Turkish project tests tree-related microhabitats as biodiversity indicators

The project aims to assess biodiversity potential through tree microhabitats, revolutionizing forest management and conservation practices with limited resources.

Photo: Simay Kirca

As we are being driven towards a chain of crises that are experienced more severely at some parts of the world due to dramatic human interventions, cost- and time effective approaches are required to manage forests without excessively reducing biological diversity. In the last decade, tree microhabitats have increasingly become a key instrument not only to understand how forest ecosystems work, but also for developing creative strategies to prioritise habitats for conservation. The main critique of most nature protection efforts is that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

To overcome this challenge, the Turkish project “Tree Microhabitats: A Key for Forest Conservation Planning” aims to see the forest through the trees by testing concepts considering the presence of various tree-related microhabitats as indicators of the potential presence of a wide range of forest species from invertebrates to fungi, birds and small mammals. These complementary concepts are: tree microhabitats (adapted to the Integrate+ project conducted by the European Forest Institute (EFI)); and the Index for Biodiversity Potential (IBP). These easy and time-efficient approaches are particularly crucial for countries like Turkey harbouring a rich biodiversity, but having limited financial resources, as practical supportive tools as alternatives to conventional species monitoring.

We set our study area to test both concepts in Yedigöller National Park, located in the Western Black Sea Region in Bolu and lying within the north-eastern Euxin forest zone. It was designated as a national park almost six decades ago prominently because of its diverse habitats of mixed forest plants that are still intact and the presence of seven avalanche lakes. The main recreational activities (i.e. picnicking, camping, hiking, nature photography and line fishing) attracts thousands of visitors from April to mid-November not only from nearby settlements, but also from metropolitan cities like Ankara and Istanbul. By focusing on two main functional uses of the forest as conservation and recreation, we aim to draw attention on how to trade the balance between these currently contradicting practices from the lens of sustainable forest management.

Currently, with the support of Rufford Small Grants and Eastern Mediterranean Research Association, our research team is recording data on various parameters such as tree species, stand structure, deadwood and tree microhabitats according to the catalogue of tree microhabitats in order to evaluate the potential ecological value of the sample plots. The next steps will be digitizing all the data collected from the field, data analysis and provide a base for the use of tree microhabitats for the forest management, planning and conservation efforts in Turkey.

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VIAIrem Tüfekcioğlu
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EFIMED is the Mediterranean Facility of the European Forest Institute. Based in Barcelona, Spain, it was launched in 2007.