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 should be Targeted research projects on food and supply reliability represent the first pillar of the effective development of Hungarian agriculture.
The HUN-REN network’s institutes for life sciences – HUN-REN Centre for Agricultural Research (HUN-REN ATK), the HUN-REN Veterinary Medical Research Institute (HUN-REN VMRI), the HUN-REN Centre for Ecological Research (HUN-REN CER) and the HUN-REN Biological Research Centre, Szeged (HUN-REN BRC Szeged) – 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 research, provide excellent data service and data analysis, and 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. HUN-REN CER studies the systemic responses (sensitivity, resilience, adaptability) given to weather fluctuations and climate change by terrestrial and wet ecological systems. Scientists of HUN-REN CER and HUN-REN 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, HUN-REN ATK is investigating environmentally friendly methods to combat pests and pathogens.
HUN-REN CER is conducting research on the river Danube as a member of international research and monitoring networks. It is also among the tasks of HUN-REN CER 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 HUN-REN CER is internationally recognized. The Centre 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 HUN-REN Centre for Social Sciences (HUN-REN CSS) 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 HUN-REN ATK to clearly identify various pests and weeds. The researchers at HUN-REN CER are carrying out ecotoxicological tests on chemical residues found in nature in order to reveal their effect on the environment. HUN-REN VMRI, 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 HUN-REN VMRI. 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 HUN-REN VMRI, 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. HUN-REN BRC Szeged 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 the European Union's GDP in 2018.
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 HUN-REN research institutions play an active role in understanding the process of climate change, investigating the emerging changes, mitigating these processes, and facilitating the adaptation to unfavorable effects caused by climate change.