More than 10,000 species of plants exist in Turkey, with 20% of them being endemic. This plant life makes up various habitats including forests, mountains, wetlands, as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. In order to protect such unique diversity, 39 national parks have been established since 1958. The Köprülü Canyon National Park is example of the unique nature found in Turkey. This national park hosts cupressus sempervirens forests, natural forests with this type of tree occur nowhere else in the world.
There are a further 32 designated national reserves. Reserves are generally smaller than national parks allowing them to be enclosed easier, thus leading to more effective protection. Since 1990, the government has created 19 Special Areas of Environmental Protection. These areas have been designated in order to prevent tourism and construction damaging natural landscapes.
Smaller enclosed zones have been created in order to protect rare animal species that face extinction. The goal is that animals will be preserved then will be able to breed. If breeding is successful, then there is hope that they can be released into the wild. There are 40 such regions throughout Turkey.
Turkey is one of thirty-four of the world’s biodiversity hotspots due to the incredibly diverse flora and fauna found throughout the country. The number of animal species in Europe numbers around 60,000, while in Turkey, they number over 80,000. Of this 80,000 there are approximately 114 mammal species. The most common mammals in Turkey belong to the rodent family, however, the country still houses larger species like the striped hyena, the brown bear, the grey wolf, the caracal (a medium-sized cat known for its black ears) and the Eurasian lynx. Species like cheetahs, lions and tigers once lived in the country but are now locally extinct.
In addition to mammals, there are 150 species of amphibians and reptiles including the loggerhead turtle who finds refuge along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Many successful conservation efforts have been put in place to protect this endangered creature.
Some 400 species of indigenous or migratory birds live in Turkey, some of which are extinct in Europe like the Black Vulture. Due to its unique location connecting Europe and Asia, Turkey is situated on an interesting migratory plan. In spring, migratory birds fly northwards from Africa to Asia and Europe, and in autumn, they leave their breeding grounds to fly south to Africa again.
One of the most incredible flight migrations in the world happens in Turkey, the flight of storks down the Bosphorus (Istanbul Strait). More than a quarter million storks fly above the city over a period of a few weeks.