Destruction of the sweetgum forests, Turkey


The sweetgum tree (Liquidambar orientalis) spreads across Turkeys south-western region and is an endemic tree species limited to Southern Aegean and Rhodes Island. Usually found in groups or as individual trees along streams and in areas with high water table, the only place where this species forms actual forests is Koycegiz. However, sweetgum forests total area decreased from 6.312 ha in 1949 to 1.348 ha in 2011. The main reason for this is the conversion of their habitat through cutting the trees or other drying out methods for citrus plantation as the soils where they occur have high water table and are suitable for agriculture. Currently, the remaining sweetgum forests are too fragmented and risk extinction as their characteristics for genetic transfer have weakened. On the other hand, the interests to this once sacred tree to the locals has diminished, thus the forests slowly sink to oblivion.

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Basic Data
NameDestruction of the sweetgum forests, Turkey
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesThe Sweetgum Trees, Forest, Citrus Fruits
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project Area (in hectares)1000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population25000
Start Date1970
Relevant government actorsGeneral Directorate of Forestry, General Directorate of Natural Assets Protection, Koycegiz Governorship, Koycegiz Municipality
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNature Conservation Center, Joint Life Plus Youth Program of UNDP
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Global warming, Soil erosion
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherLoss of income, loss of cultural heritage, loss of or damage on historical artifacts
Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Institutional changes
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Development of Alternatives- Corridor areas have been identified jointly by the NGO, General Directorate of Forestry and General Directorate of Natural Assets Protection

-The regional ecotourism model has been developed.

- In accordance with the local communitys request, the Sweetgum Festival was organised by the regional nature sports activists, public authorities, environmental groups and regions youth. Also the economic and cultural value of the sweetgum oil was revived in this ecotourism activity.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Even though the movement can be considered successful in terms of reviving the importance of the sweetgum forests by incorporating local people into their protection and implementing some of the proposed solutions, recovery of the occupied lands, which was one of the fundamental objectives of the project, remained at the planning level. Though the positive results of some of the legal actions taken by the General Directorate of Forestry against these occupations can be seen as a success, they remained inadequate compared to the intended level because of the missing financial and non-financial capacity (organisation, ownership etc.).
Sources and Materials

Sweetgum Revival
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Urker, O., Yalcin, S., Koycegizde Biterse Dunyada da Biter: Sigla Ormani Tubitak Bilim ve Teknik Dergisi, Sayi 521, Syf. 58-63. Nisan 2011, Ankara


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Reviving Oriental Sweetgum Forest in Koycegiz, Southwestern Turkey Using Corridor Method and Community Understanding in the Context of the Environmental Ethics (in English)
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Doga Koruma Merkezi

Other CommentsNature Conservation Center, the joint Life Plus Youth Program of UNDP Turkey and Coca Cola enabled a 45.000 USD funding for work addressing the environmental problems whose monitoring and evaluation was carried out by YADA Foundation (Yasama Dair Vakfi in Turkish).
Meta Information
ContributorOkan Urker
Last update08/04/2014