Case Study

Managing biodiversity in national parks


Managing biodiversity in national parks


1. Introduction

Livestock grazing is used for conserving biodiversity in larger areas in national parks. Movement is along short, less-than-a-day routes and among pastures. The pastures are used for feeding the stock and/or for grassland management when the grass must be kept low to protect habitat or species, e.g. the Hungarian meadow viper. To preserve genetic diversity of livestock, ancient Hungarian breeds are used for grazing.

2. Basic information

Start of the practice




Organisations involved

National park directorates and paid employees or hired people ( horsemen, etc.)

Total surface of land farmed in ha
  • ca. 10-100 hectares per national park.
Ownership of the land used for transhumance farming
  • State owned
Basic produce

The main product is land management. In addition, meat is produced.

HU311, HU213, HU312, HU221, HU321, HU322, HU102, HU331, HU332, HU333
  • Aggteleki National Park

  • Main farm

    Balaton Uplands National Park

  • Bükk National Park

  • Fertő-Hanság National Park

  • Hortobágyi National Park

  • Kiskunság National Park

  • Körös-Maros National Park


3. Situation before startup/ change/ continuation

All types of farms exist in national parks. One of the oldest known farm was established in a recently designated national park area but abandoned before the designation of the national park. Some farms started when the national park was established. Thus, those farms are as old as our oldest national park which will celebrate its 50 years anniversary in  3 Farms are various due to the purpose of conserving/protecting genetic variability. Even though the majority of the farms are on lowlands, there are some exceptions. Balaton Upland, Bükk and Aggtelek are hilly, but all of them are located below 1000 m a.s.l.

4. Transhumance farming business description

Landscape type
  • Lowland or upland grasslands
  • Grasslands on salt affected soils
  • Meadow soils
  • Peaty meadows
Animal type/ breed

The main purpose of all the grazing is to preserve genetic diversity. In the national parks ancient Hungarian breeds are grazing (grey cattle, hucul and lipicai horse, racka and cigája sheep), or breeds believed to have connection with the Hungarian history (przewalsky horse).

Movement patterns

The majority of the movement is horizontal. However, some vertical movement can occur. The vertical movement is due to the location of the winter barn/stable and the available grassland/pasture area. The vertical movement is not “on-purpose” of getting access to better fodder or avoiding harsh winter conditions.

Kind of cooperation


Markets addressed/ product selling

Markets are addressed and products are sold via social media and national park programs

Threats & challenges

Livestock grazing in national parks experiences different challenges. Drought, economic crises and war cause all input prices for farming to rise. Rise in input prices results in a decline in number of farms. Moreover, administrative problems with subsidies and bureaucratical problems occur. Not at least, hiring staff such as shepherds is a challenge. Although national parks are offering a good salary, the number of applications is very limited.

5. Decisions taken


The reason for starting the practice was ecology (i.e., the protection of biodiversity).

Decision for the kind of animal/ specific breed

The kind of animal and the specific breeds are selected to protect their genetic diversity.

Decision for the production system

The production systems of the farm vary. All types of production systems may occur.

Multifunctional aspects

Although meat is produced, biodiversity, landscape, environment, and climate all matters as the practice is connected to national parks.

6. Training/ skills to establish the business

Exchange on national competitions

7. Next steps to move on

The provision of saleable products is not the intrinsic purpose of the practice; however finding the market that is paying the price of high-quality products is always an important task.

There are several, however non-transhumance but general animal husbandry specific tradition, e.g. organizing festivals (e.g. sheep stew festival, sausage making festivals, etc. for the promotion of local products.

8. Quote and recommendation of the promoter

The grassland’s good ecological state and the target breed’s conservation are the most significant revenues.

The biggest challenge are climate change (drought), finances and bureaucracy.