szabadonbalaton (“free Balaton”) is an ecological art initiative that aims to draw attention to the ecological needs and risks of Lake Balaton, and trigger a change in civil awareness and practices. In a cross-sectoral collaboration of artists and scientists (anthropologist, ecologist, water engineer), it proposes to open a conversation within science, art and society and among policymakers, and to inform the public about the necessary changes that need to be made in the use of the lake.
CURRENT SITUATION OF LAKE BALATON
Lake Balaton is an ecosystem transformed and managed by humans since centuries. After the draining of wetlands on the watershed, the regulation of the water level and the transformations of agriculture and forestry, the increase of tourism has resulted in even more widespread changes of the ecosystem. The shore zone was gradually built up and human presence resulted in water pollution. This pollution was successfully reduced in the 1980-s, and the water quality recovered by the late 1990-s. However, meanwhile, the artificially raised water levels and the deposition of dredged sediment drastically reduced the area of natural shore habitats. In recent years, buildings and transport infrastructure grew at the expense of wetlands, grasslands, forests, vineyards and orchards. As a result, the changing microclimate locally increases the effect of global warming, and shore buildings and roads break the connectivity of wetland habitat patches. The lack of fish stock reproduction, the loss of reed areas and the recently observed algae blooms prove that some essential ecosystem functions of the lake have lost their resilience. Dedicated cross-sectoral changes are necessary to restore and protect the ecological conditions of the lake that support human use.