Turkey is among the countries whose forests constitute one of its most important natural resources. Turkish forests are responsible for the well-being of the people in the rural areas of the country, which makes them an important contributing factor to sustainable development (Yalcin, 2012). Turkey is especially rich in plant diversity and forestland, a fact that reiterates the importance of forests as natural resources for the country. Turkey’s forest area covers 20.7 million hectares, of which 10 million hectares are fertile (Sahin, Sever, & Koca, 2009). The 10 million hectares represent 48 percent of the fertile forest area. Forests, however, are vulnerable to overexploitation. Indeed, deforestation is the main problem facing Turkey, especially among villagers living within the forest proximities (Yalcin, 2012). Given that sustainable forestry is one of the key principles of sustainable development (Atmis & Cil, 2013), the Turkish government has been keen on implementing sustainable development plans to curtail the spread of deforestation, while at the same time using forests as a natural resource. The development plans include the 10th Development Plan (2014-2018), Forestry Master Plan (1990-2009), National Forestry Program (2004-2023), and the 1st and 2nd Strategic Plans (2010-2014 and 2013-2017 respectively). Amongst these Plans, the Forestry Master Plan of 1990-2009 happens to be the major step taken by the Turkish government to save the dwindling forests by the inclusion of radical and comprehensive measures therein.
According to Durusoy (2003) and Sahin, Sever, & Koca (2009), Turkey’s forest cover stands at 20.7 million hectares, which is approximately 26.6 percent of the total land cover of the country. The area covered by the forest translates to 0.14 hectares of forestland per capita (Sahin et al., 2009). Fertile forest and coppice forest share the total acreage of forest cover. Sahin et al. (2009) inform that fertile forest covers 10 million hectares of the total forest coverage, a translation of 48 percent of the fertile forest. Productive high and productive coppice share the percentage of fertile forest in the country, even as 51.7 percent (see table 1 for forest resources in Turkey) of the remaining forestland has degraded high and coppice forests (Durusoy, 2003). The forest distribution of the country has the region around the Black Sea. However, the regions around Central Anatolia and Southeastern Anatolia have poor forest covers (Durusoy, 2003).
|Forest Area||High Forest (ha)||Coppice (ha)||Total (ha)||%|
Table 1: Turkey’s forest resources (Sahin et al., 2009)
The trees in Turkey’s forests are very diverse. According to Kniivila et al. (2013), Turkey’s forests have coniferous and deciduous trees, and while these trees may grow in different forests, there are forests with a mixture of the two types of trees. Specifically, the trees include pine, cedar, fir, and beech (Kniivila et al., 2013). Turkey has the largest cedar forest in the world growing in areas around Taurus Mountain in the Mediterranean Region of the country (Kniivila et al., 2013). The diversity in the forests is especially interesting given that there are five pine species, two species of beech, hazelnut, elm, hornbeam, and ash, four species of fir, more than 20 species of oak, five species of birch, and 10 species of maple among other naturally growing species of different trees (Kniivila et al., 2013).
It is worth noting that Turkey’s forest has the bulk of all plant species that occur in Europe. Baskent, Kose, and Keles (2013) inform that the country is home to 75 percent of all plant species found in Europe. The diverse biogeographic regions of the country, each with its own plant species and natural ecosystem, are the reason why such diverse plant species occur (Baskent, Kose, & Keles, 2013). The biogeographic regions include the mixed temperate rain forests of the Caucasian Mountain; the alpine of North East Black Sea Coast; the Central Anatolian plateau’s steppe grassland; and the Mediterranean and European regions (Baskent et al., 2013).
Turkey’s forestry has more to contribute to the country than just the diversity in species. It can make a huge contribution to the GDP. According to the FAO, as of the year 2000, forestry contributed 1 percent of Turkey’s GDP. Rhul and Nassiri (2013) inform that bundled together with agriculture and fisheries, forestry contributed 9 percent of Turkey’s GDP in 2012. The authors project an annual growth of the three contributions to the GDP between 2012 and 2021 to hold steady at 2.5 percent (Rul & Nassiri, 2013). The projections point to an increased contribution of forestry to Turkey’s GDP; the Turkish government projects that agriculture, forestry, and fisheries will contribute 8.4 percent of the overall GDP by 2016 (Rul & Nassiri, 2013).
Rich forests with their diversity are, however, under deforestation threat implying gradual clearance of the forest areas for agriculture and settlement. The threat specifically comes from forest villagers who live close to forest states and clear forests for wood, settlement, and agricultural land, and who depend on the forests for their livelihood (Sahin et al., 2009; Yalcin, 2012). Of concern is the fact that the forest villagers cut down fertile forests, which hold the creme of the diverse forest ecosystem. Sahin et al. (2009) contend that the villagers’ excessive dependence on the forests is explained by their low standards of living. Since the forests are fertile, the villagers see them as the only source of livelihood. Although their settlement in the forested regions is illegal, the lack of the government’s commitment to improving the lives of the villagers means that they will continue with the illegal clearing of the forests. Such acts are a threat to the country’s flora and fauna as well as to some rare species of vegetation that grow in the forested regions. Concern for the vegetative diversity in the country led to the formulation and implementation of the Forestry Master Plan of 1990-2009, as an environmentally sustainable development plan, to address the issues that face the country’s diverse ecological ecosystem, particularly the forests.
At the heart of the Forestry Master Plan of 1990-2009 is the principle of sustainable development, in addition to raising the levels of self-sufficiency (Kniivila et al., 2013). Through the Forestry Master Plan, Turkey hopes to make necessary arrangements and create conditions for the protection and utilization of natural resources in such a way that the current use of the natural resources safeguards the interest of future generations. Sustainability in this case is about the use of the natural resources in such a way that the diversity of the forest remains intact, even as the citizens, particularly the forest villagers, meet their daily needs from the forest. The Turkish government hopes to achieve this through a sound environmental management system, which will ensure equitable utilization of the natural resources by the citizens of the country (Kniivila et al., 2013).
There are several specific elements within the Forestry Master Plan that the Turkish government has established to ensure the achievement of the objectives of the Plan. The institutional structure is one of the elements. It looks into the certification framework supporting the conservation and sustainable management of the forests (Durusoy, 2003). The absence of centralization of determining goals, lack of consideration of local demands and conditions, and the absence of transparency, participation, and coordination were the major problems confronting previous development plans (Durusoy, 2003). It is for this reason that most of the forest villagers, feeling the neglect and abandonment from the government, opted for the clearance of fertile forests to cultivate land and settle (Sahin et al., 2009). The actions of the forest villagers have especially been detrimental to the fertile forests, contributing to the dwindling acreages of the Turkish forests. These concerns, therefore, are part of the reasons for the development of the Forestry Master Plan.
The Forestry Master Plan, as aforesaid, hopes to change this situation through public participation in planning, policymaking, and supervisory activities. The Master Plan, therefore, works to increase environmental awareness, particularly among the forest villages. Moreover, forestry interest groups such as NGOs are currently at work to raise environmental awareness as a measure against deforestation. Vocational organizations such as the Turkish Society for Conversation of Nature also work to raise awareness and use funds provided by the World Bank, UN, and FAO in the development of rural areas, prevention of erosion, reforestation, restoration of meadows and watersheds, preservation of forest eco-systems and biological diversity, and raising public awareness (Atmis, Ozden, & Lise, 2006). The NGOs are instrumental in the organization in hosting conferences, panels, meetings, and symposiums on sustainable environment management, reforestation, and protection of the biodiversity in the country by involving all forestry stakeholders. Further, the NGOs also publish reports, magazines, and books (Atmis et al., 2006).
Within the Master Plan is a provision for the legal framework clarifying property rights, providing for necessary land tenure, and for the recognition of customary and traditional rights of local people in addition to administering a framework for resolving property disputes (Durusoy, 2003). Property rights and land tenure are great problems in Turkey, particularly for forest villagers. The villagers and the Forest Organization have often clashed on property rights and land tenure; the Master Plan provides a framework for resolving these disputes. In the disputes, women and the youth mostly bear the brunt of the fallout, evacuation, or movement given their reliance on the forests for firewood and as a source of fodder for their animals (Atmis et al., 2006). The Forestry Master Plan provides a legal framework for resolving the disputes and a way forward on land tenure and use.
Besides, through the Master Plan, the Turkish government has put measures in place to reduce the impact the villagers have on the forests. The Forest Organization, through the forestry service, supports and works to improve the lives of the forest villagers as a measure toward striking a sustainable balance between the villagers’ use of the forest and the protection of biodiversity. Through the Forestry Master Plan, the Turkish government established subsidies for the forest villagers not only by offering them employment opportunities but also by providing materials for construction and fuel for domestic use at highly discounted prices as provided by the Forest Law (Duzgun, 2003).
The development plan also includes the forest management plan responsible for the administration of forest resources. The Forestry Master Plan encourages the use of forest management plans, which should have clear goals and objectives as well as achievements. So far, the management plans have incorporated social and economic issues along with environmental issues such as reforestation, protection of biodiversity, and sustainable use of forest products. The Plan also includes the involvement of the forest villagers who are major users of the forests and whose actions largely affect them.
To sum up, Turkey’s forestry is part of the country’s rich heritage. The forests are rich in biodiversity and the plant species are exclusive to the different biogeographic regions of the country. However, this biodiversity is under threat of deforestation, especially from forest villagers, who see the forests as their source of livelihood. The villagers are fast depleting the natural resource for settlement and agriculture, as well as for domestic use. The Turkish government has responded to this threat not only by passing Forestry Law and establishing the Forest Organization but also by developing development plans aimed at encouraging and putting sustainable measures to save the declining forest cover. The Forestry Master Plan 1990-2009 has been instrumental in taking care of the villagers and in engaging non-governmental organizations in the protection, management, and restoration of the forests. The collaboration has ensured measures towards preserving biodiversity as well as bringing the communities on board in working towards the protection of the forests. While the collaboration between the government and non-governmental organizations has been fruitful, there are a lot of steps to be done to protect the dwindling forest areas in the country.
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Atmis, E., Ozden, S. & Lise, W. (2006). Public participation in forestry in Turkey. Ecological Economics, 62, 352-359. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/20060109/Public_participation_in_forestry_in_Turkey
Baskent, E., Z., Kose, S., & Keles. S. (2013). Turkey’s forest management planning system: How to move towards the sustainable management of forest ecosystems. Quebec: XII World Forestry Congress. Retrieved from https://www.fao.org/docrep/ARTICLE/WFC/XII/0722-B2.HTM
Duzgun, M. (2003). Advancement of forest village communities through effective participation and partnership in state-owned forestry administration; Turkey’s case. Retrieved from https://www.fao.org/docrep/ARTICLE/WFC/XII/0223-C1.HTM
Kniivila, M., et al. (2013). Sustainable agriculture and forestry in the Mediterranean partner countries and Turkey: Factors, indicators and challenges.PTT Working Papers 151. Retrieved from https://www.ptt.fi/media/wp/tp151.pdf
Ruhl, R., & Nassiri, M. (2013). Turkey on the move. ING Bank. Retrieved from https://www.ing.nl/media/ING_report-turkey-on-the-move_tcm162-71753.pdf
Sahin, I., F., Sever, R., Koca, H., Kayserili, A. & Atlas, N.T. (2009). Turkey forest with respect to sustainability. International Symposium on Sustainable Development, June 9-10, 2009, Sarajevo. Retrieved from http://eprints.ibu.edu.ba/174/1/ISSD2009-MANAGEMENT_p191-p194.pdf
Yalcin, G. (2012). Forest and cadastre in Turkey and sustainable development. FIG Working Week. Retrieved from https://www.fig.net/resources/proceedings/fig_proceedings/fig2012/papers/ts09l/TS09L_yalcin_5637.pdf