MAIN PHYTOGENETIC RESOURCES OF TURKEY AND THE MAIN THREATS
Turkey is like a small continent in terms of biological diversity. It has three different types of bioclimate and three bio-geographical areas: Euro-Siberian, Mediterranean, and Irano-Turanian. For these reasons, Turkey has a high level of plant biodiversity, especially seed plants. The Irano-Turanian region has the largest number of endemic species, followed by the Mediterranean and Euro-Siberian regions.
Turkey has about 1,000 known species of lichen, and the figure is constantly increasing. About 740 species of moss are estimated to exist in Turkey. Ferns (8 species of Equisetaceae, 6 species of Lycopodiaceae and about 80 species of Philicineae) are the most widespread plant group, together with seed plants. They grow in all parts of Turkey, except for very arid areas, especially in the Black Sea region. The number of species and sub-species of fern identified in Turkey is 101, of which only 3 are endemic.
There is a low level of endemism in gymnosperms, with just 5 endemic taxons at variety and sub-species level. However, the level is very high for angiosperms, where the number of identified plant species is currently about 9,200. The number of species and sub-taxons of species is 11,000. 34% of species in Turkey (3,150) are endemic.
The endemic species are mostly found in mountainous areas and in specific habitats. Places with high rates of endemism include the Amanos, Sandras, Bey, Bolkar and Ala, Uludağ, Kaz and Munzur mountains.
The Compositae family is the richest in terms of endemism, with 435 endemic species. The Leguminosae come next, with 400, and are followed by the Labiatae, with about 310. Astragalus is the richest genus, represented by approximately 250 species, followed by Verbascum with 175, Centaurea with 115 endemic species and Hieracium with 66 species. The level of endemism is 100% for the Ebenus (14 species) and Bolanthus (6 species) genera.
STATUS OF IN-SITU AND EX-SITU CONSERVATION
National programmes for ex-situ and in-situ conservation are laid down in Turkey’s National Strategy for the Conservation of Biodiversity. Ex-situ conservation is carried out through Germplasm Banks, seed banks, zoological parks, botanic gardens, etc. Turkey is especially interested in ex-situ conservation being carried out as a complement to in-situ conservation.
The proportion of protected areas over the country’s total surface area rose from 4% to 6% after 2000. Turkey’s 39 National Parks are of great importance for conserving the biological diversity of forests, steppes, wetlands and coastal ecosystems. Areas for the conservation of nature are defined in Turkey as “natural areas comprising ecosystems at risk or vulnerable, with the presence of exceptional items (species) and/or natural phenomena of special relevance for science and education, which require total conservation for a variety of reasons”.
In addition to its National Parks, Turkey also has 80 areas for the development and conservation of fauna, which protect and maintain the necessary habitats. There are also 104 locations catalogued as “Natural Monuments”.
The concept of “Area for conservation and genetic management” was drawn up in 1993-1998 (GEF-1 Project) in the framework of the Strategy for the Protection of Genetic Diversity in Turkey. These areas have been chosen for the in-situ conservation of genetic diversity of selected plant species.
Turkey joined the Ramsar convention in 1994 and, during the accession stage, its 5 wetlands (Manyas Lake, Seyfe Lake, Burdur Lake, the Sultan’s Reedbed and the Göksu Delta) were included on the convention list. Subsequently, others were added – the Gediz Delta, Akyatan Lagoon, Uluabat Lake and the Kızılırmak Delta. Today, Turkey has 12 Ramsar wetlands covering a total surface area of 206,830 ha.
Conservation activities in Turkey began in 1964 at the Aegean Institute for Agricultural Research, run by the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARA). Seeds representing Turkey’s plant genetic resources were first conserved in the long term (basic collections) and in the medium and short term (active collections) at the National Germplasm Bank that was set up in 1972 as part of the Institute.
The national collection includes samples up to variety level, as well as wild and herbaceous relations of plants that are of economic interest, such as medicinal, aromatic and ornamental plants, as well as the country’s endemic species, certain species that are peculiar to south-west Asia and a small collection of the world’s wheat and barley varieties.
About 50,000 samples of about 600 genera are conserved in the National Germplasm Bank. Of them, about 10,000 belong to 2,400 wild species. The National Strategy and the Plan of Action on Biological Diversity cover several seed banks in different provinces such as Yalova, Izmir, Tekirdağ, Gaziantep, Malatya and Erzincan, which mainly include collections of fruit species.
Falling outside the scope of the MARA is the Osman Tosun Germplasm Bank in the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of Ankara, which has been active since 1936 with medium-term conservation facilities. This organisation holds about 11,000 samples of seed. The University of Çukurova and the Aegean University also carry out ex-situ conservation, as do the botanic garden at the latter, the University of Istanbul Botanic Garden and its Ataturk Arboretum. Other botanic gardens and arboretums have been established thanks to private initiative over recent years (Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanic Garden, Karaca Arboretum, etc.).
Centers of plant diversity
- Çukurova University Botanic Garden
- Ankara Universitesi
- Ege Universitesi
- Suleyman Demirel University Botanical Arboretum
- Suleyman Demirel University Botanical Garden
- Ataturk Arboretum
- Istanbul Universitesi Botanik Bahcesi
- Karaca Arboretum
- Nezahat Gokyigit Botanik Bahcesi