Turkey's Importance in the World of Living
is well known the earth experienced four ice in the last
1.8 million years which greatly influenced the world of
living things, fleeing unfavourable conditions in the north,
took refuge in the Iberian peninsula, Southeast Asia, and
in Anatolia which then offered very favourable survival
conditions. Some of these species returned north during
periods between the ice ages, while some evolved to adapt
to the new conditions of their environment. Others remained
in Anatoli by taking refuge in various biotopes and underwent
further differentiation. In fact, several species of plants
and animals of northern origin are now found in Anatolia.
Between the ice ages Anatolia served as habitat for species
originating in the south and in the east. For these reasons,
Anatolia has historically been and is currently a habitat
of species which originally came from the north, the east
and the south. It therefore is of supreme importance in
the understanding and analysis of the flora and fauna of
Europe, Western Asia and parts of Africa. We might indeed
claim that studies of European and Asian flora and fauna
would be incomplete if they did not take into account the
biological diversity offered by Anatolia, where the coexistence
of a rich variety of living things can be observed.
Additionally, during many historical perriods, Anatolia
served as a passageway between the continents of Europe,
Asia and Africa. A variety of flora and fauna owe their
geographical spread to this passageway. For this reason,
Anatolia gains importance in the analysis of zoo-geographical
The topography of the Anatolian peninsula exhibits significant
variety where ecological factors change greatly over very
short distances. For this reason, living things have evolved
and differentiated richly and have created a wealth of species
and sub-species. A number of such species and subspecies
have proven to be of economic value to humanity and some
will doubtless be of use in the future.
Why Anatolia can be Characterized as a Continent?
This piece of land of 779 000 square kilometers, located
between Europe and Asia, serves as a bridge between three
continents, and is surrounded on therr sides by seas with
substantially different characteristics. A large variety
of climatic zones co-exist due to its topography. It might
even be argued that Anatolia is unique in the world for
the great number and variety of climatic zones in proportion
to its area.
During the geological era, around 300 million years ago,
in the time of the Pangea continent, Anatolia's climate
was much like that of the tropics today. Seventy million
years ago, or towards the end of the second period (Mesozoic),
it acquired a sub-tropical climate. The current climatic
conditions came to exist in the middle of the third period,
or around thirty million years before our time, and were
consolidated in the last few hundred thousand years.
In today's Anatolia there exists a rainy, humid and mild
climate in the North, especially north of the Black Sea
mountain range; a type of Siberian climate with cold and
dry winters in the East; a hot and dry, desert-like climate
in the Southeast; a climate with hot and dry summers and
cold and snowy winters in the interior regions; and a Mediterranean
climate with hot and dry summers and rainy winters in the
West and Southwest.
There are also several micro-climatic zones within these
regions, depending on altitude and protectedness. Such differences
may be manifested over very short distances. For instance
in the Igdir plain in the East the climate is close to the
Mediterranean, while the climate of the adjoining Agri Dagi
and its plateau is a variant of the Siberian.
is, and has been for a long time, located in the Palearctic
zone. For this reason, its current bio-geographic composition
and structure may be seen as representative of Palearctic
flora and fauna. However, especially in the Southeast and
the East, the Influence of oriental and Ethiopic (African)
elements are observable although this influence diminishes
as one goes north.
Igdir-Aralik triangle and the Hakkari-Van plateau exhibit
the influence of Syrian desert flora and fauna; the Hatay-Amanos
bridge exhibits elements of Africa. Elements of the Mediterranean
sone have arrived through southwestern Anatolia, and European
elements through Thrace and partly over the Caucasian range.
This flow still continues.
Examples of such fauna are more commonly observed in countries
to the east of Turkey (Iran and parts of Iraq) and those
to the south (for example, Syria and Palestine).
In the Northeast, there are examples of cold steppe and
even Siberian species. Mountains transversing Anatolia and
the impact of this geography on the evolution of living
are a number of mountain ranges in Anatolia which constitute
effective barriers against the geographical diffusion of
living things, which therefore become significant in geo-zoological
These obstacles are responsible for the important differences
that have arisen between continenets from the point of view
of biological composition. They also are the reason for
the great diversity of species of flora and fauna found
evolutionary variation of many groups of living things was
due to the effects of such obstacles. Especially during
the ice ages and subsequent periods, these barriers prevented
passage to a great extent, and thereby limited the diffusion
and consequent variation of populations. The most important
of such barriers are the eastern Taurus mountains, which
separate the southeastern Anatolian region from eastern
Anatolia, with its cold and dry steppe characteristics;
the western Taurus Mountains which separate the Mediterranean
littoral with its Mediterranean climate from the interior
region of Anatolia with its dry, steppe climate; the Black
Sea range which separates the mild and rainy Black Sea coastline
from the dry region of the interior and from the cold and
dry eastern Anatolian steppes; a series of mountains which
cut across Anatolia laterally (Binboga, Munzur, Kargasekmez
Mountains, etc.) that constitute the Anatolian diagonal
and separate eastern Anatolia from western and Central Anatolia,
and in fact, divide the European continent at its southern
limit from all of Asia and Africa.
The Bosphorus and the Dardanelles also constitute effective
obstacles to the diffusion of land and fresh water animals.
Of secondary importance are the partial barriers constituted
by Dinar, Baba Dag, etc. which divide the Aegean region
with its Mediterranean climate and Central Anatolia characterized
by its dry steppe climate; the mountain ranges of Munzur,
Kargasekmez and Palandoken which constitute a second barrier
between eastern Central Anatolia and northeastern Anatolia
by defining the southern limets of the Firat Valley; and
kelkit Mountains, which join in a narrow corridor Central
Anatolia and tha Kars-Erzurum plateau.
Other significant geographical features are mountains which
either serve as refugia or represent extreme climatic character
and therefore constitute isolated habitats for a variety
of groups of living things. From the west to the east, these
are Uludag, Kaz Dagi, Baba Dagi, Sultan Dagi, Akdag, Erciyes
Dagi, Ilgaz Dagi, Cilo Dagi, Süphan Dagi, Nemrut Dagi,
Great and Small Agri mountains.
Anatolia is dotted throughout by conical mountains and
plateaus. This geographical feature implies an increaser
reception of high energy radiation which accelerates the
process of mutation and, therefore, would exceptionally
increase the degree of differentiation.
The legendary Agri mountain, both due to its appearance
and to its biological compositions, occupies an almost island-like,
privileged position in eastern Anatolia. Hasan Dagi which
is shown here in June, is one of the most biologically diverse
mountains in Central Anatolia.
Turkey's Undisturbed Nature
Despite the unfavorable developments of recent years, Turkey
is one of the countries which have most successfully conserved
their ecological structure.
Many species which have been conserved only artifically
by special measures in other parts of the world, can still
be found in many localities of Anatolia, in the full beauty
of their natural habitat.
Turkish governments have come to the understanding that
the preservation of this natural ecology in Anatolia, and
thereby the environmental conservation of many species in
their natural habitat, is of utmost importance. With increasing
sensitivity they have tried to instill this environmental
protection consciousness both in the organs and agencies
of the state and at the level of public opinion. It is possible
that by the end of the century, Turkey will be the only
northern country where one may see in their natural habitats,
those species that we know intimately, such as deer, wolf,
lynx, bear, gazelle, leopard, and many species of birds
and reptiles. Completely natural forests and other vegetation
cover may also remain as their unique examples in Turkey.
Turkey is surrounded on three sides by seas. The Black
Sea on the north, which had until recently been a rich invironment
for sea life, is unfortunately in the process of rapid decay,
due in part to the pollution from the less developed littoral
countries, but especially because of the industrial waste
deriving from central European discharges into the Danube,
which the river deposits into the Black Sea. It should be
the historical task of all countries directly or indirectly
polluting this beautiful internal sea, to begin without
delay to take the necessary measures to stop and reverse
The Marmara Sea which connects the Black Sea wilayteggs.
Among the more important of these are Dalyan, Patara, the
Göksu delta, Belek, and Fethiye-Kekova, which have
been designated as Speciae recently implemented measures
have not been sufficient in reversing the trend in this
sea which serves as a passageway and an area for the laying
of eggs for much sea life.
The Aegean Sea on the West continues to remain clean despite
some local pollution.
The Eastern Mediterranean Sea still preserves its environmental
cleanness and species diversity, although this diversity
is not as great as in other regions. The turkish government
has taken the necessary measures to conserve this natural
wonder which should be considered as part of the common
heritage of humanity, and has prevented excessive industrial
development in the southern coastal area of the country.
Why Should We Protect the Anatolian Environment
with Greater Care than any Other Land?
is essentially a rich museum. The number of plant species
found in all of Europe has been estimated at 12 000 ; the
number discovered in Anatolia has already approximated this
magnitude and there are grounds to believe that it will
certainly surpass it as a result of future research. In
the case of animal species, the estimates are that the number
of species found in Turkey is around 80 000, or about one-and-one-half
times the number found in the continent of Europe. Besides,
for the reasons elaborated above, each species is represented
by a varity of sub-species and races, adding to the existing
wealth and diversity.
should also be mentioned that Anatolia is one of the most
important and perhaps the most important of passageways
for birds migrating between large land masses, in the north-south
and south-north, but sometimes in the east-west, west-east
directions. Twice a year, in its land and water habitats,
Anatolia offers hospitality to these migrating birds, some
of which also reproduce here. With full consciousness of
this pattern, Turkish governments have started intensive
programmes in order to protect the habitats, and especially
the qetlands, which accommodate these birds.
The principal reason, however, why its ecology should be
carefully protected is that, in addition to animal species,
Anatolia is the birth place of many of the commercially
important plant species in the world. Many among these now
serve the economic needs of the human race after having
been genetically improved. Examples of plant which are native
to Anatolia include wheat, chickpeas, lentils, figs, cherries,
almonds, apricot; many ornamental plants including the tulip,
crocus, and the snowdrop. It might be argued that up to
thirty percent of field cropps originally evolved in Anatolia.
All this, of course, indicates that the wild forms of many
of these domesticated plants, in various genetic compositions,
may still be found as the native plants of today's Anatolia.
Future research attemting to develop more productive and
more resistant breeds, as well as bio-technology in need
of genetic material will rely closely on the conservation
of wild forms that currently exist in Anatolia.
Turkey has closed some of its most beautiful coastal areas
and bays to toursim in order to protect sea turtles which
find accommodation and egg-laying opportunity only in a
few places in the world. These sea turtles (Caretta caretta
and Chelonia mydas) and the Nile turtle are now being protected
by exemplary legislation in order to provide them with an
environment in which they can reproduce, although these
measures translate into a loss of much foreign exchange
through foregone tourism revenue. This protection extends
to the entire eastern Mediterranean coast where the construction
of polluting industry is largely prohibited. It may well
be argued that the cleanest area of the Mediterranean Sea
is found in the southern shore of Turkey. It is well known
that biological diversity has been preserved here, as can
be attested to by diving enthusiasts who witness the clean
waters teeming with natural life.
Sea Turtles in Turkey
Chelonia mydas and Caretta caretta are the two sea turtle
species which make their home on Turkish coasts. Chelonia
mydas is generally found on a few beaches in the eastern
Mediterranean (Kazanli, Akyatan, Samandagi); while Caretta
caretta is commonly found on almost all the other beaches
in the area. Akyatan is the process of being designated
as a Nature Preserve.
There are seventeen beaches on Turkey's Mediterranean coast
where sea turtle have been found to lay eggs. Among the
more important of these are Dalyan, Patara, the Göksu
delta, Belek, and Fethiye-Kekova, which have been designated
as Special Environmental Protection Zones.
Attention is also being paid to beaches other than those
found the two designations. For instance, Kazanli and Kizilot
areas have been discovered to contain a large number of
nests and it would seem that these two beaches too will
have to receive the status of protected zones.
The attempts of the Environmental Ministry for the protection
of these turtles have been useful not only for their actual
protection but also because they have resulted in raising
the environmental consciousness of the public.
areas of two important sea turtle species (Caretta caretta
and Chelonia mydas) have been put under strict protection.
The soft-shelled, (Trionyx triunguis triungularis) which
is also rather rare, is under protection in Köycegiz
Turkish governments have also implemented various measures
of protection in Birecik where the bald ibis (Geronticus
eremita) lays eggs. The population of bald ibis has been
in decline and the species is in danger of extinction.
Turkey, a Plant Paradise
is endowed with a rich diversity of family, genera and species
of plants. It is, in fact, the richest country in Europe
as well as among its neighbouring countries, from the point
of view of plant taxonomy. The table below presents a comparison
of Turkey and the continent of Europe in their respective
wealth in flora:
Turkey is accepted to be the primary or the secondary genetic
center for some plant groups at the level of genus or species.
The following are among the genera whose genetic center
is considered to be in Turkey: Achillea, Allium, Astragalus,
Centaurea, Draba, Iris, Salvia, Verbascum.
Turkey exhibits a rich diversity of wooded plants as well.
Many of the tree and bush species which are endemic to and
found frequently in mild climatic zones also grow in Turkey.
These constitute single-species or mixed-form forest areas.
Animals living in such forest areas present a parallel diversity
depending on the specific features of the forests.
Quercus is an important example of a genus of tree that
grows in Turkish forests. Eighteen species of this genus
grow naturally in Turkey , two of which (Q aucheri and Q
vulcanica) are native to the area, while in all of Europe
there are 27 species.
Turkey is also noteworthy for the presence of woody Rosacaea
group. The Amygladus, Crataegus, Prunus, and Pyrus genera
of this family are well represented by various species,
some of which are native to the country. The large number
of species of fruit trees and their absolute volume when
compared to other Middle Eastern countries also suggests
that such fruits might have originally evolved in Turkey.
Turkey's wealth in plants is apparent in the fact that
3000 out of the 9000 flower plants are endemic to the area.
This exceeds the total number of endemic species found in
Europe (2500) and underline the ecological importance of
In addition to this rich diversity of flora, Turkey is
also considered to be the genetic center for certain cultivated
plants, some of which are: Amygladus=almond, Pyrus=pear,
Avena=oats, Hordeum=barley, Secale=rye, Triticum=wheat,
Ficus=fig, Vitis=grapevine, Pisuum=peas, Vicia=broadbeans,
vetch, Linum=linen, Allium=onion, garlic, leeks, Punica=pomegrenate,
Ceracus=cherry, sour cherry.
are also some plants found in enclaves, such as Liquadambar
orientalis and Dorystoechas hastata, which are relic distributions
of the tertiary period. These grow in the southeastern corner
With its rich Alpine, or high-mountain flora, Turkey constitutes
a link between central and southern Europe on the one hand
and the Irano-Turanian plant zone on the other.
From the point of view of its plant geography Turkey belongs
in the Holarctic zone, but with the distinction that elements
from three different groups of the flora of this zone (Irano-Turanian,
Mediterranean, and Euro-Siberian) can be found in it. For
this reason, from the point of view of plant diversity,
Turkey presents the characteristics of a continental land
mass rather than a country.
An Overview on Vegetation
The most commonly encountered types of vegetation in Turkey
are shrubs, needle-leaf or deciduous forest trees, and steppe-type
vegetation. Less frequent formation also exist owing to
the extent of the ecological differentiation.
There is a great variety of forests ranging from cone-bearing,
needle-leaf evergreen forests to forests with deciduous
trees belonging to the mild climatic zone. There are also
gallery-type forests along rivers in Central and Eastern
Anatolia. There are single-species forests of both evergreens
and deciduous trees, and also mixed forest formations. The
most frequently occuring evergreen forests consist of Pinus
brutia, and P. nigra subsp. pallasiana, which are found
mostly in the Mediterranean coastal belt. Other needle-leaf
forest trees are Pinus sylvestris and Abies nordmanniana
(in northern Anatolia), A. cilicia (on the Taurus mountain
range), Cedrus libani (also on the Taurus), and Picea orientalis
(on the north-eastern mountain range), either in single-
or mixed-species formation.
The most commonly occuring deciduous forest trees are Fagus
orientalis (in northern and western Anatolia) and various
Quercus species which are widespread. These trees are more
often found in single-species forests, but may also be seen
in mixeed formations. Other common trees, mostly seen in
mixed forests, are Castanea, Acer, Fraxinus, Tilia, Sorbus,
Carpinus, Alnus, Platanus, Salix, and Populus.
Of great interest among forest trees is the liquidambar
tree (Liquidambar orientalis) which is a relic of the tertiary
period. This species is concentrated in the humid valleys
of southeastern Turkey where the water table is close to
the surface. The diffusion of this species is very limited;
the only other location in the world where the liquidamber
tree grows is a small nimber of Aegean islands, although
it is known that its incidence was very wide during the
Phoenix teophrastii (date) has recently been discovered
growing in some bays in the Datca Peninsula, the southwestern
corner of Anatolia. Until its discovery in Turkey, this
tree was thought to exist only on the island of Crete.
Twenty-six percent of Turkey's surface area (20 million
hectares) is covered by forests. 9 million heacters of the
forest is in good condition, while 11 million hectares has
degenerated. Most of the forest land is natural forests;
this is in contrast to European countries where the extent
of the natural forest is very small (only 5%). Attempts
at afforestation have accelerated in recent years with a
target of 300 000 hectares of forest trees to be planted
Turkey's forest land is found on the mountains bordering
the Black Sea, Marmara, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean,
and is located in an altitude belt of 0 to 2000 meters.
Central and eastern parts of the country are much less heavily
forested. Small concentrations of needle-leaf forests (Pinus
nigra and P. sylvestris) are found in some protected locales
of Central Anatolia. In both regions, however, the most
common forest trees are species of the Quercus family.
Some forest trees occur in enclaves outside of the area
of their usual diffusion. A most striking example is the
case of Fagus orientalis which grows in forests on the famous
Amanos mountain range in eastern Mediterranean, and on some
mountains in the Adana area. Both these enclaves are outside
the area of its normal diffusion which are the mountains
of the Black Sea region, such as in Artvin and Coruh valley.
Some trees and bushes such as the Platanus orientalis and
the Punica granatum, grow in river valleys in the Black
Sea region where they find a suitable environment, and in
vallays in eastern Anatolia.
Maquis shrubs are most commonly seen in the littoral areas
of the Mediterranean, the Aegean, and the Marmara seas,
in the altitude range of 0 to 1000 meters. They are found
in the Black Sea region as well but in a discontinuous fashion
and in enclaves. Some maquis-type shrubs are found in the
interior regions along river beds, following the course
of rivers from the sea up to their sources.
Steppe-type vegetation is more common in the Central and
Eastern Anatolian regions. If steppe-type vegetation and
Alpine or high-mountainous vegetation, which show a physiognomic
resemblance, are grouped together, this type of formation
is also found in the mountains of southern and northern
Anatolia, in altitude ranges above 2000 meters. It is widespread
in the dry and cold climatic zone, although anthrogenic,
or man-made destruction is clearly visible.
In the low and flat areas where this type of vegetation
can be seen, the Artemesia (wormwood) and Thymus (thyme)
species are common. Also found are species belonging to
the Graminea genus and other typical steppe species which
do not occur in other regions. In higher altides and hill
slopes the Astragalus species (tragacanth shrub), Onobrychis
cornuta, and Acantholimon species become more common. Within
these categories, Genista, Thymus, Verbascum, Phlomis, Salvia,
Cousinia, Stachys, Siderits, and other genera are represented
through the presence of a large number of species. In places
which have not suffered from over-grazing, the Graminea
species (stipa, festuca, avena etc.) are especially visible
because of their relative height and extensive occurrence.
Within the steppe-type vegetation group, the composition
of plants varies between the eastern and western parts of
the country. The species composition of high mountainous
vegetation also varies between northern and southern mountain
In addition to the most commonly occurring plant types
mentioned above, there are also communities of flora which
are found under special ecological conditions: these consist
mostly of hydrophilous plants and halophytes (plants growing
in salt marshes).Species of the Cyperaceae and Juncaceae
genera predominate among the hydrophilous plants of the
wetlands while species of the Chenopodiceae genus predominate
in salt marshes. The environs of the Salt Lake in Central
Anatolia are especially rich in endemic halophytes.