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70 percent of Turkey’s birds are headed toward extinction

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Turkey’s wetlands and lakes are drying up, and with them the nation’s bird species are also disappearing. Total bird counts have dropped 50 percent in the past 20 years, and now up to 70 percent of the bird species regularly observed in Turkey are threatened with extinction, according to lhami Kiziro lu, a professor of biology at Ankara’s Hacettepe University.

Eastern Imperial EagleA total of 435 different bird species can be found in Turkey, “including those that reproduce in Turkey and those that visit the country during the winter,” Kiziro lu told the Anatolia News Agency. “Ninety-five species will have significant decreases in their numbers, while 101 species face possible extinction.”

Because many of these birds are migratory and don’t recognize national borders, most of these Turkish bird species can be found in other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, and may maintain healthy populations elsewhere. Turkey, however, has historically been an important breeding or wintering location, and the loss of suitable habitat there can affect species’s total health.

For example, “one seventh of the European population of the white-headed duck exists in Turkey,” Kiziro lu said. The duck (Oxyura leucocephala), which is listed as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, winters in Turkey’s Lake Burdur. But Kiziro lu says the duck “is threatened by the level of industrial waste and the decreasing water levels in the lake.” According to BirdLife International, Lake Burdur is “very important for wintering water birds, and is the single most important wintering site” for the white-headed duck—two thirds of its world population spends winter there.

Species that have already disappeared from Turkey include the oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster) and critically endangered northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita), the latter of which now only breeds in captivity.

Another species at risk in Turkey is the eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), which according to the IUCN has already stopped breeding in nearby Greece.

Kiziro lu is calling on Turkish authorities to stop draining the country’s wetlands.

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  1. 1. lamorpa 12:05 pm 01/20/2011

    Turkey. Rather ironic. Just sayin’…

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  2. 2. jtdwyer 12:19 pm 01/20/2011

    Why would so many bird species from Europe, Asia and Africa be so dependent on this small geographical region for breeding or wintering?

    I can understand that many European and Asian species might find Turkey to be the best refuge from winter weather that contained sufficient reservoirs of water and food, but so many species depending on the stability of such a small region is a distinct risk, as they face exposure to the effects of many forms of potential disruption in this geologically active region.

    However, the reader is given no clue as to the source of the current disruption until the last sentence, when it’s finally mentioned that the Turkish government is allowing the wetlands to to be drained, for some unknown reason. Why, that could be the subject of a complete article!

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  3. 3. ZebulonJoe 7:36 pm 01/20/2011

    More water into the Euphrates, so that they can dam it, and use it for irrigation elsewhere! Iraq is already into a major water shortage because of this. Last I read, the Euphrates is running at 29% normal volume there, and likely to get even less.

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  4. 4. bucketofsquid 11:53 am 02/1/2011

    As far back as the early 1970s there have been warnings by various analysts that we will eventually face a series of water wars unless the entire planet builds a comprehensive water policy combined with water protection and distribution infrastructure. Some nations have made the effort. Most have not.

    With shifting weather patterns, it will be interesting to see how things fall out in the next decade or so.

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