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Lake Ferto Biosphere Reserve, Hungary

Lake Fertő Biosphere Reserve  – like most other Hungarian biosphere reserves – is a typical "first generation" biosphere reserve, designated mainly for the conservational purpose. Setting up the Lake Fertő Biosphere Reserve far preceded the organizing of the Lake Fertő National Park (later extended to: Fertő-Hanság National Park covering the whole Fertő-Hanság wetland basin) and served as the main issue of nature conservation near and behind the iron curtain.

The area behind the iron curtain was a nearly abandoned territory, a no man’s land between Hungary and Austria. It was completely intact for nearly 40 years, entered only by border guards and very few civilians with specific licenses to do works with reed management, some fishing, hunting and – exceptionally – birdwatching or other research.

Outstanding natural values, mainly nesting and migrant bird fauna, developed on the undisturbed, huge reed habitats. Following the time of change (1990), and the end of the iron curtain, a newly organized local nature conservation body was set up, with a staff responsible for preserving the site, the Lake Fertő National Park.

Designation date: 1979


Regional network:  EuroMAB

Ecosystem-based network: 




    Surface : 23,193 ha

    • Core area(s): 4,126 ha 
    • Buffer zone(s): 8,522 ha 
    • Transition zone(s): 10,545 ha 

    Location: N/A

    Administrative Authorities

    Gábor Reischl
    Director of Fertő-Hanság National Park
    Sarród, Gyor-Moson-Sopron, Hungary 9435

    Tel: +36 99 537 620
    Email: N/A

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    Ecological Characteristics

    The area is a saline lake with huge reedy areas, and saline meadow, xerophilous oak forest associations are found in its surroundings. Lake Fertő is the second largest lake in Hungary (the fifth in Europe). Its area is 309 km2 but only 75 km2 belongs to Hungary.

    The lake is situated in a depression of the Kisalföld region connecting to the deeper Hanság-basin in the East. The original surface of its basin had been created by the sediments of an ancient, huge, naturally desalinating lake-basin during the late Pliocene age, but it was formed by the wind later and the Ancient Danube and Lajta rivers brought and deposited layers of gravel and clay.

    The biggest part of the core zone is situated in the central parts of the reed belt and the very sensitive alkaline swards. The most important goal during the designation of the core zone was to preserve the high diversity of several biotope-types. Here are the westernmost occurrences of the characteristic alkaline steppe-like associations in the Carpathian Basin, side by side plant and animal species representing the flora and fauna of the Alps. The core zone includes small open water surfaces within the reedbeds, locally known as internal lakes, the untouched central part of the reedy areas, the alkaline swards, and the steppe meadow of the Szárhalom Forest with its relict species. 

    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    Traditional activities in the Biosphere Reserve include fishery, sylviculture and reed harvesting. The transition zone includes some outer marsh areas with reed vegetation, agricultural lands, and the places involved in recreation and tourism. The area is more and more popular among visitors, especially during the vegetation season.

    Lake Fertő was declared part of the World Cultural Heritage in 2001. Cultural values of the biosphere reserve include historic land uses, such as reed harvesting and processing, traditional fishing methods, etc. These crafts have almost disappeared by now, but can be studied at the exhibition at the visitor centre of the National Park Directorate in Sarród. There are characteristic popular architectural houses in some villages around the Fertő (Fertőrákos, Balf, Hegykő, Fertőszéplak, Sarród). There is a popular village museum in Fertőszéplak. The castles of Nagycenk and Fertőd - which belonged to Hungarian families of noble ancestry - have important architectural and culturalhistorical values.  In memory of Joseph Haydn, who was musician in the castle of Fertőd, concerts are organized in Fertőd every year. There are also museums in both castles. 

    Another traditional use of the limestone hills around the lake is viticulture. There is a dedicated wine region around Sopron famous for mostly characteristic tannic red wines (Kékfrankos). The vineyards around the lake present a special landscape element to the view and the borderlands can be valuable habitats for plants, invertebrates and birds too. Viticulture is managed mostly by local vintners and smaller or bigger enterprises of local investors. 


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    Last updated: May 2019