Realm: Western Eurasia
Ecoregion Size (1000 ha):
States: Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria
A verdant rainforest climbs the mountains fringing the coastal waters of the Black Sea. Shrouded in mist and interlaced with many rushing rivers, the forests are bejewelled by resplendent meadows of copious rare and endemic flowers. Bear, lynx, golden jackal, and wildcat roam this rich wilderness, and lowland wetlands are graced by thousands of migratory waterfowl, passerines, and raptors.
These lush forests span the southern shoreline of the Black Sea, from the Southeasternmost corner of Bulgaria, across the Northern coastline of Turkey, and into lowland Georgia. It can be divided into two parts based on climate: the Eastern Colchic region is highly humid with an average of 1,500–2,500 mm annual precipitation, whilst the Western Euxine region is less humid and receives 1,000–1,500 mm. Multiple rivers traverse the landscape, including the Sakarya, Kızılırmak, Yesılırmak, and Coruh, whilst Georgia’s Paliastomi Lake is one of many wetlands near the shore.
Sand dunes, peatlands, and swampy coastal forests yield to temperate rainforests on the Northern slopes of the Pontic Mountains. Oriental beech dominates, complemented by an assembly of sweet chestnut, red-twigged lime, oriental hornbeam, black alder, and Caucasian wingnut; the understory is formed by cherry laurel, Colchic holly, and rhododendron. Higher elevations promote coniferous formations of oriental spruce and Caucasian fir in the East, and Turkish fir in the West.
Many species found refuge in the Colchic region during previous glaciations, and their remnant populations survive here today. One such relict species is the endemic Caucasian salamander, an amphibian with a narrow range in the East of the region; long and slender, with spectacularly vivid yellow markings, it dwells in the upper reaches of mountain streams. Other endemic species include the Anatolian crested newt, Turkish smooth newt, and the viper Vipera barani.
Coastal lowlands are a haven for migratory birds, including important populations of Dalmatian pelican, pygmy cormorant, white-headed duck, and ferruginous duck. Turkey’s Kızılırmak Delta offers sanctuary to three quarters of the country’s known bird species, and the Kolkheti wetlands in Georgia is of international importance for its avian diversity, hosting numerous rails, crakes and herons.
Afforestation of dunes and heathlands with commercial pine trees for timber industry is common, whilst native oriental beech, oriental spruce, and red alder are harvested from the forests. The warmth and dampness of Turkey’s coastal fringes make them highly suited to agriculture; this region is intensively cultivated for rice, corn, sugar beet, tobacco, and tea. As much as 60% of original habitat in the Kolkheti wetlands has been reclaimed and cultivated for pastures, agriculture, and horticulture. Strict protected areas are lacking, especially in Turkey. The Kızılırmak Delta and the Wetlands of Central Kolkheti are both designated as Ramsar Sites (Wetlands of International Importance), and Georgia has additional protected areas at Mitrala and Machakhela National Parks.
Rapid urbanization of the Black Sea coast exacerbates human pressures on the ecoregion. The increasing degradation of remaining wetlands is driven by severe pollution, eutrophication, peat exploitation, and drainage; the Kolkheti wetlands are particularly threatened by oil industry operations. Lowland forests have been heavily logged as forest management strategies emphasize timber production, and logging-related landslides are prevalent. Cross-breeding of local cattle species with imported breeds threatens loss of native genetic diversity, and almost all local cattle on the Black Sea coastal strip have been lost to the Jersey breed.
The Society for the Protection of Nature and The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and for Protection of Natural Habitats are the main organizations promoting nature conservation. They work to create effective management plans for wetlands, implement reforestation projects, and enforce the Pasture Land Law.
The priority conservation actions for the next decade will be to: 1) create jobs in sustainable industries to aid alleviation of poverty amongst local communities, reducing pressure on natural resources; 2) emphasise reforestation in severely degraded areas, restoring abandoned agricultural lands to forests; and 3) restrict logging within the vicinity of streambeds to protect Caucasian salamander populations.
1. Atalay, I., Efe, R. and Öztürk, M., 2014. Ecology and classification of forests in Turkey. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 120, pp.788-805.
2. European Environment Agency (2008). The Black Sea Region – shores and delta. Europe's biodiversity - biogeographical regions and seas.
3. WWF. 2018. Euxine-Colchic broadleaf forests. [Online]. [Accessed 7th June 2019]. Available from: https://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/pa0422