both, a good scientific background with information, which is understandable for the broad audience. It was and will be distributed to project partners, to the communities related to the project, to scientific experts, to people involved and interested in the Tisza issues, both in the governmental and NGO sector. 2000 copies in Hungarian language were issued.


Several technical conferences were held about the Tisza issues: flood management, nature friendly land use, income generation for locals to use the land appropriately, scientific exchange concerning the Amorpha elimination.

The project closing conference (28-29 of March 2006 in Nagykörű) was to present and spread the experience and results of the LIFE project and to establish a follow-up for even wider application of extensive land use and integrated river basin management. WWF Hungary has already experience with lots of local initiatives promoting extensive land use, therefore a network has already started to be developed which will be extended in the future.

The participants were people involved in the LIFE project and other mayors, farmers, officials from other regions of the country and nature conservation experts and scientist. Similar projects were presented as case studies (in the Middle-Tisza region and beyond: a LIFE Environment project in Borsodi Mezőség, a LIFE Nature project in Hortobágy about the elimination of drainage channels in the grassland). This event was a good possibility to show the results on the field of extensive floodplain management, cooperation with local communities and also on LIFE project management.

Media work

An international start press conference was organised, one in Vienna and one in Budapest at the same time on the 10 of April 2002. To underline the common Austrian-Hungarian LIFE project it was carried out together with the Ambassador of the Republic of Austria in Budapest and with a representative of the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary in Vienna. The project was presented as a positive cooperation between an EU member state and an accession country in nature conservation and knowledge transfer. The project brochure was also introduced on the press event.

The media coverage was of the entire project was quit excellent. Especially there was a high media interest in Hungary with about 18 media attending the conference. As LIFE funding was relatively new in Hungary the project activities have also given support to the dissemination of information about this EU financial instrument.

On the whole more than 50 newspaper, magazine or online articles about the project activities have been issued and several TV and radio interviews undertaken.

Information panels

Site panels

On the whole 4 panels were situated on the project sites at Tiszajenő (2) and in Tiszakürt (2). Further two bilingual panels (4) are situated in Nagykörű in the frame of the Eco-route (see below).


An "Eco-route" was established in Nagykörű for people visiting the community and the project site. For this purpose 18 panels in Hungarian language incl. two in English (Nagykörű clay pits and Nagykörű-Tóalj complex floodplain management) were situated along a nature trail in the community, describing the ecological, cultural and socio-economic values of the site, the problems and restoration.

Beaver panel

Two large size information panels were installed on the dyke - one in Nagykörű and one at Tiszaroff. The bilingual panel describes the beavers' role in the ecosystem, the importance of reintroduction and their current distribution in Hungary.

Web page

The official website of the LIFE project is: www.tiszalife.hu.

Some information about the project is also available on WWF Austrian homepage

Conservation benefits for the Natura 2000 site and species/habitats targeted

Species/Habitat Location Status before LIFE Status after LIFE
Habitats; FFH, Annex I
Natural eutrophic lakes with a vegetation formation of Magnopotamion or Hydrocharition (3150) Nagykörű - clay pits Threatened through drying out Considerably improved through more stable water level
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Alder- and ash forests and softwood forests along rivers (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae); Willow formations (91 EO)* Tiszajenő, Nagykörű-Tóalj   New spots of Salicion albae
Habitats; Bern, Res. Nr. 4
Pannonic riverbank dwarf sedge communities (22.351) Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Salvinia Covers (Salvinia natans) (22.415) Nagykörű - clay pits Threatened through drying out Considerably improved through more stable water table
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Broad Leaved Carpets (Nymphea alba albae) (22.431) Nagykörű - clay pits No occurrence Occurrence
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Water-Soldier Rafts (Stratiotes aloides) (22.413) Nagykörű - clay pits No occurrence Occurrence
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Species; FFH, Annex II
Otter (Lutra lutra) Nagykörű - clay pits Insufficient breeding and feeding habitats Improved breeding and feeding habitats
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No breeding and feeding grounds New breeding and feeding grounds
European Swamp Turtle (Emys orbicularis) Nagykörű - clay pits No occurrence Occurrence
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis) Nagykörű - clay pits Threatened by insufficient habitats Improved habitats
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Warty Newt (Triturus cristatus) Nagykörű - clay pits Threatened by insufficient habitats Improved habitats
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Bitterling (Rhodeus sericeus amarus) Nagykörű - clay pits Threatened by insufficient habitats Improved habitats
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Fire-Bellied Toad (Bombina bombina) Nagykörű - clay pits Threatened by insufficient habitats Improved habitats
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
Beaver (Castor fiber) Nagykörű - clay pits No occurrence Occurrence
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No occurrence Occurrence
  Landscape Protection Area No occurrence Occurrence
Species; Bird, Annex 2:
Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) Nagykörű - clay pits Insufficient habitats Improved feeding habitats
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No feeding habitats New feeding and breeding habitats
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) Nagykörű - clay pits Insufficient feeding habitats Improved feeding habitats
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No feeding habitats New feeding habitats
Corncrake (Crex crex) Tiszajenő Occurrence but Insufficient habitats Occurrence and improved habitats
Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) Nagykörű-Tóalj No feeding and breeding habitats New feeding and breeding habitats
Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) Tiszajenő Insufficient feeding and breeding habitats Improved feeding and breeding habitats
  Tiszakürt Insufficient feeding and breeding habitats Improved feeding and breeding habitats
White-Tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) Nagykörű-Tóalj No feeding habitats New feeding habitats
Black Kite (Milvus migrans) Nagykörű-Tóalj No feeding habitats New feeding habitats
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) Nagykörű-Tóalj No feeding habitats New feeding habitats
Night Heron (Nyctocorax nyctocorax) Nagykörű-Tóalj No feeding and breeding habitats New feeding and breeding habitats
Species; Bern, Res. Nr. 6
European Mud-Minnow (Umbra krameri) Nagykörű - clay pits Threatened by insufficient habitats Improved habitats
  Nagykörű-Tóalj No habitats New habitats

Demonstration and innovative value

  • The project has brought greater awareness on different levels - from community, to ministry level - amongst decision makers to land users, on the benefits of extensive land use in flooded areas. This was initiated by a series of seminars and conferences, many of them within the project area and the community of Nagykörű. The measures carried out under the project were used to show and convince decision makers to apply ecological land use concepts within the planned flood management concept for the entire Tisza.
  • The good cooperation between the community of Nagykörű in the implementation of the measures has a good demonstration value. The project measures were based on the needs and interest of the community, as part of its "Landscape Rehabilitation Programme? and were therefore fully supported. As the community is promoting ecotourism, a new nature trail targeting the projects sites and the community itself has helped to bring the measures closer to the people. As the community is well known for its extensive orchards and products throughout Hungary, it attracts a lot of visitors, in part. during spring and summer, which visit also the project sites.
  • The Nagykörű model is often mentioned and shown to other regions and villages. The experience in the field of habitat restoration, land use conversion and harmonisation of interests of different interest groups is very important in order to achieve sustainable and nature friendly resource management. The Nagykörű case serves as a good example.
  • The project has also contributed to the popularisation of extensive land use of floodplains and the harmonisation of flood prevention/mitigation and land use - all this with a special regard to the preservation of natural values. At the moment some other LIFE projects and Environmental Operation Projects are running focusing on floodplain land use.
  • The project has created links and experience exchange with other Hungarian LIFE Nature and some LIFE Environment projects e.g. Sustainable use and management rehabilitation of flood plain in the Middle Tisza District (ENV/H/000280); Integrated (Multi-level inundation) water management system solving flood-protection, nature conserve nature conservation and rural employment challenges (ENV/H/000291); Restoration of Pannonic forests and grasslands on the Szénás-hills (NAT/H/000167); The practical protection of Angelica palustris habitats (NAT/H/008630); Funding the base of long term large carnivore conservation in Hungary (NAT/H/007162).
  • The management of project sites at Nagykörű, Tiszajenő and Tiszakürt affected by Amorpha fruticosa trough grazing with Hungarian Grey Cattle's has brought good results. The combination of regular grazing and mechanical stem crushing once per year and this over 5 years is a proper way to manage an infected site and transform it into a pasture and grassland. The regular management is very important, because a few years interruption will cause infection with Amorpha again. This experience gained can be used in other areas as an appropriate way of improving and re-establishing grassland areas, as the problem with invasive species is a particular problem of floodplain areas in overall Hungary.

Socio-economic benefits

  • The project has created better and new job opportunities for local people (8-10 farmers) at Nagykörű-Tóalj, Tiszakürt and Tiszajenő during the project period. The grazing and mowing management by the farmers was made possible by providing them with cattle's, equipment and financial support; necessary incentives to start management on the project sites. For the long term, it is expected that the jobs will be maintained as a) the farmers were contracted out for 10 years and b) the Hortobágy National Park Directorate sustains this kind of management in their future management plans.
  • The project has considerably contributed that extensive meadow management has been put in place in the project area. Discussions were carried out with more than 20 locals (land owners, farmers, and land user). Through seminars, conferences and lectures more than 200 people were targeted plus several thousand visited the festivals.
  • The measures under the project have led the way in the region. For the first time, after a long period, grazing management has started on certain sites again (Nagykörű-Tóalj, Tiszakürt and Tiszajenő) and local farmers have been committed to the management.
  • In particular the profile of the community of Nagykörű, as a community which is benefiting from extensive floodplain management has been raised and communicated far beyond the project area.
  • The project has shown a good cooperation between land owners, land users and communities. Most of the project activities and measures were carried out in accordance with local stakeholders. In this way, the project was accepted widely in the region and has created a good basis for future cooperation between agriculture and nature conservation. On other sites, e.g. at Tiszajenő with the Jászkarajenö Agriculture Shareholding Company, lobbying efforts and long discussions have changed its attitude and brought support for the project.

5.5 The future: remaining threats and further action needed

  • It is important that the grazing and mowing management of the sites at Tiszakürt, Tiszajenő and Nagykörű-Toalj continues also after the project period, as e.g. Amorpha fruticosa occupies abandoned pastures very quickly. Contracts between farmers and the Hortobágy National Park Directorate or Jászkarajenö Agriculture Shareholding Company for site management has been established at Tiszajenő and Tiszakürt. For Nagykörű-Tóalj. Management plans for the sites have been approved by the Hortobágy National Park Directorate and a letter of support was given by the Ministry of Environment.
  • Monitoring of targeted species and habitats after the project period will be done under the responsibility of the Hortobágy National Park Directorate. It should bring appropriate and exact data for population trends and variations as a basis for possible adaptation of the ongoing management.
  • Other possible future threats to the region:

    New flood management plan: Danger from other artificial water management interventions like fastening the river bank with stones, straightening the river, clearing of floodplain vegetation within the new flood protection plan in order to provide faster water flow with increasing flooding risks downstream.

    Navigation and river regulation projects: Currently, a dam is under discussion at Csongrád (at the mouth of Körös River). This idea was found out in the 1970s. The aim is to provide suitable water level for navigation to market the cereals produced in the region. Economically this idea is unrealistic - the promoters have very optimistic assumptions. This initiative serves only a narrow group's interest.

The project's closing publication is available in Hungarian.

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