Turkish wetlands disappearing

Turkey has lost around half its wetlands in the last 40 years says Turkey’s Society for the Preservation of Nature, said a report in Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.   

Turkey has wetland 14 sites designated as wetlands of international importance, including Kayseri’s Sultan Marshes and lakes such as Burdur, Uluabat and Kırşehir’s lake Seyfe. But many of these sites face pressure due to a combination of factors including excessive water extraction, drought, rising temperatures and drainage schemes, says Turkey’s Society for the Preservation of Nature.

It is not just indigenous that will suffer. The wetlands also offer vital fuelling stations to large numbers of migratory birds that pass through Turkey in the spring and autumn.

The plight of Lake Seyfe is particularly acute. “Temperatures have been increasing. Normally, the lake would dry in July or August, but the situation has changed now,” Ömer Çetiner head of the   Seyfe Lake Ecology Foundation told Hurriyet. “There were three springs feeding Seyfe [Lake]: Seyfe spring, Horla spring and Malya spring. But, there is no more water left in these springs.”

The most important reason for the disappearance of wetlands is increased water extraction for agricultural purposes, said Prof. Dr. Levent Kurnaz, the Director of the Center for Climate Change and Policy Studies at Boğaziçi University.

“The plants’ need for water has been increasing to a change in the climate. And it is getting more difficult to feed the plants with rain water. This is why we need more groundwater now and use it much more. The lakes’ levels are also decreasing. We need to shift to agricultural products that are resistant to serious drought. We should not grow products, such as the sugar beet, which require a lot of water in the Central Anatolian region. Life is getting more and more difficult for farmers,”

The future for Turkey’s wetlands looks bleak. Precipitation has decreased by 20% since 2009 in Turkey, whilst temperatures are expected to rise sharply.

It’s not just Turkey’s natural heritage that is threatened by climate change. Some ski centres in Turkey might find soon find they have no snow in the winter.