The influence of old and active woodland grazing by domestic livestock in wood pastures is an important element of the traditional landscape of the
. Following several
landscape-history studies, this fact became recently known among Hungarian
ecologists. One of the reasons why „the
grazing in wood by livestock” has got in the focus of researchers in this
area is that in Hungary nearly all the wood pastures are abandoned or becoming
abandoned, leading to major traditional knowledge and biodiversity loss without
having just a few information about this habitat type. Our aim to get
understand and discover the history and methods of
woodpasturing and the effect of woodpasturing to the biodiversity by
interdisciplinary methods (landscape history, vegetation, zoology and
traditional ecological knowledge research). We work in different regions of
Hungary and in Szeklerland in Transylvania in Romania, where traditional land
use is still maintained at several places, and therefore these areas could have
major importance in understanding natural and cultural functions of wood-pastures. Carpathian Basin
|A typical wood-pasture between 19-21th |
century. The picture was took by Ferenc Sándor
Wood-pasture is a habitat type which does not only depend on the natural environment, but on human-related activities, too. Regulations, economy, livestock type all affect this habitat and most importantly the man himself, who works there day after day. The change of these factors identifies the concept, the definition and the managment of the wood-pastures. After the Enlightenment in Hungary the main changes were in the 18-19th century: the forest- and pastureland seperation; in the first half of 20th century: forestry law and the industralization, in the second half of 20th century: the socialization and after the privatization.
|Cserépfalu wood-pasture managed by |
Bükk National Park, grazed by Hungarian grey cattle.
And now we are in the beginning of the 21th century… and most of the Hungarian wood-pastures from 5500 ha were abandoned. These were mapped by Hungarian Vegetation Survey (Bölöni et al. 2008). Today wood-pastures managed by national parks (rangers), a few enthaustic farmers and herders.
To understand recent situation of the Hungarian wood-pastures we carried out open and semi-structured interviews with herders-farmers and rangers (working in nature conservation) in Hungary, together with participant observation. Herders' and rangers' gave diverse and sometimes very different definitions and answers, in spite of the fact that the fundamental aim is the long-distance maintenance of the pasture for everybody.
|Year by year less and less
traditonaly herder |
works on wood-pastures. He is one of them,
who was born in a herder family and still work.
But we can understand much more easily if we look the different values attributed by rangers and herders. The most important value of a wood-pasture for rangers is related to the landscape and biodiversity, and for herders to pasturing and feeding the livestock. For me one of the most interesting data was, thet the herders do not entitle an area as a wood pasture, what professional conservation managers would call a wood pasture, they simply call it: pasture. For the herders, coming from traditional herder families „the trees on the pastureland” is not a separate habitat. „The trees on the pastureland” is natural, continuous and essential. They see and use the landscape as a whole system. In practice of the traditional pasturing system this means the animals graze all over the boundary of the village (with the herder considering the forcoming season and weather). At the same time the usage of a wood-pasture means a micro-scale view too (for example: conscious tree and shrub selection).
In order to improve the conservation of wood-pastures it is essential to view this habitat type through the managers eyes, and the best we can do is joining them to pasture at least for one day…
Pécs, Ifjúság útja 6., H-7624,
Bölöni, J., Molnár, Zs., Biró, M. & Horváth, F. (2008): Distribution of the (semi-) natural habitats in Hungary II. Woodlands and shrublands. Acta Botanica Hungarica 50 (Suppl.), pp.107–148
*(To the first picture) After forest and pastureland seperation (1862) the regular grazing and clearing of the area is controlled by the community of the farmers of Olaszfalu and the area called “Olaszfalui Volt Úrbéres Gazdák Legelője”. In the beginning of the 1950s, there was regular grazing and cleaning in the area, and there was 10% woodland (Fagus sylvatica, Quecus cerris, Pyrus pyraster, Carpinus betulus, Acer campestre). Since the establishment of the soviet co-operative in the 1960s, the number of animals started to decrease, consequently the regular maintenance and clearing of the pasture ceased. In the last few years the former pasture was utilized as a hunting ground. In 2007 the territory has been divided into parcels. With the filling up of parkland stands today 52% of the area consists of closed woodland. 17% of the woodland is older than 50 years, 38% is between 30 and 40, while 45% is between 10 and 20 years.