Fülöpháza Sand Dunes
Area: 1992 ha
Biogeographic region: Sand Ridge
This is one of the most fascinating areas of Central Europe in terms of geomorphology and current geology. It is the central part of a long dune range stretching between Kunadacs and Orgovány. The last shifting sand dunes of Hungary make this area unique; one can still observe the effects of wind on the sandy soil surface. Embedded in the steppe landscape, these barren dunes are the last of their kind from the 17th and 18th centuries, when the intensification of grazing and some climatic reasons resulted in desertification in the area. There are four, presently dry soda lake beds in the eastern side of the dune range, namely Lake Kondor, Szappan-szék, Szívós-szék and Hattyú-szék.
The vegetation of the sand dunes has adapted to the extreme climate and the calcareous soil. The most characteristic and most widespread vegetation type is the open sand steppe, which covers the driest and most nutrient-poor habitats. Ground water periodically inundated low-lying dune slacks in older times, resulting in the formation of fen meadows. Presently, these spots are occupied by picturesque Juniper-Poplar groves and sand grasslands. The fauna of the sandy habitats is constrained by extreme environmental conditions. The soil surface can heat up above 60°C in summer, which is tolerated only by a handful of species adapted to desert conditions, even though we are in Central Europe. Species like these include the locust Acrotylus longipes and antlions. The tiger beetle Cicindela soluta is a predator of the hot sand surfaces. Several subterranean ants also occur in the area. The rich insect fauna is a prime food source for Common Spade-foot Toads, Balkan Wall Lizards, Sand Lizards and Green Lizards. Insects also attract large numbers of birds to the sandy steppes and forests. Some well-known species, such as Golden Oriole, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Roller and European Bee-eater, occur in the area.
The rich birdlife of the soda lakes at the foot of the dunes is no more; only the name of the lakes is what remains. Their former bottom is now covered by saline grasslands, and where once Avocets and Black-winged Stilts bred, now Skylarks build their nests. The National Park has two facilities here, the Naprózsa Forest School and the Naprózsa House, where children can learn about the secrets of nature and the tiresome life of local people.