Doğa, BirdLife in Turkey, launches a new conservation programme on high nature value olive tree pastures in Anatolia. The aim of the programme is to draw attention to widely neglected indigenous olive tree pastures of Eastern Mediterranean Basin, being highly important for biodiversity.
Indigenous olive tree pastures of Eastern Mediterranean Basin, also extending in western and southern Turkey, are unique anthropogenic habitats where grazing and olive oil production is sustained simultaneously at least for the last two thousand years. Olive trees in these areas are not planted, but they are propagated via grafting wild olive trees. Therefore this ecosystem is extremely diverse hosting numerous Mediterranean endemic bird and plant species, the globally threatened European turtle dove, as well as large carnivores such as the golden jackal, striped hyena and caracal.
Doğa’s recent study in Mahal Hills of Izmir, with the support of the Seferihisar Municipality, has shown that grazing by local goat and sheep races triggers much higher biodiversity compared to abandoned olive orchards. Because the indigenous olive tree pastures of Eastern Mediterranean Basin are rain-fed agricultural systems and they are well adapted to drought, they are at the same time a unique example for adaptation to climate change and ecosystems resilience. This is particularly important for the Eastern Mediterranean Region where freshwater is extremely scarce.
Doğa is working in cooperation with Nature School and Slow Food Mahal Convivium on developing “slow olive oil” criteria to highlight the unique olive oil of this habitat, valuable for biodiversity and people.
“If this initiative becomes successful, vast areas of high nature value olive tree pastures in Anatolia can be saved from land abandonment and expansion of non-native conventional olive plantations. Furthermore, a pending law aims at opening ancient olive plantations to development projects ” said Dicle Tuba Kilic, the President of Doğa, BirdLife Turkey. “We carry out pilot studies in two areas, Mahal Hills and Bozburun Peninsula, to understand the interactions between olive oil production, domestic grazers and the wider biodiversity. Our findings underpin the development of the “slow olive oil” criteria, which have a major biodiversity component”, she added. Between 27-29 November, Nature School and Slow Food Mahal Convivium will organise a training programme on high nature value olive tree pastures, in cooperation with Doğa.
Photographs: © Tijen Burultay