Southeastern Europe: Western Turkey

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This mountainous ecoregion lies completely within western Turkey and forms a transitional zone among Mediterranean, Euro-Siberian and Irano-Turanian vegetation types. Dominant vegetation includes pure pine forests and mixed pine and oak woodlands and shrublands. The northern part of the ecoregion hosts many Euro-Siberian elements and has a diverse flora, including the southernmost distribution of an endemic fir species. Rich in wildlife, this area hosts brown bear, gray wolf, and deer. The ecoregion has a number of national parks and nature reserves but faces pressure from logging and tourism.

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    33,300 square miles
  • Status
  • Habitats

Location and General Description
This ecoregion lies in the Inner Aegean region of western Anatolia. As in many other regions, the biogeographical features vary both from west to east and from north to south. The vegetation here shifts from Mediterranean sclerophyllous maquis and scrub in the south to deciduous broadleaf formations of the Euro-Siberian belt in the north. From west to east it is increasingly dominated by Irano-Turanian formations. As Euro-Siberian formations tend to dominate the Black Sea region to the north and Irano-Turanian formations dominate the adjacent central plateau to the east, this ecoregion can be considered a transitional zone or bridge ecoregion among the diverse formations of Anatolia.

This is a relatively mountainous ecoregion, situated between the Aegean coastal plains and the central Anatolian plateau. As with other ecoregions in Anatolia, the boundaries of this ecoregion are delineated by mountains; here they average 1,500 m in height. The highest peak is Uluda? at 2,543 m. The locations of several other mountain ranges outlines the general extent of the ecoregion: the Sündiken Mountains (1,786 m) to the northeast, the Afyon Mountains (1,992 m) to the east, and the Ayd?n Mountains (1,831 m), Boz Mounatins (2,159 m), Simav Mountains (1,800 m), Umurlar Mountains (1,314 m), and Kazda?lar? (1,774 m) to the west.

The Mediterranean climate is apparent in this ecoregion (Mayer & Aksoy 1986) but its character changes greatly from west to east, primarily due to the effect of the continental climate that dominates the central Anatolian basin. In the more northern areas, winters are colder and precipitation amounts decrease. Annual precipitation generally ranges from 400-600 mm throughout the ecoregion.

Anatolian black pine (Pinus nigra ssp. pallasiana), Callabrian pine (Pinus brutia) and mixed oak woodlands and shrublands (Quercus spp.) dominate the vegetation. Although Pinus brutia forests are not as common as in the coastal part of the Aegean region, they can be seen in the western foothills of the mountains and the inner tectonic depressions here. Some of the best examples of these forests can be seen in the Aydin and Boz Mountains up to 1,000 m; between Denizli and Simav, where large areas of pure Pinus Brutia stands still exist; and in the Sündiken Mountains between 400-900 m (Ekim 1977). The distribution of Pinus brutia is influenced by the sea: as continentality increases, Pinus brutia is replaced by P. nigra ssp. pallasiana. Quercus cerris, Q. ithaburensis ssp. macrolepis, and Q. cocifera are the most common oak species in these forests.

Pinus nigra ssp. pallasiana forests, one of the most dominant formations here, occur mostly on the mountains above 1,000 m and in the eastern part of the ecoregion, where the climate is more continental. Although it forms some pure stands above 1,000 m, elsewhere it tends to form mixed stands with P. brutia, Quercus spp., Juniperus spp., and Kazda?i fir (Abies equi torjana).

In the western areas at around 1,000 m, for example, Pinus nigra ssp. pallasiana forms mixed stands with P.brutia. In the eastern areas around 1,000 m, it forms mixed stands with Quercus cerris, Q. pubescens, and Q. robur ssp. robur. These forests also contain many species characteristic to steppe vegatation, such as Pyrus eleagnifolia, Prunus spinosa, Crateagus spp., and many herbaceous species in the understorey. On higher mountain slopes around the tree line, Pinus nigra ssp. pallasiana forms sparse mixed forests with Juniperus spp. The distribution and floristic content of Pinus nigra ssp. pallasiana forests require special attention in order to better understand the vegetation of the area.

Quercus species constitute the other important formation of this region. They occur in mixed stands with Pinus spp., they can be dominant in both humid and drier areas, and they grow on degraded sites. Among the various species of this genus, Q. cerris is the most widespread in the forests. Especially to the south of the Marmara Sea, this species forms associations with many Euro-Siberian elements. Q. pubescens is another important species and is widespread in the steppic and degraded sites. Other noteworthy species include Q. ithaburensis ssp. macrolepis, Q. trojana, Q. robur ssp. robur and Q. farinetto.

Other deciduous species that form humid forests here include Carpinus orientalis, Castenea sativa, and Juglans regia. The latter two are distributed mainly in humid microhabitats along slopes and streams. Uludag fir (Abies bornmulleriana) and oriental beech (Fagus orientalis) forest in Uludag, and Kazda?i fir (Abies equi torjana) stands, are also important members of the vegetation community.

Biodiversity Features
This ecoregion does not support as many endemics as neighboring areas of montane conifer and deciduous forest. This is attributed to the lack of high mountains and deep valleys that elsewhere provided refuge for many species during periods of glaciation and north-south movement during the Pleistocene. On the other hand, the Kaz Mountains, Uluda? Mountain and the mountains in the northeastern part of the ecoregion do support important floristic features.

Uluda? Mountain, in the north, supports many Euro-Siberian elements. It has a humid climate and hosts many formations belonging to the Black Sea region, such as Fagus orientalis, Abies bornmulleriana, and Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestrus). It also includes many species that are endemic to mountain areas, such as Abies bornmulleriana, whose occurrence on this mountain represents its southernmost distribution. The area is also rich in wildlife such as brown bear (Ursus arctos), gray wolf (Canis lupus) and other mammals.

Kaz Mountain is another point of interest due to its intact forest cover, floristic features, wildlife and a possibly endemic Abies species. A debate is proceeding about the taxonomic characteristics of the fir species in question, with some scientists claiming that it is a hybrid of A. cephalonica and A. bornmulleriana rather than a distinct species. Since taxonomic distinctiveness is an important factor in setting conservation priorities, the outcome of this discussion will influence future management decisions. However, there is no doubt that Kaz Mountain merits conservation interest within the ecoregion; it now has one national park, one strict nature reserve, and one gene conservation and management area.

The mountains in the northeastern part of this ecoregion are significant for their rich steppic vegetation, high number of endemic plants, and the mixed Pinus nigra ssp. pallasiana and Quercus spp. forests they support.

Current Status
Humans have occupied this region since ancient times, and this long history has taken a heavy toll on its forests and wildlife. Even in protected areas, people continue to pose a threat to the flora and fauna. There are four national parks in this ecoregion, including Manyas, Uluda?, Kazda??, and Troya (historical). There are also four strict nature reserves here, including Ka?al?ç, Gürgenda??, Vak?f Çaml???, and Dandindere.

Types and Severity of Threats
Forested areas have been reduced in many areas; the Pinus nigra ssp. pallasiana forests are heavily managed for timber production. Tourism poses another kind of threat. For example, although 12,762 hectares on Uluda? Mountain are under legal protection, this is an important winter tourism destination and heavy visitation and increasing construction demands pose significant conservation problems. There are an insufficient number of protected areas, and research is needed to ensure adequate representation of the remaining coniferous and deciduous forests in such areas.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
This ecoregion consists of the northwestern units of western Anatolian pine, cypress and fir forests and the western Anatolian units of oak and mixed sub-humid forests as delineated by Guidotti et al. (1986).

Ekim, T. 1977. Etude phytoécologique du Sundiken Da?. Thése Univ. Ankara, Turkey

Guidotti, G., P. Regato and S. Jimenez-Caballero. 1986. The major forest types in the Mediterranean. World Wildlife Fund, Rome, Italy.

Mayer H., and H. Aksoy. 1986. Walder der Türkei. Gustav Fischer Verlag. Sttutgart, Germany.

Prepared by: Ugur Zeydanl?
Reviewed by: In process