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Lake Tuz Special Environmental Protection Area (SEPA)

Date of Submission: 15/04/2013
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Délégation Permanente de Turquie auprès de l'UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Konya, Ankara, and Aksaray
Coordinates: 38026’05’’-39008’30’’N; 33006’53’’-33044’49’’E
Ref.: 5824
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The Lake Tuz SEPA was declared by the Decision of Cabinet of Ministers numbered 2000/1381 dated 14.09.2000. The Lake Tuz protected area is within the borders of three provinces namely, Ankara, Konya, and Aksaray. The Lake Tuz is the second largest lake in Turkey after Lake Van which is mainly fed by undergroundwater. Being a tectonic originated site, the area is located in a closed large basin called Konya basin. On the average, the depth of Lake Tuz is below 0.5 m., surrounded by Kızılırmak (East), Obruk (South), Cihanbeyli (West), Haymana (North) plateaus. The area is poor in inflowing rivers due to its location in the least rain fall receiving part of the country. The surface area of the lake reaches to 164 200 Ha in spring. The altitude of the lake is 905 m. In summer, dry period dominates which results in the formation of a salt layer about 30 cm by means of excessive evaporation in the lake. It is one of the most salty lakes of the world as the density of water equals to 1-22.5 cm /g, i.e. salt ratio of 32.4%.This feature brings an economic value as well, of which 70% of salt used in Turkey is produced from Lake Salt.

The surface of the edges of the lake looks like an empty planet in which many visitors can perceive some oasis on the horizon. Over there a white layer covering the steppe plants mimics some sculpture shapes of the fine arts in nature.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Countless number of waterfowl bird species nesting and wintering in its large habitats over the lake and the surrounding terrestrial parts including small islets, and swamps, particularly for flamingos endangered in Europe, Phoenicopterus ruber, breeding colonies reach the size of 5 to 6 000 nesting places.

The Lake Tuz protected area in Turkey is amongst the most saline lakes in the world following Dead Sea, while representing the richest and intact halophytic steppe vegetation in Europe, more diverse and valuable biodiversity representing one of the most outstanding halophytic steppe plant sociological characteristics pattern dispersed on an extremely large area on the earth. The area holds a main genetic source for animal and probably human nutrition for future as it inhabits many important crop wild relatives. In addition, the site is also one of the best habitat to explore crop  genetic sources of crop relatives for  genes used in developing salt resistance varieties in many domesticated plants., It is expected that dry and other similar harsh  conditions  will be more abundant in future due to climate chance to be faced by all humanity. Lake Tuz in Turkey serves as being one of the major wintering habitats on the migratory pathways of very important waterfowls for large populations by its large, calm surface areas.

The arid and salty extreme ecological conditions of Lake Tuz SEPA provide very rich plant biodiversity at community, and alliance levels from the viewpoint of halophytic plant sociology. Important birds and habitat sites are demarcated on the map. There are 279 plant species and 120 halophytic bacteria recorded in the Lake Tuz ecosystem.

Criterion (vii): The site provides habitat for many important halophytic plant and bacteria species as well as many wintering birds. It is amazing that there are some freshwater springs on the salty soil of steppe habitats on the terrestrial component of Lake Tuz protected area. In addition, a freshwater tiny wetland called Akgöl to excitingly representing a non-salty freshwater aquatic system being like an attractive oasis which is unbelievable on such very large salty steppes.

Criterion (viii): The Lake Tuz Special Environmental Protection Area (SEPA) has an extremely interesting land surface structural characteristic which is seen as a bright white color from space via satellites observatory tools. That’s why the Lake Tuz has been used as the reference for the color White from space for calibration of space shuttles remote sensing records for the entire World. This property of the Lake Tuz provides world smooth, easily perceivable, and reliable Remote Sensing pictures of high excellence and quality. This property of the Lake Tuz protected area is unique in the world.

Lake Tuz Special Environmental Protection Area (SEPA) in Turkey managed by General Directorate for Protection of Natural Assets (GDPNA) is a very large protected area 7414.40 km2Lake Turkana is the most saline lake in East Africa and the largest desert lake in the world, surrounded by an arid, seemingly extraterrestrial landscape that is often devoid of life. Similar situation is true for Lake Tuz SEPA as it covers very large dry lands over three different provinces Ankara, Konya, and Aksaray to such an extent that the total surface area of Lake Tuz protected area is over total surface areas of some European countries.

Criterion (x): The Lake Tuz SEPA in Turkey as it has diverse habitats ranging from terrestrial and aquatic, semi-natural habitats (farmlands and grasslands, high biodiversity grazing areas which has biodiversity richness level above 30 %, a very high degree compared to habitats found in European Union and Europe) and is inhabited by diverse fauna, with Otis tarda, bird species the indicator of steppe habitats. Lake Tuz inhabits huge flamingo colonies. Glareolaprantincola, Tadornatadorna, Tadornaferruginea, Anascrecca, Recurvirostraavocetta, Burhinusoedicnemus, and Larus sp. have their nests in the Lake Tuz protected area as well.

In the Lake Tuz there are over 279 plant species (8 sub-groups belonging to 3 separate plant alliance). Thirty-nine of these are endemic and , 4 are  endangered. Additionally, there are 4 local endemic species which are not yet introduced to the scientific community. Moreover, there are important crop relatives or undomesticated plant species which can potentially be cultivated without much breeding efforts. There are 129 insect species of which 4 endemic, and 15 mammalian species. 

The Lake Tuz salty steppe habitats are extremely peculiar with respect to landscape ecology pattern on which exclusive alignments of very frequently changed variable ecosystems, that is to say ecotones, are suddenly changed after each 20 meters. In addition, e.g. in a 10x10 m area (i.e. an extremely small grid), it has been observed that there are over 15, even 20 species. This property makes or the indication of the phytosociological biodiversity richness, an exclusive pattern seen in the world for steppe individual species distribution on a land.

Lake Tuz protected area also inhabits;

-       Kochia prostrate,

-       Leymus cappadocicus,

-       Agropyron cristatum,

-       Chyrosopogon gryllus

-       Puccinella distans

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Lake Tuz Special Environmental Protection Area in Turkey managed by Ministry of Environment and Urbanization General Directorate for Protection of Natural Assets is a very large protected area 7414.40 km2. The Lake Tuz SEPA as it inhabits very large dry lands over three different provinces, Ankara, Konya, and Aksaray to such an extent that the area of Lake Tuz protected area is over total surface areas of some European countries. It is quite large to hamper the adverse impacts of edge effect within the boundaries of protected area. Both the local people and the entire population of the country depend on natural resources obtained from the Lake Tuz Site, thus ensure continuity, intactness, and the self maintenance which collectively resulted in almost absolute conservation of this large protected area so it could be inherited to future generations.

The boundaries of protected area are well-defined and digitally mapped by the GDPNA agency. Various sectors carry out a couple of actions regulated sustainably by means of a harmony established and coordinated by the General Directorate. Not only the locals of the protected area, but also all the people living in the whole country depends on the salt extracted to be used in industry provided by Lake Tuz as a provisional ecosystem service. So the area has been conserved and maintained very well via continuation ownership feelings of all the people in the country through centuries. Moreover, in recent years, GDPNA’s management model takes into consideration of the management of all involved sectors together while introducing a sustainable natural resource use policy implementation supported by scientifically planned biodiversity conservation action plan. The area has been considered by many and the academia as the best model in coping with adverse impacts of climate change to be faced in particular in near future rather severely by means of sustainable water management via introducing genes for adapting capacity of its plant genetic sources against struggling with drought, excessive and intolerable temperatures predicted to be faced everywhere in the whole world. This capacity and ability of the flora found in Lake Tuz can never be substituted by a genetically engineered product of High-Tech research.

Overgrazing might slightly be considered as a biodiversity loss and ecosystem pressure problem, but fortunately the populated protected area does ensure prevention of land abandonment which may cause a pressure on biodiversity and soil conservation as some local people has migrated abroad (North European countries, such as Denmark, and Sweden) to find jobs. As a result the grazing, soil and biodiversity conservation are in a way in balance within the framework of sustainable consumption patterns followed-up by the General Directorate for Protection of Natural Assets. The General Directorate has actively participated in and contributed to the livelihoods of local people, for instance establishing infrastructure for waste-water treatment, landfill collection and processing, recycling, and drip irrigation in sugar beetle farming in the region. 

Comparison with other similar properties

The Turkana UNESCO World Heritage Site  features diverse habitats resulting from ecological changes over time and ranging from terrestrial and aquatic, desert to grasslands and is inhabited by diverse fauna. In situ conservation within the protected areas includes threatened species particularly the reticulated giraffe, lions and gravy zebras and has over 350 recorded species of aquatic and terrestrial birds. Similar situation is true for the Lake Tuz protected area in Turkey as it has diverse habitats ranging from terrestrial to aquatic and semi natural farmlands to grasslands (high biodiversity grazing areas) working together in harmony to forming the endemic characteristics of such a huge protected area, and is inhabited by diverse fauna, including Otis tarda, the indicator of steppe habitats.

The most saline of Africa's large lakes, Turkana (Turkana National Park) is an outstanding laboratory for the study of plant and animal communities. Similarly the Lake Tuz protected area in Turkey is one of the most saline lakes in the world and it represents the richest and the most outstanding halophytic steppe vegetation in Europe, one of the most outstanding halophytic steppe plant sociological characteristics on the earth. There have been some genetic studies made by taking some examples from the area. In Turkana the three National Parks serve as a stopover for migrant waterfowl and are major breeding grounds for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus and a variety of venomous snakes. Likewise, the Lake Tuz in Turkey is one of the major wintering habitats on the migratory pathways of waterfowls as there are too large habitats to bear all the crowded migratory bird species populations amongst continents.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Lake Turkana is an important flyway passage and stopover for palaeartic migrant birds, with the South Island Park also being designated as an important bird area under Birdlife International. Likewise, the Lake Tuz inhabits huge migratory flamingo colonies. Glareolaprantincola, Tadornatadorna, Tadornaferruginea, Anascrecca, Recurvirostraavocetta, Burhinusoedicnemus, and Larus sp. have their nests in Lake Tuz protected area as well.  The large, calm, noiseless, relatively depopulated areas of the Lake Tuz protected areas provide safe habitats for all the bird species in Lake Tuz protected area in Turkey.

Lake Turkana National Parks are constituted of Sibiloi National Park, the South Island and the Central Island National Parks, covering a total area of 161,485 hectares located within the Lake Turkana basin whose total surface area is 7 million ha. Similarly, Lake Tuz Special Environmental Protection Area is extremely large protected area in Europe and Turkey with 7414.40 km2. Lake Turkana is the most saline lake in East Africa and the largest desert lake in the world, surrounded by an arid, extraordinary landscape. Similar situation is true for Lake Tuz SEPA as it inhabits very large dry lands decorated with  a peculiar landscape.

The existing ecological conditions of Lake Turkana provide habitats for maintaining diverse flora and fauna. Also, the arid and salty extreme ecological conditions of Lake Tuz SEPA provide very rich plant societies at community, and alliance levels from the viewpoint of halophytic plant sociology. Also, the ecosystem provides convenient places for crop wild relatives which can be utmost important economic species in the future for the entire world as they contain drought resistance genetic resources.