Nature Conservation Centre Foundation – DKM (Doğa Koruma Merkezi Vakfı) is receiving a grant from our Turkey Wildfire Relief and Mitigation Fund to monitor the regeneration process of the red pine forests and maquis ecosystems, which were affected by the wildfires in the summer of 2021, with active citizen participation, and share the information with the public.
Read the interview below:
This is the first grant that the Nature Conservation Centre Foundation (Doğa Koruma Merkezi Vakfı – DKM) is receiving from our foundation. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of your organisation?
DKM was founded in 2004 by experts from different disciplines working in the field of nature conservation. The main reason for our establishment was the lack of necessary scientific and technical infrastructure in nature conservation studies and that many projects were not effective enough. For this reason, we aimed to disseminate knowledge-based approaches in Turkey for more effective nature conservation projects. Therefore, DKM is seen more as a specialist organisation.
On the other hand, the main reason for DKM’s existence is to make nature conservation more effective. We see the science of nature conservation as a tool in doing so. After all, the main purpose of nature conservation is to find solutions. The features that distinguish DKM are its openness to innovation and collaboration. It is essential to break the rules, come up with new solutions to old problems, and design new tools. Another component of this process is to establish collaborations. A scientific and solution-oriented approach and new tools are essential to reach these objectives, but taking bold steps to form collaborations is also crucial.
Human activities are the leading cause of wildfires.
According to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), while the number of wildfires in Turkey by August was 59 between 2008 and 2020, this number has increased to 159 in 2021. Can you tell us about the reasons for this rapid increase in the number of wildfires?
Human activities are the leading cause of wildfires. Negligent behaviours of people such as reaching deep into the forests and increasing their footprint in nature, burning fires without permission, throwing cigarette butts and leaving glass bottles in the forest cause wildfires. People who stayed indoors due to the pandemic began to spend more time in nature, particularly during summer holidays, which increased the human impact. In addition, the increase in temperature and drought as a result of climate change caused wildfires to occur more frequently and more severely.
The destruction of forests by fires affects not only plants but also other living beings such as bees, insects, ants, turtles and reptiles that benefit from these plants. Even if most birds and mammals dependent on red pine forests and maquis manage to escape from the fire, the destruction of their habitats should also be considered as destruction.
How long does it take for forests to recover after a wildfire? How should these areas be treated during the healing process?
Mediterranean vegetation, consisting predominantly of Turkish pine (Pinus brutia) and Mediterranean hard-leaved forests (shrubs for short), can recover from various destructions, including wildfires. Shrubs begin to shoot from the root and trunk within a few weeks after the fire. Red pines, on the other hand, are species with serotinous adaptation. During severe fires, some of their cones remain on trees without burning, and after a while, they start to open and scatter seeds on the soil. Such adaptation abilities of red pine and maquis enable Mediterranean type ecosystems to recover shortly after a fire.
Even if most birds and mammals dependent on red pine forests and maquis manage to escape from the fire, the destruction of their habitats should also be considered as destruction.
Post-fire forestry activities consist of natural and artificial afforestation. While planning, the pre-fire vegetation structure of the areas and the intertwined character of Turkish pine forests and maquis in Mediterranean ecosystems must be considered. In natural afforestation, the cone-filled branches of the red pine trees are laid on the ground and the seeds collected from the same region are sprinkled on the area homogeneously. In areas where these are not sufficient, priority is given to artificial afforestation and red pine seedlings are planted. It is essential to include the maquis species found in the area in these practices. The growth of various maquis species should be ensured by monitoring the shooting capacity of maquis.
With our grant support under the Turkey Wildfire Relief and Mitigation Fund, you are carrying out the Monitoring the Revitalisation of the Mediterranean Forests and Maquis Shrubland Ecosystem After the Wildfires project. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of this project?
With the project, we aim to preserve the integrity of the Mediterranean forest ecosystems, monitor the regeneration process of the red pine forests and maquis ecosystems with active citizen participation, and share the information with the public. In this context, pre-fire vegetation structures of areas and the protected areas affected by fires, and threatened species will be determined. We will focus on the Muğla region and develop a system that will set an example for other areas. Areas that are easy to access will be identified and monitoring studies will be carried out through active citizen participation. A system will be established with local civil society organisations and academicians to ensure the participation of local citizens. The project’s main output will be the establishment of a system that can be sustainable for at least 10 years after this pilot phase of the project.
However, no matter how quickly we take action, it is no longer possible to stop climate change. All we can do is limit the effects and improve our adaptation.
Turkey ratified the Paris Agreement. Can you tell us about the scope of this agreement and the changes it will cause?
The Paris Agreement aims to reduce emissions and ensure a carbon-neutral future to counter climate change. To prevent the climate crisis, it aims to limit the increase of the global average surface temperature to 2 degrees and keep it below 1.5 degrees if possible. However, no matter how quickly we take action, it is no longer possible to stop climate change. All we can do is limit the effects and improve our adaptation. It is necessary to increase the resilience of society and ecosystems against disasters that come with climate change as well as reduce emissions. For example, in addition to the studies on energy efficiency and renewable energy production, studies such as adaptation in agriculture, and preparation for water and food crisis are very important.
Turkey needs to take comprehensive and strategic steps in adapting to climate change. As DKM, we continue to work with a priority on adaptation in agriculture, forest, ecosystems and urban areas. We support nature-based solutions based on ecosystem services against grey infrastructures involving engineering solutions in cities. We work to protect and strengthen the climate-regulating effects of ecosystems.
DKM was established in Ankara by a group of experienced ecologists and nature conservationists to provide a centrally organised pool of expertise and technical capacity for conserving biodiversity in Turkey and the surrounding area with farmers, farmer’s associations, the government, and academic institutions in the light of the European Union policies.