Water Peace at Home Water Peace in the World


A Peculiar Wetland protected by EPASA (Özel Çevre Koruma Kurumu, an EEA ETC/BD partner) in one of European Environment Agency (EEA) member countries, Türkiye, Göksu Delta Ramsar Group A Wetland in Mersin province


29 July 2020


Eyüp Yüksel,

OECD Agri-environmental biodiversity national expert since Zurich, 2001 OECD Meeting and workshops held in Rackenholz Agriecology Station, Zurich, Switzerland.


Former European Environment Agency (EEA) European Topic Centre/Biodiversity(ETC/BD), Paris, France National Nature History Museum (MNHN) Latin Quartier, Task Manager, on behalf of Turkish government at Environmental Protection Agency for Special Areas (EPASA) between 2008 to 2014, Legal representative Ahmet Özyanık (and President of EPASA), Contact name Mehmet Menengiç (Head of Department of Environmental Protection and Research, ÇKAİD), ETC/BD Turkish Team at EPASA, Ministry of Environment and Forestry: Nisa Nur Akan, Dilek Deliçay, Mustafa Uzun, Özlem Aksoy, Güner Ergün.


We have concentrated on the landscape ecology characteristics of Göksu Delta A Member Ramsar wetland since OECD’s Landscape agri-environmental biodiversity indicators work held in Oslo, Norway. As being the members of promulgated Özel Çevre Koruma Kurumu established in November 1989, managed by Tunca Toskay, Mustafa Keten, and others, lastly led by Mr. Ahmet ÖZYANIK till July 2011) We will also refer to Agricultural ecosystems, Freshwater ecosystems, Coastal ecosystems, and. Protected areas “10 messages for 2010” to collectively forming as “European Biodiversity heritage”. All are considered as terrestrial ecosystems apart from marine ecosystems. Wetlands and agroecosystems are frequently compounded, like in Göksu Delta, Silifke, Mersin, Türkiye. European Environment Agency uses some set of indicators to follow at the European scale.


In general,


for Agricultural ecosystems:


Driving Forces: Land conversion of the agricultural landscape to tourism areas in or around migratory bird habitats, ecosystem services provided natural biodiversity needed by birds, etc. in favor of tourism areas and second houses, construction of drainage canals,

Pressures: Hunting, overuse of pesticides, overgrazing, land abandonment caused by not human population migration from rural to urban areas but tourism sector development on the same land,

State: Polluted rice fields (N, and P), birds endangered, spatially less habitat provided, extra habitat provided by drainage canals, wet habitat introduced by rice fields, food provision to the bird species by farmlands,

Impacts: Loss of biodiversity around such agricultural seminatural habitats, disturbance of bird species, gain of biodiversity by both conservation farming, and traditional farming,

Responses: EPASA’s land use planning supported by EPASA’s research projects and monitoring programme


Ecosystem services (ecosystem approach): Some agricultural wetlands’ flood protection function by well conserved soil resilience, climate regulation to absorb excessive discomfortable heat for humans, dust prevention, noise absorbtion, landscape aesthetic provision to tourism,

Sustainable consumption and production: Sustainable water use by dripping irrigation.

Protection of the different levels of biodiversity (genetic, species, (meta-) populations, and ecosystem levels: Gene resources consewrvation by continuous farming of native crops,

for Freshwater ecosystems:

Driving Forces: Hunting, inconvenient land use, lack of agricultural and natural habitats mutual biodiversity supporting relations,

Pressures: Hunting, human settlements, tourism,

State: Pollution in the lagoons due to drenage channels.

Impacts: Eutrophication.

Responses: Bird conservation meesures be made versatile (elaborated) in wetlands by implementing legislation and effective protected area management, public advertisement of  Ramsar Wetland areas in Europe,

Coastal ecosystems:

Coastal sand dunes Pancratium maritimum species in relation to beach use along Mediterranean coastal zones Patara and Belek environmental protection area in Türkiye, and 2) Populations of sea turtle and nile turtle in Fethiye environmental protected area in Türkiye (Mediterranean).

Driving Forces: Tourism on the beaches. Revenue need of businessmen, and the local people

Pressures: Mechanical pressure by people, tourism activities for swimming

State: Soil (sand) compaction

+ Göcek bay ecosystem yacht harbor carrying capacity assessment on biodiversity

Driving Forces: Yacht tourism, revenue need of businessmen, and the local people

Pressures: Marine pollution (illegal waste fills by the yachts), traditional management so far caused imbalances in management of the bay regarding lack of determination of the carrying capacity.

State: Deteriorated marine habitats in some patches

Impacts: Oxygen deficiency, increase in total suspended solids

Responses: A versatile marine research carried out by EPASA, restriction by EPASA in yacht numbers, building water treatment and sewage systems by EPASA

Management of Protected areas in Türkiye:

Management of big protected areas, agricultural issues driven protected area management at large scale in Türkiye.  Agricultural irrigation and crop patterns selection and alternatives choice according to opportunity cost of sugar beet, corn, and water in Lake Tuz Special Environmental Protection Area (SEPA), a huge size area management as an example for farming style (irrigation versus climate change versus water scarcity versus marketing >>>>> solution of this puzzlement was achieved only by an opportunity cost analysis by EPASA) selection.

Driving Forces: Revenue distribution, inflation, national economic constraints impacted agriculture and the rural life, less elastic crop rotation due to already established markets

Pressures: Illegal water extraction,

State: Salinisation, infertile farmlands, 

Impacts: Water scarcity

Responses: Research, drip irrigation, revenue support by the EPASA and Ministry


Related EC legislation

Council Decision 98/145/EC of 12 February 1998 on the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the amendments to Appendices I and II to the Bonn Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals as decided by the fifth meeting of the Conference of the parties to the Convention [Official Journal L 46, 17.2.1998].

This Council Decision contains the list of 21 species to be added to Appendix I to the Convention (endangered species) and 22 species to be added to Appendix II (species conserved through Agreements).

Council Decision 2006/871/EC of 18 July 2005 on the conclusion on behalf of the European Community of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds [Official Journal L 345, 8.12.2006]

In accordance with the Bonn Convention, which provides for the conclusion of regional agreements for species listed in Appendix II, on 1 September 1997 the Community signed an agreement establishing an appropriate international legal framework for the conservation of migratory waterbird species and populations, individuals of which migrate in the Palaearctic and Africa. This Decision approves the Agreement on behalf of the Community. The Agreement, which entered into force on 1 November 1999, covers 235 species of waterbirds dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle and an area of 60 million square kilometres encompassing 116 States (all of Europe and Africa and part of Asia). It provides for a number of coordinated measures to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for the African-Eurasian migratory waterbirds concerned.

These measures include the protection and restoration of sites frequented by migratory birds, a ban on non-indigenous waterbird species and cooperation between States in emergency situations. The Agreement also provides for measures, in the form of an action plan, to assist certain priority species, which it identifies. The action plan includes measures relating to the conservation of these species and their habitats (e.g. prohibition, with certain exceptions, of the taking of birds and eggs, prohibition of disturbance and of trade, conservation and rehabilitation of areas), the management of human activity (e.g. hunting, eco-tourism), research and monitoring (e.g. monitoring of populations, studies of migration routes, evolution of habitats), education and information, and the implementation of the action plan (giving priority to the most endangered species).

In Europe particularly in human population growth places coastal regions due to enhanced tourism activities, and national economies’ enforcing needs Birds depend on habitat, habitat spatial magnitude (In Göksu for example, the conditions of wetlands ecosystems):


Box 2. Favourable Conservation Status according to the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

Article 1(i) defines the Conservation Status of a species as “the sum of the influences acting on the

species concerned that may affect the long-term distribution and abundance of its populations in the

European territory of the Member States”. It states that a species’ Conservation Status will be taken as

“Favourable” when:

population dynamics data on the species concerned indicate that it is maintaining itself on a longterm

basis as a viable component of its natural habitats; and

the natural range of the species is neither being reduced nor is likely to be reduced for the

foreseeable future; and

there is, and will probably continue to be, a sufficiently large habitat to maintain its populations on

a long-term basis.


Göksu wetland protected by an Commonly Designated Protected Areas (CDDA, according to European Environment Agency, EEA nomenclature)) in Türkiye, East Mediterranean


Göksu Delta (also freshwater, and coastal ecosystem) protected area management by means of agricultural landscape-oriented land use. Göksu Delta is a Ramsar wetland for waterfowls in the Southern part of Turkey represents well the natural and semi-natural habitats mixture pattern of the Mediterranean coastal region of Turkey. In Göksu and other provinces along the coast of Mediterranean in Turkey, agricultural lands and natural habitats have made a typical compact natural structure.


However, in recent years this structure has been broken down due to mass tourism, second houses, and transportation. Although so far not carried by specifically oriented agricultural landscape indicators projects, the Authority for the Protection of Special Areas (Ministry of Environment) has conserved agricultural landscape which is at present truly becoming an integral part of the Agricultural Landscape proposed and conserved by the European Union (EU), particularly in the strictly protected zones of its Specially Protected Areas (SPAs), such SEPAs (large areas containing not only small habitats matching SPAs, and SACs, but also buffer zones, and some elongated river ecological corridors at river basin level).




The biodiversity of the delta is one of its kinds as stated in the previous reports and documents. It is why the Delta is part of the Specially Protected Area network of Turkey.


All the different endemic and epidemic types of plants, animals especially birds and wildlife were mentioned to the local people during the interviews. However, the general opinion is that both the quantity as well as the diversity of wildlife has decreased and continues to decrease. Especially on the subject of birds, many locals state that the number has decreased significantly. However, one must consider this opinion with caution since it can not be known for sure from the interviews whether this is a fact or just a reaction to the protection law of the area. Most locals are frustrated with the protection status of the Delta because of many restrictions it possesses which hinder their economical situations.

However, when asked about the reasons of this decrease in the number of birds, the opinion is that the pesticides and the fertilizers used in agriculture poison the birds. Another opinion is that the change of the climate becoming temperate influences the migration path of the birds diverting them to other locations.

One of the most mentioned plants is oleander which can not be seen today. It is said that oleander would live on the dunes along the coast of Delta but with the disappearance of the dunes, oleanders also ceased to exist.

Agriculture and Daily Life:

The experiences of the local people on agriculture and agricultural products are very rich. The memories on agriculture are very different 50 years ago than today. However, the most important collective memory is that there is a very distinct differentiation of periods for the agriculture of Delta; before the water and after the water. The dams and the irrigation system which were built by the government at the beginning of 1960’s affected the region such that that period is assumed as a turning point for the local people. Thus when evaluating the answers for the agriculture questions, this before and after differentiation should be kept in mind all the time.

Before the irrigation of the Delta, the agricultural sector depended on the climate, thus products were mostly chosen from wheat, barley, watermelon and sesame which are the kind of products that do not need an organized irrigation system. During this period, only one kind of product were brought up once a year thus the locals would move to the houses on the mountains for the summertime practicing transhumance. Livestock breeding is another major support of the income of the locals.

After the construction of the irrigation systems, the agriculture sector changed radically. The people could bring up different products two to three times a year. The types of agricultural products increased, such as; citrus, all kinds of vegetables, rice and strawberry. The arid lands closer to the coast was started to be used for agriculture due to the use of water.

With the changes happening on agriculture, the income of the local people increased during those years, thus the local people began to use technology for agricultural production 30 years ago. Also the use of fertilizers, as well as pesticides, had started with the increase of the amount of products. However, this use of chemicals initiated the diseases on the plants. The use of organic products in agriculture has started of recent date but has not become popular yet.

The impact of the use of water from the irrigation system changed the way local people lived radically. The practice of transhumance was put off since there was work in the Delta during summers as well as the warmth of the summers decreased significantly according to the local people.

Even if the irrigation system changed the lives of the locals radically in a positive way, “nothing seems to be the same such as the taste and odor of the tomatoes”. The people think that the reason is the use of pesticides and fertilizers.


There are some diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that were used to be common but now cured. Cancer is the new disease. Local people think that the reason for cancer is the chemical products used in agriculture however this idea is believed to be influenced by the media. There is not a common local disease which is due to climate or way of living that affects the people.

Climate and Climate Change:

The climate of the region is a typical Mediterranean climate with hot and arid summers and cool/warm winters. The evaluation of the interviews shows that there have been changes in climate of the Delta. Due to irrigation system being a turning point for the region, the changes of the climate are also told as before the water and after the water.

Before the irrigation system, the summers used to be very long and very hot. Locals state that the hotness of the air could be seen across the delta. Akgol, one of the lakes on the Delta, used to dry so that the fish would be cooked with salt. The locals would go to collect these fish to consume during the winter.


The winters are remembered as very cold by the locals such that Paradeniz and Akgol used to freeze and people would walk on them to catch fish. However, after the construction of irrigation channels, the climate has changed becoming temperate. The summers are now cooler and long and the winters are warmer and short.

The amount and the frequency of precipitation around the region have also decreased during the past 50 years. There used to be many floods before the construction of dam. The most recent flood was the major flood disaster due to the operation of dam four years ago. The destruction was major however it was not a natural disaster.

The forests around the Delta decreased due to many anthropogenic reasons. According to the local people, this had affected the climate as well as increasing droughts.

Livestock and rangeland

As mentioned in the agriculture part, before the construction of the irrigation system, one of the major income sources for the local people was livestock breeding. Today, the number of animals per house has decreased and these animals are just for the family’s daily needs. Due to the practice of transhumance, livestock breeding was very popular and among the animals, the population of camels occupied an important place. However, since the construction of irrigation system, the increase of the importance of agriculture as well as the change of climate of delta becoming temperate, the practice of transhumance, thus livestock breeding in mass sizes had stopped.

According to local people, there have been changes in the breeding patterns of the animals however this is thought to be due to imported animals that have different patterns of breeding than the native stocks.

Water Resources

Goksu River is the main source of the delta. The use of the river started with the construction of dam as a source of irrigation. Before wells were used for both the daily and agricultural use. There was not a significant change on the quantity of the groundwater resources of the delta however the quality of the water decreased due to desalinization.

A major change happened to Akgol which is a fresh water lake. The water of the lake used to be salty before the irrigation channels such that the people would collect the salts around the lake during summer when the water of the lake receded.

Another important discussion on the groundwater potential of the delta is that the irrigation water is not suitable for the use of dripping technique because the contents clog the holes. Thus the local people tend to use the groundwater from the wells however excessive use of groundwater resources could present a danger for the use of groundwater in the future both in quality as well as quantity.

Fishing and fishery

Fishing is another important source of income especially for the people living very close to the coast of the Delta. However, both the quantity and the diversity of the fish population had decreased mostly due to unconscious excessive fishing according to the local people. Another reason is the changes that happened to the small lakes around the delta due to the construction of the irrigation system. Some of them had dried out because of water shortage due to the change of the river bed or the quality of the water changed as mentioned in the previous subjects.

The ecosystem services of Göksu delta EPASA biodiversity:

Coastal Areas

There is not a common opinion on the changes occurred on shoreline. People living on different sides of the Delta told different opinions, however most people stated the fact that there used to be dunes of 10 meters’ height which do not exist today. The reason is told as the sand of the dunes was used for the construction of secondary houses around the region. 

Another important change on the shoreline is that the width of the sand strip separating the sea from Paradeniz has decreased significantly causing flooding during a recent storm due to leakage from the thinnest parts. Once the width of the strip was 150 m but today some parts are as thin as 20 meters with very low elevation. Any damage on the strip will cause an important disturbance in Paradeniz habitat even the existence of the lake will be in danger. The local people’s explanation for the erosion of the sand strip is sea level rise.

Coastal erosion has become an important problem for the eastern part of the Delta in recent years. From the measurements gathered from the municipality it can be seen that there is an erosion of almost 150 meters. Local people think that the reason for this erosion is due to shifting of the bed of Goksu River because of the construction of irrigation channels.





: Mersin (formerly İçel province)


: 39.987


: 226.31 km2

Determined and declared by the Decree of Cabinet of Ministers number 90/77 and date 18.01.1990. 





          Source: Özel Çevre Koruma Kurumu Başkanlığı (ÖÇKK, EPASA) (1989-2011).

Göksu Delta Special Environmental Protection Area (SEPA); consists of Mersin, Silifke Town and 4 sub-districts and 7 villages annexed to it. Göksu Delta is on the coastal plane formed by Göksu Stream, on the South coast of Silifke Town in Mersin, which is situated on the outskirts of Central Taurus Mountains. It is surrounded by Erdemli in the East, Gülnar in the West, The Mediterranean Sea in the South and Konya in the North and it is 80 km away from the city center. Delta, which has a 10.000-square- km basin, is between Silifke and Taşucu, where the Göksu Stream reaches the sea. In the West of the Göksu River are two lagoons, namely Paradeniz and Akgöl. It is within the borders of Mersin Province, the geographical coordinates are 36° 17' North and 33° 59' East. There are ten settlements within the borders of the Special Environmental Protection Area and the total protected area is 226 km². The total area of Göksu Delta is 15000 hectares and the altitude changes between 0-5 meters

The region and the environs receive heavy precipitation (700 mm/year) because it is open for the rain clouds coming from the Mediterranean. However, it is the Göksu River which directly influences the hydrologic structure of the region being the longest river in the East Mediterranean Basin with an approximate length of 250 km. The Göksu River, which is fed by streams and underground sources and which accumulates water coming from highlands that receive a lot of precipitation, has a flow rate of 118 m3/s (minimum 26 m3/s; maximum 1680 m3/s). The area of Akgöl and Paradeniz Lagoons is 1312 ha. The water in Akgöl (820 ha) is moderately salty and briny. The lagoon which has 1,0 g chalk per liter and which is 0,5 – 1,0 m deep is connected to Paradeniz through a canal opened by fishermen and it is fed by fresh water through drainage canals. Paradeniz Lagoon (492 ha), on the other hand, possesses moderately salty water and is 1,5 m. deep and it is permanently connected to the sea through a canal. Göksu Delta is also rich in terms of underground hydrologic sources. Underground water is chalky and the sources are generally carstic.

Silifke Prairie was formed in the fourth period. Göksu Delta consists of beach sands, sand dunes, canal sediments, and flood plain sediments composed of a mixture of clay, silt, sand and pebble like sediments which the Göksu River has transported and deposited. The elevations (0-5 m) and the slopes in Göksu Delta have been stated as 15%. The morphological structure doesn’t have much diversity; however, the windings formed by sand hills stretch to the sea.

Sand movement on the coasts of Silifke–Göksu Delta is generally from the coast to the interiors by the wind. Sand dunes which are the foremost habitats where extinction of species is fast are one of the most vulnerable habitats of Göksu Delta. Turkey possesses 22% of coastal sand dune flora. Most of the sand dunes are around Akgöl and Paradeniz, in the Western part of the Delta and they reach the sea in the farthest South, the place called Incekum. This formation also goes on under the water as a shallow layer. The beach is of specific value for the Delta because at present it is one of the rarest places where two turtle species, namely Caretta caretta and Chelonia mydas, lay their eggs.     

The flora in Göksu Delta, whose altitude is approximately 2 meters, is composed of Mediterranean shrub formations and in tense sand dune plants and salt steppes. The analyses show that the flora varies when you go from the sea to the North, however, it doesn’t show much diversity along the coast. Apart from the natural flora, there are also culture plants in Göksu Delta. The natural flora consists of mostly coastal sand dune plants. The environs of Akgöl and Paradeniz in the South of the Delta are dominated by low lying and halophytic plants. The presence of the plants varies according to salinity of the soil and the duration of flooding period.

The most dominant flora in the sand dune areas around Akgöl is ever-blooming Ononis natrix and Euphorbia paralias. 0-3-meter high sand dunes are covered with Mvrtus communis (Myrtle), Paliurus spina cristi and Vitex agnus castus. The barrier that sand dunes form between the sea and the coastal plants greatly obstructs the wind and this creates the convenient environment for spring species such as Allium sp., Iris sp. (Iris) and Muscari sp. to grow. The species that have been found and defined between Akgöl and the coast are Myrtus comminus (Myrtle), Nerium oleander (Oleander), Styrax sp, Thymelaea hirsuta, Poterium spinosum, Ononis natrix, Juncus acutus (Spiny rush), Cirsium spp, Salicornia europea, Phragmites sp, Arum sp, Pancratium maritimum (Sea Daffodil), Tamarix smyrnensis (Bunge), Urgenia maritima, Artemisia sp., Linum sp., Anthemis sp., Chrysanthemum sp., Limonium sp.(Limonium), Halimione portulacoides,  and Datura sp. The common flora in Paradeniz are Phragmites sp. and Thypa sp. sedges; Juncus sp. and Scirpus sp., Arthrocnemum glaucum, Inula crithmoides (Samphire), Suaeda maritima, Urgenia maritima, Salicornia europea, Halimione portulacoides, Chenepodium alhangi and some shrubs such as Ricinus communis(Castor oil plant), Convolvulus sp., Statice sp., Limonium sp. The field sides include plants such as Malya sp. and Nargissus sp.(Daffodil), Mandragora sp., Achillea sp.. The Göksu River banks are mostly covered with Salicornia sp. species.      

The dominant flora in Göksu Delta is mostly composed of halophytic plants and sand dune vegetation. Especially the species belonging to Salicornia and Euphorbia families are abundant in the West of the Delta and around Akgöl and Paradeniz. Moreover, it is observed that Zygophyllum album (white bean caper) which is found in locations close to the sea preserves its wetland position from the west to the East. The presence of water plants in Göksu Delta depends on the water regime of the lagoons and salinity. “Potamogeton pectinatus” (pondweed) covers almost all parts of Akgöl. This species not only serve as nutrient for birds, but also as shelters for them in winter. In the early days of March, there are few plants on the surface of the water. The length of the expansion line of “Ruppia cirrhosa (ditchgrass) indicates that it has a floating and seeding structure.


          The northern parts of Akgöl, which is plain and large, are invaded by reed beds. Generally, “Phragmites australis” (reed) species is dominant; however, in some parts “Arundo donax” (Giant Reed) or “Thypa latifolia” becomes dominant. The flora in the area is composed of succulent halophytes, cushion-formed kserophytes and mat formed hemicriptophytes. The most distinctive features of the area are semi-dry and dry Mediterranean climate, saline-alkaline soil, high base water, tides, river flooding, flooding caused by precipitation and as a result of these, extinct micro-habitats.

A lot of bird species that use Göksu Delta for wintering and incubation increase the recreational potential and attraction of the Delta more, contributing to the formation of an interesting and lively landscape in almost every season of the year. The results of the researches have shown that birds use the Delta both for wintering and incubation and that some of these are native species. Especially “Porphyrio porphyrio” (The Purple Swamphen), which is found only at some certain areas in the Mediterranean Zone and which is gradually decreasing in number, is one of the most significant bird species in the Special Environmental Protection Area and it is almost considered as the symbol of the area. The ornithological studies that have been conducted in the area so far have put forward that bird population and the number of species remarkably increase in especially winter and migration periods.  More than 300 hundred bird species have been identified in the Delta so far. Göksu Delta is of great importance especially for Phoenicopterus ruber (Greater Flamingo). The main reason for this is that this species uses the Delta regularly. The intense bird population in the area proves that apart from the incubation season the Delta is used by a lot of birds for migration after mating, wintering, and migration before mating.

As a result of a study aiming at identifying the herpetological (reptiles, amphibians, frogs) importance of Göksu Delta, 34 species have been identified. 4 of these species are land and water frogs; 6 are land and water turtles; 14 are lizards (Scauria) and 10 are snakes. Göksu Delta is one of the most important nestling areas in the Mediterranean where sea turtles, “Caretta caretta” and “Chelonia mydas” lay eggs. Furthermore, soft-shell Nile Turtle “Trionxy tringuiscan be found in this region. The turtles were to nest particularly in the southwest of the Delta. Although the Eastern Part of the Delta is less convenient for nestling, there are suitable nestling habitats there, too. The length of the shores where sea turtles lay their eggs reaches almost 10,5 km.


The most important land use form in Göksu Delta is agriculture. The Göksu River divides the Silifke Plain into two as eastern and western coasts. Soil structure and climate, which are significant determinants in terms of agricultural potential, give rise to product diversification and production increase. These features make it possible to grow various agricultural products. This structure of Göksu Delta creates a rich agricultural formation enabling the growth of continental climate plants such as wheat and barley on the one hand, and hot climate plants such as pistachio, citrus, and early vegetables on the other.


There are four fish species that can be caught in Akgöl. Two of these that are saline tolerant migrating fish species, Eels (Anguilla anguilla) and Sea Mullet (Mugil cephalus), move to Paradeniz Lagoon. In addition, two fresh water species, Carps (Cypinus carpio) and The African Catfish (Clarias lazera) lay their eggs in this lake. Eel and the catfish are mostly caught for export; other species are consumed in the region. The fishing equipment used in Paradeniz fishing is in adequate and traditional methods are used for fishing. The fish species that are caught here are Sea Bass (Dicentrarcus labrax), Gilt head bream (Sparus auratta), Dentex, dentex, black sea bream (Cantharus lineatus), two-banded sea bream (Diplodus vulgaris), Oblada melenura, White bream (Diplodus sargus), striped sea bream (Lithognatus mormyrus), Myrtle (Pagrus pagrus). “Callinectes sapidus” (Blue Crab), which is another water product in Göksu Delta is allowed to be caught in Akgöl and Paradeniz from June to October, when the water is warm. In an analysis conducted on the sand barriers separating Paradeniz from the Mediterranean Sea, it is determined that crabs live abundantly in sand structures.  

Göksu Delta and close surroundings is rich in terms of historical and archaeological values. The three tumulus ruins in the Delta are thought to be belonging to Hittites period. In the sand dunes in the coasts of Paradeniz Lagoon, great construction ruins have been found belonging to Roman and Byzantine periods. There are also some other ruins around Incekum and in the South of Akgöl. The two holy tombs that are located in Altınkum and Gazi Farm are the two of the Seven Brothers Tomb in the Area. The two low tumulus, Roman and Byzantine ruins, Ulugöz Water Buckets and Atatürk Farm in Hacıpaşalar Farm are of historical value. Moreover, in the West of the Delta, there are Roman, Byzantine and Armenian ruins dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Meryemlik, which was an important pilgrimage center in the early Christianity Period, was founded in Roman and early Byzantine periods. The reason why Silifke is full of historical ruins is that it developed a lot in the Roman and Byzantine periods. In Atakent (Susanoğlu) / Corasium there are the ruins of Harbor Ruins of Byzantine, which assumed to have ruled the area until the 7th century.  

The impacts of climate change are increasingly affecting the lives of people all around the world for the past decade although the scientific community discovered the signs of the climate change around 1960’s. The research on climate change shows that although the mitigation measures implemented by the governments might be able to slow down the process of climate change, the resulting impacts of climate change will continue to affect the world’s population for the next century. Thus, the governments and the decision makers should prepare adaptation measures for these impacts through an integrated coastal zone planning while at the same time continue to implement the mitigation measures.


Göksu Delta is a Ramsar wetland for waterfowls in the Southern part of Turkey represents well the natural and semi-natural habitats mixture pattern of the Mediterranean coastal region of Turkey. In Göksu and other provinces along the coast of Mediterranean in Turkey, agricultural lands and natural habitats have made a typical compact natural structure. However, in recent years this structure has been broken down due to mass tourism, secondhouses, and transportation. Although so far not carried by specifically oriented agricultural landscape indicators projects, the Authority for the Protection of Special Areas (Ministry of Environment) has conserved agricultural landscape which is at present truly becoming an integral part of the Agricultural Landscape proposed and conserved by the European Union (EU), particularly in the strictly protected zones of its Special Environmental Protected Areas (SEPAs), such SEPAs.


Map 1. Location of Göksu Delta SEPA in East Mediterranean region

Source: Republic of Turkey, EPASA.


Landscape of habitats:

In Göksu Delta Specially Protected Area (SPA) managed by the Authority for the Protection of Special Areas (APSA), a governmental agency established in 1989 which belongs to the Prime Ministry at that time. agricultural lands are located very closely to strictly protected zones where waterfowl’s habitats are dispersed. Moreover, the agricultural lands are intermingled with bird and woody plants habitats. There are many farms and agricultural lands which serve natural habitat for the birds, rest of the fauna, and vegetation including important endemics. The birds usually live near the houses of farmers and villagers. The lands where farmers live were collectively declared as SPA by the Decree Having the Force of law, Numbered 383. Göksu Delta SPA contains very rich diversity habitats mixture (mosaic) typical of Mediterranean. Coastal sand dunes, phragmites, coastal lagoons, riverine systems, brackish – salty pasturelands mosaic which have been rapidly declined and destroyed in the Europe and Turkey, has been represented very well by the Göksu Delta. The delta inhabitates both European and Asian fauna and flora species including 327 bird species, sea turtles Caretta caretta, and Chelonia mydas.



Alcede atthis in reedbeds (marshes) of Göksu SEPA.

Source: OECD, and EPASA


Agricultural landscape in Göksu Delta Specially Protected Area(SPA):


Mechanization in agriculture has appeared since 1965 in the region. This change has destroyed natural structure and appearance of the region especially after establishing irrigation to agricultural lands since then. However, Irrigation channels relay the water collected from

agricultural lands, along which many endemic immigrant birds find their shelters and breeding places. The network of the channel is a typical pattern of any irrigation project throughout the country especially for rural areas within and around important agricultural regions.


The semi-natural habitats grasslands within the boundaries of the Specially Protected Area (SPA) have been tilled since 1955 in Ulugöz village. Half of the grassland used as the village’s pasture which was about approximately 12.5 hectares has been tilled since then. Fields, gardens, and similar plot of lands which have been owned by old miniature village enterprises have not been enlarged.


The settlements of villages and enterprises buildings have considerably been converted into non-aesthetic appearance which is not traditional, similar to irregular, unplanned urbanisation due to tourism along the coastal zones and the terrestrial part of the Göksu delta. The materials used in construction is of relatively low quality, and cheap materials in the market.


The traditional characteristics of the agricultural enterprises has been lost due to rapid development of mechanization and increase in agricultural input use. Fences separating and bordering fields and gardens have been conserved. There are hedgegrows between the fields, and orchards, and along the margins of them. However, their distribution, frequency, and total size have yet not been calculated by any project in the SEPA and its environs. The Environmental Protection Agency for Special Areas (EPASA) was carried out vegetation cover inventories in strictly protected zones, agricultural lands, and the coastal region in which sand dune habitats are found in 1994.


Wildlife benefits from farming. For example, herons benefit from the rice fields in Göksu Delta SPA. However, Anser anser species causes loss of crop in the wheat cultivating lands.


In the Delta natural lands are grouped along the Göksu river and lagoons whereas seasonal tourism settlements are located along the coastal zone of Mediterranean, and agricultural lands and human settlements of the native people are located on those lands with no water table problem. Because it is an A Group Ramsar Wetland, Göksu Delta SPA inhabits considerable diversity regarding flora and fauna. The grasslands are completely natural areas which are not fertilised artificially, but fertilised by the farm animals naturally. Cupressus sempervirens tree plantations are located along the margins of citrus gardens. They have been planted by the farmers in order to prevent gardens against wind.


The lands invaded by tourism near and in the delta have caused a considerable decrease in mosaic pattern of the former landscape. This decrease has relatively been hampered by the Authority for the Protection of Special Areas (APSA) in the last ten years which is a very critical period regarding agricultural and natural lands conservation for Turkey. However, villages and buildings of agricultural enterprises have become non-aesthetic as the time passed especially after mechanisation. Some parts of the two relatively bigger farms of plant, animal and fishery production, which have not been cultivated serve for wildlife.


Figure: OECD EPASA. Cupressus sempervirens plantations to prevent dust (photographs with the kind permission of Bekir Erdoğan to accomplish EPASA’s OECD Room Document)







Figure:  Mosaic of agricultural lands and natural habitats forming a complex and rich

wetland structure in the delta


Figure: Ulugöz pasture

Source: Courtesy of Mr. Bekir Erdoğan, Göksu Delta EPASA Directorate.


Table 1. Land use in Göksu Delta SPA


Agriculture lands =  8500 ha

Temporary marshes = 2100 ha

Dunes and beaches = 1900 ha

Wetlands = 1600 ha

Other = 1700 ha

TOTAL = 15.800 ha


Source: EPASA (Former APSA, The Authority for the Protection of Special Areas, Turkey)


Figure: Rice fields, drainage channel, and rural settlements

Source: OECD, Turkey’s room document for OECD Agrienvironmental Biodiversity Experts Group Landscape Meeting held in Norway, prepared by Eyüp Yüksel.

In the region, there are some abandoned lands that have not been cultivated particularly the old river bed of Göksu river, and northern parts of Akgöl lagoon due to being salted. Grazing of the semi-natural habitats grasslands in Göksu delta has been continued. Cattle and sheep are grazing on these semi-natural habitats. Grazing in the delta is irregular. EPASA banned grazing by goat and sheep in certain areas of the delta. The mosaic landscape is seen especially below 2 meters’ altitude in the delta, typically in  Regarding agricultural land use there have been some changes observed such as an increase in construction, rapidly developed greenhouse cultivation, and rather a less developed livestock flattening in the last 20 years. Agricultural developments such as greenhouse cultivation and livestock flattening have some negative impacts on the agricultural landscape of the Göksu delta SPA. Meanwhile, in certain areas of the delta particularly in the rural human settlements part, urban activities have caused partial lost of agricultural lands.

There has not been any measurement taken specifically for keeping and increasing the diversity of the agricultural lands. The total surface area of the agricultural lands has been increased. It was 5000 hectares in 1950s, and 8500 hectares in 2000s. There are no historic monuments in the agricultural lands, but a historic church called Ayatekla is located near Silifke, a small city as the main human settlements administrative center in the North of Göksu Delta SPA. Traditional buildings in the agricultural lands are found in a few smaller settlement units, such as Hurma, and architectural value.

Throughout the agricultural lands and natural habitats, there is not any path to find better pastures by herds.

Göksu Delta. The wildlife habitats and agricultural lands have been protected by APSA. So

far APSA has prevented narrowing of agricultural lands via inheritance; restricted construction of buildings; prevented every kind of waste disposal which destroys the structure of soil; and inconvenient land uses in Göksu Delta.


In the last 50 years, there have not been any emerged monotonous agricultural lands in places where agricultural irrigation and soil use prevail.

Powerful water sources had irrigated the dried Tekfur marsh in the past. At the present time these water sources are directly drained into sea. Around Tekfur marsh channels,

irrigation trench, and pools are very rich with regard to water surface and buoyant below

surface level vegetation cover (e.g. Nymphaea, Potamogeton, and Chara sp). As a transition zone small agricultural lands between hills and the delta allow easy passage of reptiles.

After the last agricultural developments which have caused dramatic changes in the environmental conditions, colonies of reptiles rapidly inhabited new natural areas. The fish

species Glarias gariepiens lives in the rice fields (habitat function of agricultural lands). After

the drainage connection of the lagoon Akgöl, the number of fish species has been increased because of newly gained freshwater characteristics and the enriched water by bio-elements. The irrigation system in the delta has changed the hydrology of the delta in favor of its wetland characteristics.



Box 1: Agri-environment measures help to conserve the Göksu delta wetland farming mosaic complex system.


Agri-environment measures help to conserve

the Göksu delta


Located on the North East coast of Spain, the Ebro delta is one of the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean and a major overwintering site for hundreds of thousands of waterbirds. Two-thirds of the delta is made up of paddy fields which produce around 100,000 tonnes of rice every year. Rice production and biodiversity are able to work hand in hand within the delta thanks to the introduction of EU agri-environment

schemes. Farmers receive additional financial support in exchange for applying measures that go beyond statutory requirements, such as restricting the use of pesticides or leaving water on the fields in winter for

the birds. Although this means more work for the farmers, 80% have signed up to the schemes within the delta. The high quality of their organic rice fetches twice the normal market price and is in great demand amongst Europe’s best restaurants. The area also benefits from increasing numbers of ecotourists who come specifically to see the spectacular wildlife in the delta.


above Highland cattle – a typical European breed. above right Bluebell woods, UK.

below Farmers in Ebro Delta. below right Mixed farmland. cut-out Corncrake, Crex

crex, calling.

© Neus




Delayed rice field sowing (planting) after prolonged winters causes certain harmful effects to some bird species in the delta. This fact can be mentioned as a good interrelationship between agricultural landscape pattern and wildlife. Pastures are owned by the villages. They are rented to 10-15 nomadic families. This situation has caused overexploitation of these rather narrower pastures and thus food competition between bird life (egrets) and the domestic animals.

Finally, as regards soil protection and flood risk management, the Action Plan calls for the implementation of the new Thematic Strategy on Soil Protection to minimize soil sealing, soil erosion and the loss of soil biodiversity. It also asks that Member States and the Commission assess the risks and benefits of flooding for biodiversity and ensure that flood risk management plans developed under the new Directive on the assessment and management of flood risks optimise

benefits for biodiversity

Agricultural Development in Göksu Delta SPA

Atatürk’s farm:

In 1925, with the aim of modernizing the region’s agriculture, the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk bought a 1 260 hectares’ farm in the delta, close to the Tekfur marshes. He showed a special interest in the development of this farm and the region. Rice, new breeds of cattle and merino sheep were introduced and sesame, peanut, vegetables, cereals, melon, watermelon, lentil, potato and vetch were cultivated. The source of water for these crops was Karasu (Tekir) spring and possibly also water carried to the fields by donkeys. Only a small area along the river was irrigated, and this by means of waterwheels.

Atatürk’s farm in the Göksu delta was the second mechanized farm in Turkey (the first institutional development in the region: in 1935, the ‘Tekir (Tekfur) Agricultural Credit Coop’

was established, although it was never very successful due to the opposition of the local

establishment and aghast.


Reclamation of Tekfur marshes:


Attempts to reclaim the marsh started in the second half of the 19th century with the construction of a drainage channel to discharge the water of the Karasu spring: this channel is Eucalyptus was used in this first reclamation stage. Additional reclamation by Atatürk probably reduced the marsh to around 600 ha (Aslan, 1969).

Efforts to reclaim the rest of the Tekfur marsh increased up to the late 1950s, though they were not entirely successful. Throughout this period improvements and additional constructions were necessary to maintain the size and quality of the agricultural area. Particular parts of the reclaimed marsh, especially those near the bordering hills, were hard to maintain, and winter and spring flooding continued to influence the area.

In addition, greenhouses where strawberry is being sowed. Around greenhouses, the Göksu river and wildlife areas are lined along the highway and villages where birds. Greenhouses are aligned linearly but do not interrupt the natural habitats in the Göksu Delta region.

Frequent changes in the Göksu river bed has created a very complex lowland. As in the last centuries Göksu river has impacted the Southern part of the lowland, in this part fluvial transformation is dominant whereas marine effects are dominant in the Western part.

In Silifke there are historic monuments as well. For example, the Christian ruins located in

Ayatekla, and also Silifke Castle which is in the downtown of Silifke on a magnificent hill.

Kayraktepe Dam construction although so far delayed due to postponed decisions on the regions,  on Göksu river will degrade the Southern end of the Delta which has already being degraded physically by the wave actions of Mediterranean Sea manifestated itself as an important coastal erosion. This in turn will cause a gradual loss of sand dunes and the shelters of the Göksu delta bird species such as Marbled teal (Marmorenatta angustris) and Porphyra porphyra which are also live and breed in Morocco, and Spain (i.e. in other parts of the Europe) (Eyüp Yüksel)



Figure 1 - Map of Goksu Delta

Source: EFE/30/05





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