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Ms. Sema ATAY
The Society for the Protection of Nature (DHKD), ISTANBUL


Forests are the most important habitat for living creatures on earth as they are home to a third of all living species. They are useful for regulating climate, holding and storing water, slowing down the increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and their timber is very important for economic development. In addition to these, they contain both medicinal and horticultural plants. I would like to discuss two examples of non-wood forest products - Medicinal and Bulbous Plants - which are harvested by local people from the forests in order to generate income in Turkey.

A Study on the Conservation of Medicinal Plants in Turkey:

There was a study carried out on medicinal plant trade in Turkey throughout 1996 and 97. It was a joint project between The Society for the Protection of Nature (DHKD), Istanbul University (Department of Pharmaceutical Botany) and Ankara University (Department of Pharmaceutical Botany). These three partners joined forces to identify which wild plants are used for medicinal purposes and which of these plants are threatened and how they can be protected.

In brief, generally the medicinal plants are collected by local villagers, mainly from forests and mountain habitats across Turkey. Basic drying and sorting takes place within the village before the materials are collected by village middlemen, who sell to town middlemen who in turn sell to the wholesale trader. They include both export and internal traders.

The income generated from the wild collection of medicinal plants is considerably important to village populations, particularly since many individuals involved in collection do not have any full time employment. Remarkably, the income generated from non-timber forest products, including medicinal plants, is equal to or more in value than timber products.

Turkey has the largest flora of any European or Mediterranean country and consequently the largest number of medicinal plants. The survey uncovered some 346 taxa of wild native plants in commercial trade. The trade is divided into two categories:

a) Internal trade: The two principle uses of medicinal plants used within Turkey are as i) herbal teas (particularly genera within the family Labiatae such as Salvia, Sideritis and Stachys and ii) a raw material in the production of Helva, utilising the roots of perennial species of Ankyropetalum and Gypsophila (both Caryophhyllaceae).

b) Foreign trade: Turkey exports approximately 28,000 tonnes of medicinal and aromatic plants per annum, generating nearly 50 million dollars of foreign currency from the trade per year. Turkey accordingly earns 20 times more income from trade in medicinal and aromatic plants than bulbous plants marketted for horticultural purposes. Using data from Lange&Schippmann (1997) this indicates that Turkey is the third largest exporter of medicinal plants of wild origin of any country on earth after China and India.

The ten most-threatened plant species have been determined from the listing of the top 50 most-endangered taxa using the IUCN criteria.

It is impossible to talk seriously about conservation and sustainable use of species and habitats without also considering local and national economies, trade and communities.

A number of local and regional examples introduced to encourage the sustainable use and cultivation of medicinal plants include the following:

Since 1990, education courses promoting the artificial propagation and cultivation of medicinal plants have been undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, in conjunction with the Aegean Agricultural Research Institute. Targetted species include Origanum onites, Capparis spinosa and Melissa officinalis;

The wild collection of Oregano is strictly regulated by the regional Forestry Directorate in Sütçüler of the region of Isparta. This directorate identifies places for annual collection, sets prices and collection dates, and prepares relevant contracts and other paperwork.

  1. As a result of the joint DHKD project, various suggestions and activities have been made, including:
  2. further research;
  3. regulatory policies, legislation and monitoring;
  4. identification and designation of protected areas;
  5. artificial propagation and cultivation; and
  6. education and public awareness.

The idea of growing medicinal plants for conservation and development should be adopted all over the world. To sustain the use of wild stock, cultivation of the plants helps remove pressure from wild habitats. It also has health benefits, as it enables a higher degree of standardization. Furthermore, cultivation makes it easier to avoid mistakes in identification and combats adulteration.

Cultivation of medicinal plants will provide money as well as health care in developing countries such as Turkey. In addition to this, it lends the opportunity to develop local pocessing industries.

The Indigeneous Propagation Project of Threatened Turkish Bulbs

Turkish bulbs have been collected from the wild since the late 1800's feed the demand coming from the international flower industry. This collection of wild bulbs for commerce exceeded 60 million per year in 1980's. This was far from a sustainable level. According to various observations (e.g. by collectors and scientists in situ) the natural population size of wild bulbs has decreased over the last 40 years. Nature conservationist and many scientists have become concerned about the level of collection. DHKD (The Society for the Protection of Nature) and FFI (Fauna & Flora International) have joined forces to relieve the pressure from the over-collection of wild populations of flower bulbs through the development of a village-based propagation scheme at the pilot site, and changing the bulb trade. The latter is being carried out by replacing bulbs collected from unsustainable wild populations to sustainable or cultivated sources by lobbying for the implementation of related national and international laws.

Throughout the course of the project, a project site was established where bulb propagation is undertaken at the village level. Since the start of the project, around 150 families have been involved with the bulb propagation in the Taurus Mountains. The methodology is as follows:

  1. Planting material has been loaned by export companies, namely by MARLA A.i. in Yalova;
  2. Bulbs are harvested on a 3–4 year rotation with daughter bulbs being replaced and plants being allowed to seed prior to harvest;
  3. Harvested bulbs are sold to the exporters;
  4. Their sale to retailers in the UK is arranged and monitored by FFI.

Since the first harvest took place in 1996, a harvest festival is organised every year in the village to draw public attention to bulb propagation.

Nature conservation is becoming more and more important every day due to the rapid rate of population increase, unsustainable collection from the wild and habitat destruction. Everyone-governments, non-governmental organisations, businesses and individuals-should be concerned about the future of wild species and their natural habitats as well as their future. As the most powerful creature on earth, we should be aware of the extinction of wild species and the rapid decline of natural resouces in the near future. The improvement of our health and economic conditions directly depends on the sustainable use of natural resources and nature conservation.


Özhatay, N. et al. (1997). The Wild Medicinal Plant Trade in Turkey. The Society for the Protection of Nature (DHKD), Istanbul.

Atay, S. (1996). Guide for Introduction and Propagation of Turkish Bulbous Plants on Export List. The Society for the Protection of Nature (DHKD), Istanbul. ISNB 975–96081-1-1.


Mme Sema ATAY
Société de protection de la nature (DHKD), ISTANBUL


La forêt est l'habitat le plus important des créatures vivantes sur terre puisqu'elle abrite un tiers des espèces vivantes. Les forêts jouent un rôle dans la régulation du climat, pour retenir l'eau et ralentir l'augmentation du dioxyde de carbone dans l'atmosphère, et le bois revêt une grande importance pour le développement économique. De plus, les forêts recèlent des plantes d'intérêt médical et horticole. Le propos du document est d'examiner deux exemples de produits forestiers autres que le bois - les plantes médicinales et les plantes bulbeuses - qui sont récoltés par la population locale dans les forêts afin d'en tirer un revenu.

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