By , November 22, 2010 4:18 am

Turkey is located in a unique geographical position at the junction of three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa. This “cross-roads” location, combined with the diverse geomorphology and climatic conditions, makes Turkey a key country for global biodiversity. It provides a habitat for species originating from Europe, Western Asia and Africa as well as rich rural cultural diversity. The diversity is reflected in all walks of life: Ecology, culture, language, dance, songs and traditions.

Biodiversity also has an important role in rural culture. A good example of this is the prayer whispered while sowing seeds which says “Kurda Kuşa Aşa” (for the worm, the bird and for food). This appreciation of nature through traditional practices has been extremely important for the conservation of biodiversity in Turkey. However these traditions and traditional values are currently under the threat of land fragmentation, rapid economic development and the abandonment of rural areas.

Turkey occupies a total area of 778,997 km2 and is a high altitude country with an average height of 1,132 metres. The European part (Thrace) is a fertile hilly land and the Asian part (Anatolia) is an inner plateau surrounded by mountain ranges in the north and the south. The highest mountain of the country, Mount Ararat (5,172 metres), is located in Eastern Anatolia.

By the end of 2009, the Turkish population stood at a little over 72,5 million, which is made up of numerous etnicities, the majority of which are Turks.

  • Cows and sheep were first domesticated in Anatolia. Archaeologists state that the Catalhoyuk settlement near modern Konya, dating back to 9,000 BC is where wheat was first cultured in the history of agriculture.
  • With nearly 9,000 species of vascular plants and ferns, Turkey has the richest flora of any country in the temperate zone and a level of endemism of almost 34% (3,022 species).
  • There are 22 mammals, 13 internationally and 90 nationally threathened birds, 10 amphibians, 9 reptiles, 12 freshwater fish. 50 fish species under threat of extinction according the Global Red List and 1633 endangered plant species of which 848 are endemic.
  • There are more than 300 Key Biodiversity Areas in Turkey selected for plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fish, butterflies and dragon flies. The total area of these Key Biodiversity Areas occupy 20.3 million hectares of land which is equivalent to 26% of the territory of Turkey, although the designated protected areas total a mere 5.8 %.
  • Approximately half (53%) of Turkey’s total area of 77.9 million hectares is currently used for crop and livestock production.
  • It is estimated that there are 20 indigenous cattle breeds, 19 sheep breeds and 5 goat breeds – of which 14 cattle breeds, 2 sheep breeds and 2 goat breeds have been lost.

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