Biodiversity is unevenly distributed on earth and some places are crucial for the survival of one or more species or ecological processes, supporting persistence of global biodiversity. The Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) methodology is a tool that helps to identify and conserve a global network of natural areas crucial to sustain the world’s ecological diversity. KBAs are sites of international importance and are selected by using standard, globally applicable and threshold based criteria that take into account the distribution and population of species for which site conservation is appropriate. The KBA approach builds on the Important Bird Area (IBA) methodology of BirdLife International. Doğa, BirdLife Turkey, has actively contributed in the development of the global KBA methodology.
KBAs, combined, form a network of areas where ecologically responsible cultural models can be demonstrated building on scientific and indigenous knowledge. The KBA method is well acknowledged by the international conservation community and it is already being used in more than 40 countries. Furthermore, the IUCN Species Survival Commission and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas established a Joint Taskforce on Biodiversity and Protected Areas to enhance and establish standards for the implementation of the KBA methodology. The joint taskforce aims at mobilizing a large group of stakeholders for establishing global KBA standards on criteria, delineation, peer-review and verification of sites.
Doğa made one of the first national applications of the KBA methodology for Turkey in 2006. This work has resulted in a two-volume inventory of Key Biodiversity Areas of Turkey identifying 305 KBAs, which cover 20 million 280149 hectares, equivalent to 26% of Turkey’s surface area. Among these sites, 292 fulfill the KBA criteria for one or more taxonomic group on a global scale. Thirteen sites are important on a regional scale. Turkey’s KBAs are chosen for plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fish, butterflies and dragonflies.
A recent threat assessment of Turkey’s KBAs has shown that dams and irrigation, drainage projects (i.e. water policies) form the single most important threat on Turkey’s biodiversity. As a result of Turkey’s water policies, several rivers, wetlands as well as steppic KBAs have disappeared or their ecological integrity is severely deteriorated. Irrigation and drainage projects affect 225 KBAs and hydroelectric power plants and dams have an effect at least on 185 sites. In addition to water policies, urbanization and development for tourism cause loss of biodiversity at many KBAs. Road constructions and mining are among other major threats affecting the sites.
The KBA inventory of Turkey has significantly contributed to ongoing conservation work in Turkey, in sense of highlighting spatial priorities as well as priority policy sectors affecting biodiversity. Doğa has identified KBAs as one of core pillars of its conservation strategy and strives to monitor and safeguard KBAs. Turkey’s KBA inventory triggered ownership and local conservation action among grassroots at several sites. Doğa has so far implemented site conservation programmes at 32 KBAs in Turkey and worked closely with neighboring countries such as Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece and Syria to carry out trans-boundary KBA conservation projects.
Photograph: © Helio & Van Ingen