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Sustainable Development and Technologies National Programme of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences


Investigation of the amount of nitrogen loss from fertilizers. Estimation of environmental nitrogen load from plant cultures, using physical measurement methods.


The project aims to develop photoacoustic (PA) measuring systems which, in addition to NH3, is also suitable for the simultaneous measurement of the flux of a greenhouse gas and stratospheric ozone depleting N2O, emitted from soils, or from plants. Field investigations will be completed with laboratory, climate chamber experiments. Model development is also planned to simulate the NH3 and N2O fluxes between the soil – plant and the atmosphere.
Further planned tasks: testing, calibration, and determination of the analytical parameters of an open-chamber, photoacoustic measuring system suitable for measuring the concentration of aerosol particles. Performing flow acoustic and photoacoustic excitation numerical modelling with increased flow velocity. Developing a plan for installing the measuring system on a drone, for field use. Integrating and testing the laser light source and the open chamber.
Development of a measurement setup suitable for controlled laboratory modelling of laser-excited biomass and elemental carbon (soot) particles. Mapping of gas-phase cross-effects.


One of our goals is the continuous high-frequency photoacoustic measurement of the NH3 and N2O flux above arable lands using the eddy covariance method. In addition, we are planning additional soil, plant, and meteorological measurements, with continuous measurement of soil NH3 and N2O emissions at several plots. Parallel measurement of the total gas emission of the soil – canopy system and the emission of the soil, in order to separate the NH3 and N2O fluxes of the soil and plant. Modelling of the NH3 and N2O fluxes between the soil – plant and the atmosphere. Development, testing and application of models.


Conducting experiments in climate chambers. Measuring the concentration of NH3 and N2O in the chambers using the PA method, separately for plants and soils, to determine the extent of gas exchange between soil-air and plant-air. Testing the effect of plant drought stress and nitrogen supply on the level of gas emissions. Estimating the effect of climate change on gas emissions. It is an important question how abiotic plant stress (e.g. heat stress, drought stress) – that is currently and expected to occur more frequently in the future – affects emissions. Therefore, we perform chlorophyll fluorescence tests under stress and control conditions.

Developing high-precision, ppb-level PA measurement of the 14N/15N isotope ratio. We can follow the processes occurring in the soil – plant – atmosphere system by measuring the stable isotope ratio, taken advantage of every physical and chemical transformation involves a specific change in the isotope abundance. Since the natural ratio of 15N is only 0.36%, enrichment is necessary, in the form of 15NH4Cl added to the substrate. Further testing options and goals include the use of 15N labelling techniques with 15NH4+ and 15NO3– isotope enrichment. By using either or both of these methods in combination with the measurement of isotopic ratios of released gases, we can obtain important information on the mechanisms of processes occurring in the soil that are not fully understood yet.

Generation and photoacoustic examination of biomass-derived and elemental carbon particles under controlled laboratory conditions. Determination of wavelength and laser parameters for PA system development. Design and development of resonator and PA detector unit. Design and development of an open-chamber system that can be installed on a drone. Investigation of the spectral response and energy characteristics of biomass-derived particles using a drone-mounted system. Atmospheric emission measurements. Laboratory measurement of the spectral response of tarball particles. Investigation of savanna fire emissions in the frame of international cooperation. Investigation of the spectral response of biomass-derived particles using a drone-mounted system. Development and finalization of measurement models. Verification of the applicability of spectral response for identifying the source of emitting biomass. Estimation of climatic effects. Verification of the applicability of drone-mounted PA systems in the immediate vicinity of emissions and in remote emission environments. Exploration of the composition and emission source characteristics inherent in the spectral response.

Development and mapping of a soil hydrophysical categorization system for the support of hydrological modelling

The soil hydraulic properties (such as water retention and hydraulic conductivity associated with soil pore size distribution) determine how much of the precipitation or irrigation water reaching the surface is capable to infiltrate into the soil, how much becomes runoff, and how much and how long time moisture can be stored in the soil. These fundamentally determine hydrological and biogeochemical processes occurring in the soil. Hydrological monitoring and occasional measurement of soil physical and chemical properties of a case study greatly contribute to refining the input parameters of hydrological models and validating estimation procedures.

The implementation of the planned research tasks is grounded by research projects conducted at the institute, focusing on the estimation and mapping of soil hydrological properties (KH124765, WaterJPI – iAqueduct, H2020 – OPTAIN, K48302, K119475, K134563, OTKA 101065, OTKA 131792), the results of which are particularly important in the context of climate change.

During the research, our aim is to renew the soil water management categories of Hungarian soils defined by Várallyay based on statistical analyses, building upon the results of the BO/00088/18 Bolyai Research Fellowship. This involves further development and mapping of the established soil groups complemented with expert rules. We plan to create a soil hydrophysical classification system that describes soil profiles with typical hydro-physical properties found in Hungary and ensures the data requirements for soil hydrological input in models considering soil water management. The created classification system will be supported by measurements examining the soil-plant-water system in a case study.
We are expanding the Hungarian Detailed Soil Hydrophysical Database, called MARTHA with general soil profiles and additional soil hydrological data. We investigate how the application of a model considering dual porosity refines the description of the soil water retention curve. Based on the hydrophysical data of the expanded database’s soil profiles, we define the soil water management groups using statistical methods and experts based rules. The relationship between soil water management groups and easily accessible soil properties is examined using data mining methods, and then the procedure is applied to map soil hydrological groups. The case study data are also utilized as validation points.

Through the planned investigations, we quantify how accurately the description of soil water retention can be refined for soils of different physical and soil types using models that consider both micro and macroporosity. The creation and mapping of soil hydrological groups provide crucial information for designing hydrological response units in watershed-level hydrological models. The formation of soil hydrological groups serves as important input data for national and regional analyses and planning related to soil hydrological properties, providing a comprehensive overview of soil water management characteristics.

The map of soil hydrological groups, along with soil moisture monitoring data, supports sustainable agricultural and water management planning.

Processing soil information from large-scale genetic soil mapping to predict soil-specific drought sensitivity

From an agricultural point of view, one of the most important consequences of climate change is an increase in the frequency of extreme water stress events. Knowledge of soil water management is the basis for assessing and conserving water resources potentially stored in soils. The water management of soils is determined by their hydrophysical properties (water retention and water conductivity), and in the future it will be essential to collect data on this in a targeted manner and to develop estimation methods based on easily measurable soil parameters. Our preliminary research experience in national (NKFIH OTKA K 48302; K 62436; K 119475; K 134563; TÁMOP-4.2.2.A-11/1/KONV-2012-0064) and international projects (FP7-SPACE-2010-1/263188; NKM-108/2017; NKM 2019-17) shows that the same weather conditions on different soils and different crops produce different “drought or inland water sensitivity”.

The construction of national water management maps and hydrophysical databases, integrated into modern spatial information systems, providing reliable information on deeper layers of soil beyond the surface layer, can support the prediction of extreme water balance situations and the mitigation of the damage they cause more effectively than ever before.

The 1:10,000 map material and accompanying textual explanatory notes, which can be found and still preserved on paper in various map repositories (successors of the former large agricultural enterprises, county plant protection and agrochemical stations, and land offices), provide essential and missing soil information on the state of our farmland. The steps of the planned work are: (1) Collection of 1:10,000 soil maps, textual explanations, laboratory test reports, data recording, geo-spatial processing for selected regions (Southern Great Plain); (2) Preparation of soil base maps; (3) Preparation of thematic hydrophysical-water management target maps; (4) Drought and inland water sensitivity modelling, mapping.
Completion of the planned tasks can provide essential information for e.g. the development of the planned Operational Drought and Water Scarcity Management System, the basis for irrigation investments or the further development of the methodology of the current inland water vulnerability map. A more detailed knowledge of the hydrophysical properties of soils could be used to develop natural water retention measures, groundwater resource modelling, agricultural water management policy programmes or to predict expected soil movements in response to weather extremes, using national spatial data.

The maps could also help farmers to develop good soil management and conservation practices. We intend to implement a pilot project in a selected area of the Southern Great Plain, which could serve as an example for further national-level exercises.

Impact of Soil Organic Matter Quantity and Quality on Soil Structure Stability

Carbon stored in soils has a fundamental importance in soil fertility. Soil organic carbon (SOC) reserves influence the cycle of nutrients, soil structure, water storage, filtration, and buffering capacities, as well as the genetic and functional diversity of soil organisms. Assessing carbon storage capacity and the quality of carbon reserves in soils requires a comprehensive examination, including simultaneous analysis of soil physical and chemical properties, biological activity, diversity, and their interactions.

Our preliminary research experiences in national (GINOP; NVKP; OTKA, ELKH) and international projects (H2020; Norway Grant; NKM 2019-17) indicate that a significant part of soils under agricultural management is exposed to structural degradation and organic matter loss, leading to soil degradation that adversely affects the drought and waterlogging sensitivity of arable soils. Global environmental issues and soil degradation caused by improper land use have been increasing demand for rapid, cost-effective soil health diagnostic methods and data collection.
The main objective of this project is to analyze the combined effects of land use, soil cultivation, and nutrient management on organic matter characteristics, structural conditions, and water management. This analysis is based on ongoing field and laboratory experiments, as well as investigation of archived samples and their test results.

The formation and structural stability of soil aggregates composed of soil solids is a function of the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils. The glycoprotein glomalin, produced by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) plays a key role in the formation of stable soil aggregates. AM fungi, which produce glomalin, are the oldest and the most widespread root symbionts. They are economically important, with 80-90% of terrestrial plants, including the majority of our food crops, establishing beneficial symbiotic relationships. The presence of AM fungi in the roots has a positive effect on the nutrient supply and the stress tolerance of host plants. Glomalin is a significant portion of soil organic carbon and nitrogen reserves. Its bioindicative significance lies in its stability contrary to other microbial soil characteristics changing dynamically in space and time. It also shows a close relationship with soil physicochemical parameters and characterizes the state of the soil-AM fungi-plant system.

A soil structural and organic carbon database will be developed from the results of measurements on natural and differently treated soil samples. This database allows the investigation of relations between structure, organic matter characteristics, and water management properties. The synthesis of research results, the finding of hidden relations opens a way to soil health indication. Based on the database, indicators of glomalin, micro- and macroaggregate stability, and pore size distribution will be developed that enable a relatively rapid, standardized assessment of water management and carbon cycling aspects of different types of soils.

Complex indication, built on soil physical, chemical, and biological analyses can help to assess the impact of current land use practices on soil quality and to design sustainable land use change technologies.

Systematic analyses of soil use and greenhouse gas and ammonia emission and evaluating of their linkages

To understand the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs – as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide) and ammonia (NH3), the changes and the possibilities in reduction in their concentration is one of the main goals of recent scientific researches. Greenhouse gases have long atmospheric lifetime therefore they can easily mix up in the atmosphere having global not only regional effect. In comparison, NH3 has a more regional impact. The increasing atmospheric concentration of GHGs and also the increasing NH3 emission from agricultural activities is a global issue due to climate change and environmental – and human health risks. The amount and type of the fertilizer and the tillage method applied during agricultural production can highly influence the rate of emissions. Good agricultural practices keep in consideration the emission reduction possibilities. Between 2005 and 2018 emissions from agricultural origins decreased less, which means the sectoral regulations do not help in emission reduction. Further potentials must be found and applied to reduce agricultural emissions. We must find and evaluate agrotechnical and agronomic possibilities to reduce emissions and increase carbon sequestration. We cannot achieve either the NH3 emission reduction targets without more efficient fertilizer usage and without measuring and study the effect of environmental and soil physical-chemical and biological impact on NH3 emission. The project aim is to study the effect of soil physical, chemical and biological parameters on the emission of the given gases in laboratory and field experiments. We study the elements of the C-N turnover under different soil nutrient supply and different soil status with C3 and C4 plant species. We evaluate the relationship between soil nutrient supply, plant growth, plant biology, functional diversity of rhizosphere microorganisms and soil emissions. We also plan to develop the methodology of gas emission measurements with calibration measurements and parallel usage of different analyzers. We build a database from the measured and calculated data. In the framework of the project, we cooperate with the Department of Optics and Quantum Electronics of the University of Szeged. The research is in line with the objectives of the Soil Protection Strategy and the National Air Pollution Reduction Program. The results will contribute to the development and decision support of technologies that optimize soil use, support soil health and sustainable practices.

Innovative Methods for Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

Ensuring a sufficient supply of raw materials, energy and water in sufficient quantity and quality is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Reducing dependence on raw materials and energy is a high priority for our country and the world. Therefore, any development that makes progress in the sustainable use of natural resources and in reducing dependency is important. The targeted research programme aims to carry out research in four priority areas with the following hypotheses:

  • Long-term hydrological data series can provide much more information than is currently available from conventional methods. By developing new interpretation methods, we can gain a much more accurate picture of current and potential future changes in the elements of the earth’s hydrological cycle, including our groundwater resources.
  • The application of artificial intelligence-based methods could open up new opportunities for hydrogeophysical method development, with direct applications in water research and geothermal energy.
  • The storage of hydrogen as a renewable energy source in a safe and efficient manner in the subsurface can be addressed.
  • In addition to primary mining deposits, mining and industrial by-products and electronic waste can be an excellent source, in line with the principles of the circular economy.

The effects of different forestry treatments on decomposer soil communities and soil health

Preserving and increasing the naturalness of forests is primarily possible through sustainable forest management. Besides sustainable economics, to preserve the protective, ecological, and touristic functions of forests, different forestry management technologies are needed. Important claims of these technologies are to secure the increasing biodiversity, fertility, renewable capacity, and vitality of forests.

Experts of the Centre for Ecological Research and Pilis Parkerdő Ltd. in 2014 established five different treatments (preparation cutting, clear-cutting, retention tree group, and gap-cutting) in the 70-year-old oak forest stock of the Hosszú-hegy (Hungary) (Pilis Forestry Treatment). Besides that, the Pilis GAP Experiment investigates the effects of forest gaps with different shapes and sizes. In our research we investigate the effects of different forestry managements on forest soil and the diversity of decomposer communities. This research is being carried out in collaboration with two HUN-REN research centres (ÖK and TAKI).

In this project, we aim to investigate the effects of different forest management types on the communities of soil-living mesofauna and the microbiota of the rhizosphere (bacteria, symbiont fungi), especially on their genetic and functional diversity and through that on soil health. We hypothesize, that biodiversity and soil health are inversely related to the degree of disturbance.

The research contributes to the practical implementation of ecologically sustainable forest management and integrated nature conservation in line with global challenges. In the light of our results, the least environmentally damaging method of forest management can be selected in the future.