Neither East nor West... This stereotypical assessment
of where Turkey stands geographically and
geopolitically plays an important role in both its
ecological composition, and concerns related to its
environment and ecology.
As a land of transition between three continents,
Turkey is a country that has critical natural and
biological reserves at the global level (see the below
map for its biodiversity hotspots) and diverse species
and agro-environmental landscapes.
With a total area of about 778,000 square kilometres,
Turkey is often considered a small continent linking
Europe (Thrace) and Asia (Anatolia). Due to the
remarkable variation in its geographic features Turkey is
home to 305 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA), equivalent to
a quarter of the country’s surface area.
Anatolia demonstrates a significant plant endemism
rate (30%) and includes eight recognised Centres of
Plant Diversity. Out of a total of 236 species, there are
70 endemic species of inland fish; an important fact
unknown to many.
Two major bird migration routes pass through
Turkey, implying the presence of key feeding and
breeding sites for over 460 species. Forests
cover some 20.5 million hectares of the country
and include some of the oldest old-growth
forests in the temperate zone.
The natural steppes in the Irano-Anatolian floristic zone
host nearly half of the endemic species that are of
conservation concern. Marine and coastal biodiversity
along Turkey’s 8,300-kilometres-long coastline is
likewise worth mentioning, which is home to key
species such as the Mediterranean monk seal, two out
of eight global sea turtle species, and Posidonia sea
Unfortunately, an equally remarkable spectrum of
environmental conflicts directly threatens the integrity
of nature in Turkey. Today, there is an urgent need for
knowledge, awareness, and appropriate action to halt
irreversible loss of the unique natural capital in the
global hotspots that Turkey is home to.
The main ecological and environmental
issues in Turkey are the conservation
of biodiversity, water pollution from the dumping of
chemicals and detergents, air pollution, greenhouse
gases and land degradation.
Conservation of Biodiversity
Turkey has a remarkable diversity of wildlife, due to its wide
variety of habitats and unique position between three
continents and three seas. IlI-considered development
projects are threatening biodiversity, but a new wildlife
corridor offers hope for further conservation
progress. Turkish montane forests face major threats to
their genetic diversity associated with over-exploitation,
forest fragmentation, air pollution and global climatic
Air pollution is particularly significant in urban
areas. The problem is especially acute
in İstanbul, Ankara, Erzurum, and Bursa, where the
combustion of heating fuels increases particulate
density in winter. Especially in Istanbul, increased car
ownership causes frequent urban smog conditions. Air
pollution in urban centeres, often caused by transport
and the use of small-scale burning of wood or coal, is
linked to a range of health problems.
Summer temperatures have increased and are
expected to continue to increase. Proposed new coal
fired power plants would increase
Turkey's CO2 emissions.
Turkey's most pressing needs are for water treatment
plants, wastewater treatment facilities and solid waste
management. There is a potential for spills from the
5,000 oil- and gas-carrying ships that pass through
the Bosporus annually.
Turkey does not have sufficient water. Almost three
quarters of water consumed is used for
agriculture. Lake Tuz, which is a closed basin situated
in Central Anatolia, comprised of an ecological network
of wetlands where highly endemic hypersaline plant
species occur in the surrounding natural steppe
habitats—and a Special Protection Area—is a case in
Since the 1920s, Lake Tuz, Turkey’s second largest body
of water has shrunk by about 85 percent due to the
over-extraction of groundwater for irrigated
agriculture. Additionally, the pollutants discharged into
the lake have severely affected the breeding flamingo
Land degradation is a critical agricultural problem,
caused by inappropriate use of agricultural land,
overgrazing, over-fertilization. Serious soil erosion has
occurred in 69% of Turkey’s land surface. According to
one estimate, Turkey loses 1 billion tons of topsoil
TURKEY’S KEY ISSUES
The most urgent problems on Turkey’s
environmental agenda as follows:
The biggest salt lake in Europe has diminished by
almost half in 18 years.
One of the terminals of the power plant at Afşin Elbistan has
been operating without a filter for years, polluting surrounding
The almost 400 hydroelectric plants planned for many provinces, Artvin and
Rize foremost among them, means death for the streams they are going to be
The Great Menderes Basin, the primary water source of İzmir, has been
Bafa Lake in Muğla, Kulu Lake in Konya and Eber Lake in
Akşehir are threatened by pollution from waste.
Amik, Suğla and Avlan lakes, alongside the reed beds of Kestel,
Gavur, Yarma, Aynaz, Hotamış and Eşmekaya, have lost their
ecological and economic functions.
The water level of Lake Burdur has dropped 10 meters in the last 27
years, and 90 percent of the Sultansazlığı reed bed has dried up.