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HUCE Special Seminar: "Turkey's Globally Important Biodiversity in Crisis"
Turkey is the only country covered almost entirely by three of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots: the Caucasus, Irano-Anatolian, and Mediterranean. Of over 9000 known native vascular plant species, one third are endemic. However, Turkey’s biodiversity faces severe and growing threats, especially from government and business interests. Turkey ranks 121st out of 132 countries in biodiversity and habitat conservation. The greatest threats to biodiversity have occurred since 1950, particularly in the past decade. Although Turkey’s total forest area increased by 5.9% since 1973, endemic-rich Mediterranean maquis, grasslands, coastal areas, wetlands, and rivers are disappearing, while overgrazing and rampant erosion degrade steppes and rangelands. The current ‘‘developmentalist obsession’’, particularly regarding water use, threatens to eliminate much of what remains, while forcing large-scale migration from rural areas to the cities. According to current plans, Turkey’s rivers and streams will be dammed with almost 4000 dams, diversions, and hydroelectric power plants for power, irrigation, and drinking water by 2023. Unchecked urbanization, draining of wetlands, poaching, and excessive irrigation are other widespread threats to biodiversity. Preserving Turkey’s remaining biodiversity will necessitate immediate action, international attention, greater support for Turkey’s developing conservation capacity, and the expansion of a nascent Turkish conservation ethic. The pioneering community-based conservation work of the NGO KuzeyDoga in northeastern Turkey provides examples of successful conservation case studies for saving Turkey's globally important biodiversity.
Çağan H. Şekercioğlu, Ph.D.is an assistant professor at the University of Utah Department of Biology and the president of the non-profit environmental organization Nature Turkiye Foundation. He graduated from Harvard University in 1997 with degrees in Biology and Anthropology. He received his Ph.D. in ecology and evolution in 2003 from Stanford. Şekercioğlu has combined rigorous ornithology, conservation ecology and tropical biology research worldwide with community-based conservation achievements in his native Turkey. Şekercioğlu succeeded in getting eastern Turkey’s first Ramsar wetland declared, created Turkey’s first bird-nesting island and led the creation of Turkey's first wildlife corridor. His achievements in ecological research and community-based conservation have been commended by Turkey’s president Abdullah Gül, various ministers of state, the Whitley Foundation and Princess Anne in the United Kingdom. He is a member of the Society for Conservation Biology's Board of Governors, Fellow International of the Explorers Club, and Elective Member of the American Ornithologists Union. His research and conservation efforts have been covered by the BBC, CNN, National Geographic, Nature, Newsweek, New York Times, Science and The New Yorker. Şekercioğlu’s three books and over 60 scientific publications have received more than 2100 citations since 2002 (he is among the most cited 1% of the world's scientists of the past decade). His awards include: National Geographic Emerging Explorer (2011), Turkey’s Scientist of the Year (2010), and Whitley Prize in Conservation Biology, Gold Award (2008)