Nature protection and biodiversity - State and impacts (Turkey)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated)
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Nature protection and biodiversity - State and Impacts (Turkey)
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 11 May 2020

This extraordinary ecosystem and habitat diversity has produced considerable species diversity. It is noted that fauna biological diversity is quite high in our country compared with the biological diversity of other countries in the temperate zone. Despite lack of data, the invertebrates constitute the largest number among the identified living species. The total number of invertebrate species in Turkey is about 19,000, of which about 4,000 species/sub-species are endemic. The total number of vertebrate species identified to date is near 1,500. Of the vertebrates, over 100 species are endemic, including 70 species of fish. Anatolia is the home of the fallow deer and the pheasant. The fact that our country is located on two major bird migration routes in the world makes it an important place as a feeding and breeding area for birds.

To appropriate Turkey’s wealth in flora species, a comparison with the continent of Europe will be sufficient: While there are 12,500 gymnospermous and angiospermous plant species in the entire continent of Europe, it is known that there are such species close to this number (about 11,000) in Anatolia alone, one third of which are endemic to Turkey. Eastern Anatolia and Southern Anatolia among the geographical regions, and the Irano-Turanian and Mediterranean regions among the phytogeograhical regions, are rich in endemic plant species (Table 1).



Table 1: Taxon numbers of species and subspecies of various plant groups; endemism, rare and endangered species, extinct species

Plant Groups

Defined Species/ subspecies

Endemic Species


Rare and



Extinct species






Lichen (Lichenes)





Moss (Bryophytes)





Pteridophytes Ferns










Monocotyledonous (Monocotyledons)





Dicotyledonous (Dicotyledons)






Thanks to the large number of studies on the Turkish vertebrate fauna, it has largely been brought to light. According to latest data, 460 bird species, 161 mammal species, 141 reptile species, 480 sea fish species and 236 inland waters fish species are known to live in Turkey (Table 2).

Table 2. -Taxon numbers of Species and Subspecies of various animal categories, endemism situation, number of rare and endangered species, and extinct species in Turkey

Table 2. -Taxon numbers of Species and Subspecies of various animal categories, endemism situation, number of rare and endangered species, and extinct species in Turkey

With its rivers and lakes covering an area of about 10,000 km2, Turkey has very important inland water resources to maintain biological diversity. In studies conducted so far, 135 wetlands of international significance have been identified and 12 of them designated as Ramsar sites. In Turkey, there are 7 drainage basins including 26 river basins, and the ground waters are estimated at 94 billion m3. The average annual rainfall is about 640 mm, roughly one third of which reaches water reserves and thus contributes to the maintenance of wetlands.

The different characteristics of the seas that surround Turkey, namely the Black Sea, the Marmara, the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, have resulted in the diversification of the biological resources they contain. The Mediterranean, which has the highest salinity and temperature among the Turkish seas, is the area with the richest biological diversity. After the opening of the Suez Canal, many species belonging to the Indian-Pacific area migrated through the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and settled in this area. 26 species were identified to have settled in the area through migration. There are 388 fish species in the Turkish waters of the Mediterranean, 389 in the Aegean, 249 in the Sea of Marmara and 151 in the Black Sea.

Forest areas have increased in size from 20.2 million ha to 21.2 million ha, increasing the forest areas by 1 million ha which is an approximate increase of 1%. During the last 30 year period, forest value increased 11%.

Although some of the habitats in Turkey are degraded or even damaged, they provide shelter for endangered species such as Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus), the sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) in the Mediterranean Sea.

A range of protected areas such as national parks, nature parks, Ramsar sites, etc. have been designated and their number has increased over the last few years. In Turkey, there are 41 national parks (898.044 ha), 31 nature protection areas (46.575 ha), 34 nature parks (79.299 ha), 103 nature monuments (5.541 ha), 14 special protected areas (1.211.254 ha), 81 wildlife protection areas (1.201.285 ha) and 13 Ramsar sites (203762 ha) declared as protected areas. The proportion of protected areas under various statuses to the country’s total surface area increased from 4 % to about 6 % after 2000.

The total number of cereal types developed through the use of local and imported breeds and recorded during the last thirty years in Turkey is 256, of which 95 are wheat types, 91 corn, 22 barley, 22 rice, 16 sweet sorghum, 11 oat and 2 rye. The National Seed Programme constantly raises new varieties and the number of cultivated species thus steadily increases, while field crops such as small red wheat (Triticum monococcum), double-grain wheat (Triticum dicoccum), bitter vetch and lupine are not used as much as in the past and consequently tend to disappear today.

The cross-breeding of local race farm animals with imported culture races has led to the danger of the loss of local gene resources. On the Black Sea coastal strip, almost all local cattle have been turned into the Jersey race. Nevertheless, only 25 % of the local races have been crossbred with culture races and 75 % maintain their purity. Again, the ‘Kıvırcık’ sheep of Thrace has been crossbred with the German ‘Ots-Friz’ race to develop the Tahirova race, causing the genetic erosion of both endemic species. Certain sheep varieties such as ‘Karakul’ which lives in the northern transition zone and ‘Tuj’ which lives in the Kars region are faced with the danger of extinction. Another local animal race under threat is the Angora goat, which has been placed under protection to prevent its total extinction.

Turkey’s inland waters potential comprises: 33 rivers (177,714 km), 200 lakes (906,118 ha), 159 dams (342,377 ha), and 750 ponds (15,500 ha). Nine of Turkey’s rivers are more than 500 km long: Kızılırmak, Fırat, Sakarya, Murat, Aras, Seyhan, Dicle, Yeşilırmak and Ceyhan rivers. It is found out that 236 taxons live in Turkey’s inland waters at either species or sub-species level. Out of those taxons, 70 are endemic to Turkey.

A 2005 compilation reported the presence of a total 263 invasive alien species from 11 systematic categories in Turkey’s seas. The molluscs with 85 species come first, among the invasive species, followed by the crustaceans with 51 species, fish with 43 species and phytobenthos with 39 species (the phyto-organisms at the sea bottom). 20 invasive species were identified in the Black Sea, 48 in the Sea of Marmara, 98 in the Aegean Sea and 202 on the Mediterranean coasts.

While most of the invasive species in the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara were carried by vessels, the invasive species blooms of Red Sea origin occurred on the Mediterranean coasts. The benthic habitats (soft and hard grounds) contain 76% of the total invasive alien species and 39 species are found in the pelagic waters. Around a half of these species are seen at depths varying from 0 to 10m on Turkey’s coasts. However, 8 species are seen at depths greater than 100m.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

Filed under: SOER2010, biodiversity
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