Fields of environment, climate change, ecology, agriculture, food safety
Research connected to climate and sustainable environment
Environmental changes present significant challenges to humanity, and the majority of these problems do not respect national boundaries. It is in the common interest of mankind to understand the processes of the present and the future, to prepare prognoses and to solve the arising problems. Research on climate and sustainable development constitutes a crucial part of the EU’s RDI policies. The first pillar of the effective development of Hungarian agriculture should be targeted basic research projects on food and supply reliability.
The ELKH network’s institutes for life sciences – Centre for Agricultural Research (ATK), the Centre for Ecological Research (ÖK) and the Biological Research Centre (BRC) – are able to contribute significantly to this subject area based on their excellent results in the past. Their projects look into the foundations of relevant processes, deal with monitoring the state of the environment and develop applications that can ward off dangers. Their aims are threefold: to conduct cutting-edge basic research; to provide excellent data and data analysis; and to present knowledge-based advice to meet environmental challenges.
One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather phenomena, which threaten ecological systems and the quality of human life. ÖK studies the systemic responses (sensitivity, resilience, adaptability) given to weather fluctuations and climate change by terrestrial and wet ecological systems. Scientists of ÖK and ATK jointly examine the quantity and activity of plant roots and the quantity of arthropods living in the soil.
Invasive trends have accelerated due to climate change, and the number of newly emerging pests and pathogens has been growing. In response to increased social expectations, ATK is investigating environmentally friendly methods to combat pests and pathogens.
ÖK is conducting research on the river Danube as a member of international research and monitoring networks. The new strategy for monitoring Lake Balaton builds on the automated collection and analysis of environmental DNA samples and the application of integrative systemic indicators. It is also among the tasks of ÖK to reveal the sources of pollutants in order to protect the quality of water in Hungarian surface waters (the Danube, the Tisza and Lake Balaton), and to ensure the elimination of pollutants from waste water.
The theoretical work of ÖK is internationally recognized. The institute is developing the theory of great evolutionary transfers and cooperation and is comparing and unifying the theories of evolution and learning. Researchers are using a recently established robot farm to test their hypotheses, which comprises almost 40 automotive ‘seeing, hearing and thinking’ robots. A related research field of strategic importance at the Centre for Social Sciences (TK) is the investigation of the joint evolution of cooperation and communication.
Although technology has developed considerably, the need for a reliable quality and quantity of food has not changed over the millennia. Food security, and thus the provision of healthy soil and food is a primary mission of the Horizon Europe Framework Program. Molecular methods are being developed at ATK to clearly identify various pests and weeds. The researchers at ÖK are carrying out ecotoxicological tests on chemical residues found in nature in order to reveal their effect on the environment. ATK ÁOTI, in close collaboration with the relevant departments of the University of Veterinary Medicine, is exploring the epidemiology of contagious diseases and antimicrobial resistance of high importance with respect to food security. They are also investigating the connections between resistance in veterinary and human medicine. A considerable quantity of crops grown in Hungary is used by animal husbandry to produce meat for human consumption. The protection of the health of farmed animals is therefore a crucial national economic task for ATK ÁOTI. Globalization has facilitated the spread of animal pathogens, causing epidemics well known to the public (such as African swine fever, avian influenza). In addition to these contagious diseases, several less known pathogens causing considerable economic damage – such as the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) or circovirus – are also being examined by ATK ÁOTI, where researchers are also developing new diagnostic tools and protective measures against these diseases.
A special challenge of the new millennium is the investigation of the effects of climate change on agriculture, the monitoring of harmful processes generated by climate change and the combating of such changes. Plant adaptation mechanisms related to the use of photosynthetic energy, nutrients and water may play a key role in adaptation to increasingly extreme environmental conditions. BRC is working on the investigation of photosynthesis, which is the foundation for maintaining life on Earth, and of the basic operation of organisms that are able to photosynthesize.
Research in the field of life sciences related to climate change
The aim of the European Green Deal proposed by the European Commission is to make Europe a climate-neutral continent by 2050, where the amount of carbon dioxide emitted equals the amount of carbon dioxide bound using various measures. The measures outlined in the preliminary schedule are versatile: they include several important areas of activity including the large-scale reduction of emissions, investment into cutting-edge research and innovation, and the conservation of the natural environment.
Substantial investment is required to achieve the aims of the European Green Deal. In order to realize current climate and energy policy aims by 2030, an additional approximately 260 billion euros must be invested annually, which equals 1.5% of 2018 GDP.
The Horizon Europe Framework Program is the research and innovation framework of the European Union for the period between 2021 and 2027. The aim of this program is to strengthen the European science and technology sector, focusing on global challenges connected to health services, aging societies, safety, environmental and air pollution, and climate change. Of the total budget of 100 billion euros, more than 52 billion euros is to be spent on the second pillar of the framework program, namely Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness, of which 35% is to be spent on handling the problems caused by climate change.
The Hungarian government presented the National Energy Strategy in 2020, which aims to achieve the full decarbonization of energy production in Hungary by 2050. This is in line with the European objectives.
The majority of ELKH’s 10 research centers and 5 independent research institutes play an active role in research aimed at understanding the process of climate change, the investigation of the emerging changes, slowing the processes and facilitating the adaptation to unfavorable effects caused by the change in the climate.