Major road development in northeast Turkey threatens the Caucasus Endemic Bird Area, home of the Caucasian Black Grouse
Doğa Derneği (BirdLife Turkey) announced that a major road development project to connect highlands of Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey, ironically named as Green Way (Yeşil Yol), is threatening the Caucasus Endemic Bird area, home of the Caucasian Black Grouse and many other restricted range and threatened species.
According to the reports of the Turkish Government, Yeşil Yol will be 2600 kilometers. The road will extend throughout the pristine alpine and subalpine meadows of the Lesser Caucasus, the Eastern Black Sea Mountains. According to Doğa Derneği, the road will pass through five mountainous Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) of international importance, namely, Giresun Mountains, Zigana, Karadere, İkizdere and Soğanlı Mountains and Northern Kaçkar Mountains. KBAs refer to globally important areas for biodiversity and they are identified using standard scientific criteria.
The project will affect 141 plant, 34 butterfly, 2 dragonfly, 5 reptile, 6 amphibian, 2 freshwater fish, 16 bird and 19 mammal species triggering the Key Biodiversity Area criteria. If the project is implemented, the Lesser Caucasus population of the restricted-range Caucasian Black Grouse will be severely threatened from the road construction, causing a globally significant demise in the range of the species. Among plant species threatened from the project, 111 are endemic to Turkey, whilst the world range of 26 of these is confined to Lesser Caucasus only. Additionally, 10 animal species endemic to the Caucasus Biodiversity Hotspot are likely to be threatened by this extensive construction.
Doğa Derneği President Dicle Tuba Kılıç stated “If the Yeşil Yol project is implemented full force, Turkey will lose a great proportion of its alpine biodiversity in an irreversible way. This development project is clearly one of the biggest threats ever in the Caucasus Biodiversity Hotspot and Endemic Bird Area. Many key species such as the Caucasian Black Grouse will be negatively affected by the by mega road construction, for which no strategic environmental impact assessment is made. No one knows how exactly the unique biodiversity of the Caucasus will be affected by the project; yet, the project is already initiated in some segments with an ad hoc approach. Not only the biodiversity but also the valuable water resources of the Black Sea region are severely threatened by Yeşil Yol. It is ironic that the project is named as Yeşil “Green” Way. Doğa Derneği, BirdLife Turkey, argues that the implementation of this plan will have severe impacts on biodiversity and supports the environmental legal casework initiated by the local communities in the region.”
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Itri Levent Erkol
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Photograph: © Kadir Dabak