HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE OF ANATOLIA FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF LIVING
THINGS AND ITS BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
As is well known the earth experienced four ice in the last 1.8
million years which greatly influenced the world of living things,
fleeing unfavorable conditions in the north, took refuge in the Iberian
peninsula, Southeast Asia, and in Anatolia which then offered very favorable
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 Anatolia 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
periods, 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
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
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 their 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
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
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.
Turkey 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.
The 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 transverse Anatolia and the impact of this
geography on the evolution of living things:
There 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 analyses.
These obstacles are responsible for the important differences that
have arisen between continents from the point of view of biological
composition. They also are the reason for the great diversity of species
of flora and fauna found in Anatolia.
The 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 limits of the Firat Valley; and Kelkit Mountains,
which join in a narrow corridor Central Anatolia and the Kars-Erzurum
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
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.
Despite the unfavorable developments of recent
Turkey is one of the countries which have most successfully conserved
their ecological structure.
Many species which have been conserved only
artificially by special measures in other parts of the world, can still
be found in many localities of Anatolia, in the full beauty of their
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
Black Sea on the north, which had until recently been a rich environment
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 pollution.
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
WHY SHOULD WE PROTECT THE ANATOLIAN ENVIRONMENT ENVIRONMENT WITH
GREATER CARE THAN ANY OTHER LAND ?
Anatolia 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 variety of sub-species and
adding to the existing wealth and diversity.
It 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 programs in order to protect the habitats, and especially
the wetlands, 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 crops 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 attempting 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
Turkey has closed some of its most beautiful coastal areas and bays
to tourism 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 Midas) 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
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.
SITUATION OF SEA TURTLES IN TURKEY
Chelonia Midas and Caretta caretta are the two sea
turtle species which make their home on Turkish coasts. Chelonia Midas 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
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.
Egg-laying areas of two important sea turtle species
and Chelonia Midas) have been put under strict protection. The
soft-shelled, (Trionyx triunguis triungularis) which is also rather
rare, is under
protection in Köycegiz as well.
Turkish governments have also implemented various measures of
protection in Birecik where the bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) lays
The population of bald ibis has been in decline and the species is in
danger of extinction.
A PLANT PARADISE
a) Turkey is endowed with a rich diversity of
genera and species of plants. It is, in fact, the richest country in
Europe as well as among its neighboring 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:
Family Genera Species
Europe 203 1541 12000
Turkey 163 1225 9000
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.
b) 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
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.
c) 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 the country.
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.
There 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 of Turkey.
d) With its rich Alpine, or
high-mountain flora, Turkey constitutes a
link between central and southern Europe on the one hand and the
plant zone on the other.
e) 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 OF 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
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
The most commonly occurring 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 mixed formations. Other common
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 tertiary period.
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
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 forestation
have accelerated in recent years with a target of 300 000
hectares of forest trees to be planted per year.
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
forests (Pinups 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
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
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
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 ranges.
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.