Pusztaszer Landscape Protection Area
Area: 22,225 ha
Legal declaration by Decree No. 684/1976. OTvH
Biogeographic region: Lower Tisza region
Pusztaszer Landscape Protection Area is one of the largest landscape protection areas in Hungary. It has a diverse landscape architecture and comprises the right hand side floodplain of Tisza and the former floodplain area beyond the embankments. Five thousand hectares of the area, including Labodár, Sas-ér, Büdös-szék, Baks puszta, Lake Csaj and Lake Fehér, are internationally recognized wetlands according to the Ramsar Convention.
The Labodár and Atka Backwaters were created during river regulations in the 19th century. Low-lying depressions used to contain soda lakes, some of which are still in an intact condition (Büdös-szék), while others have been transformed into fishponds (Lake Csaj). Sas-ér is a forest reserve and most of it is strictly protected. A large proportion of the Landscape Protection Area is covered by grasslands and croplands that are managed extensively or with traditional techniques. These areas are prime stop-over and feeding sites for passage migrants, primarily cranes and geese.
Botanical and zoological studies confirmed that this area harbours the most valuable saline steppe remnants of the Lower Tisza region. Since the area lies in the interface of the Tisza Valley and the sandy region of the Danube-Tisza Interfluve, both sand and saline steppe plant associations occur in the protected area.
Lying north of Szeged, Lake Fehér is the largest (over 2400 ha) fishpond system of the area; it has been under protection since 1939. By that time, the original soda lakes had mostly been transformed into fishponds. Despite the transformation, the area still harbours a rich birdlife. Over 280 bird species have been recorded in and around the lakes. The former saline swamps provided feeding and roosting site for birds but this is efficiently substituted by the muddy surfaces of temporarily drained fishpond units. In winter, when all other water bodies are covered in ice, birds can still find some open water here, where they can drink and rest. Lake Fehér has an island, the Korom Island, which is used by gulls for nesting. Black-headed Gull is the most common nesting species but several hundred pairs of Mediterranean Gulls can also be found here. The largest masses of birds arrive in late summer and during autumn. Common Cranes join the tens of thousands strong flocks of geese and ducks in mid-October.
Located south of Pusztaszer, Büdös-szék still maintains the original appearance of soda lakes. The lake is surrounded by sagebrush steppe and a maze of saline creeks. The other large fishpond system of the Landscape Protection Area, Lake Csaj (1200 ha) lies north of Büdös-szék. The nearby floodplain of Tisza hosts the Labodár heron colony; its inhabitants frequently visit the fishponds for feeding.
Another notable natural value of the floodplain of the Tisza is the Sas-ér, which has been under protection since 1951. The largest backwater of the Pusztaszer Landscape Protection Area is the Atkai Backwater. Besides having a rich flora and fauna, it is also popular among anglers.