Pannonian mixed forests

Content Cover Image

Danube River, Slovakia. Source: WWF/ Paul Glandell

The Pannonian mixed forests is an ecoregion in southeastern Europe comprising a land area of 118,500 square miles. This ecoregion is situated within the Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests biome. In addition to covering the entirety of Hungary, the Pannonian mixed forests occupy portions of Croatia, Serbia, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There is no vertebrate endemism in the Pannonian mixed forests due to the similarity of adjacent ecoregion habitats; however, there are numerous threatened vertebrate species within the ecoregion, particularly of native mammals.

Location and general description

This ecoregion consists of the depression surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, Alps, and Dinaric Mountains. Avifauna diversity is high; there are fifty Important Bird Areas in this ecoregion. Lake Neusiedel with Seewinkel National Park, and other important wetlands are renowned for their birdlife (Heath and Evans 2000). Resident mammals are generally widespread throughout Europe including the wolf (Canis lupus). Recreation and tourism, unsustainable exploitation, development and habitat fragmentation, agricultural abandonment, and disturbance of wildlife, are other important threats (Heath & Evans 2000). There are a number of natural parks in this ecoregion, but much of the natural habitat has been lost to agriculture.

Biodiversity features

There are a total of 377 native vertebrates that have been recorded in the Pannonian mixed forests; however, a complete count of migratory birds and other occasional sightings swells this record to over 500 taxa. Moreover, none of these taxa are endemic due to the free migration of species among the Eurasian ecoregions, owing to ample large scale biological corridors in prehistoric times and to the landscape permeability of these ecoregions. Dominant canopy trees of the ecoregion include oak, poplar, beech and hornbeam.

caption The spotted suslik. Source: V.A.Lobkov The native non-endemic mammals here are: the Near Threatened alpine shrew (Sorex alpinus), the Near Threatened Bechstein's bat (Myotis bechsteinii), the Vulnerable European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus), the Endangered European mink (Mustela lutreola), the Near Threatened European otter (Lutra lutra), the Near Threatened European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), the chiefly nocturnal Near Threatened garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus), the Near Threatened giant noctule (Nyctalus lasiopterus), the Vulnerable long-fingered bat (Myotis capaccinii), the Vulnerable Martino's snow vole (Dinaromys bogdanovi), the Near Threatened horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus euryale), the Vulnerable Mehely's horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus mehelyi), the Near Threatened pond bat (Myotis dasycneme), the Near Threatened Schreiber's long-fingered bat (Minopterus schreibersii), the Near Threatened spotted suslik (Spermophilus suslicus) and the Near Threatened western barbatelle (Barbastella barbastellus).

The native, but non-endemic threatened amphibians of the Pannonian mixed forests are represented by the sole species, the Near Threatened Danube newt (Triturus dobrogicus).

Pannonian mixed forests exhibit the following special status reptiles: the Lower Risk European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), the Lower Risk grass snake (Natrix natrix), the Near Threatened Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni) and the Vulnerable Orsini's viper (Vipera ursini).

The ecoregion supports the following native non-endemic avian species: the Near Threatened European roller (Coracias garrulus), the Near Threatened ferruginous pochard (Aythya nyroca), the Vulnerable great bustard (Otis tarda), the Vulnerable greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), the Vulnerable imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), the Vulnerable lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni), the Vulnerable lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus), the Near Threatened red kite (Milvus milvus), the Near Threatened red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus) and the Vulnerable saker falco (Falco cherrug).

caption Otrokovice, Czech Republic Photograph by The GLOBE Program

Protected areas

There are a number of protected areas within the Pannonian mixed forests ecoregion. Some of these are areas that differ from the pristine forested ecological landscape such as the Hungarian Hortobágy National Park, which is actually a large grassland, mostly formed by the influence of humans.

Hortobágy National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is Europe's largest grassland preserve at around 800 square kilometres, although it was actually formed by late Pleistocene course change in the Tizna River, creating enhanced soil alkalinity combined with accelerated grazing of mastodons and wild horses. The final transformation of a forest was carried out by medieval deforestation carried out by man, followed by heavy grazing of domestic livestock. 

Danube-Drava National Park

This protected area of some 490 square kilometres is situated in the southwest of Hungary along the floodplains of the Danube River and Drava River. About forty percent of the National Park is actually a RAMSAR wetland, replete with large numbers of resident and migratory birds.

Kiskunság National Park

The Kiskunság National Park is actually a holding of seven disjunctive units comprising 570 square kilometres in the northwest of Hungary. One of the most significant areas of the National Park are the alkali lakes of the Little Cumania. The Kiskunsag actually is a composite of meadow, forest and lacustrine perimeter. caption Valley of Lillafüred from Szelete cave, Bukk Mountains.

Bükk National Park

This forested area is situated in the far north of Hungary not far from the border with Poland. The underlying geology features limestone formations, including interesting karst caves inhabited by paleolithic man.

Körös-Maros National Park

This protected area is in the extreme southeast of Hungary within the Southern Great Plain, along the Romanian borderland. It has a number of riparian and wetland components such as the Kis-Sárrét swamp and Lake Fehér. The Körös-Maros National Park includes a major area specifically for protection of the Vulnerable great bustard.


The Pannonian mixed forests were a very early European venue for hominids, beginning with extensive neanderthal settlement, expecially in the river valleys and karstic caves such as the Karpina area of far northern Croatia. In the era of Homo sapiens, some of the earliest sedentary agriculture of Europe was found in the manifestation of the Starčevo culture, which was the chief cultural horizon across the ecoregion approximately 5000 BC.

Current status

The Pannonian mixed forests has a conservation status of Critical/Endangered. The World Wildlife Fund has not classified this ecoregion to G200 status, meaning it is not considered as a highest priority for worldwide conservation.

Justification of ecoregion delineation

caption Substantial portion of the Pannonian mixed forests, centered on Hungary. Source: NASA This ecoregion is equivalent to the DMEER (2000) unit of the same name. The boundaries of this unit are primarily a product of the DMEER delineation process, which were then modified during discussions between WWF, DMEER, and Dr. Udo Bohn. The ecoregion is based on the complex of vegetation in the Pannonian basin. This complex includes subcontinental thermophilous (mixed) pedunculate oak and sessile oak forests, sub-Mediterranean subcontinental thermophilous bitter oak forests, as well as mixed forests, mixed oak-hornbeam forests, sub-Mediterranean-subcontinental lowland to montane herb-grass steppes, and azonal floodplain vegetation (Bohn et al. 2000). Outlying areas of downy oak forests, mixed oak-hornbeam forests, and beech and mixed beech forests that were part of the early DMEER unit were split off and merged with surrounding ecoregions.


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