FAO in Türkiye

Building a sustainable future for Yedigöller

Photo: © FAO/Ecenaz Yüzbaşıoğlu

Ankara – In November 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched a Technical Cooperation Project for Yedigöller National Park as part of a wider effort to ensure the continuity of ecosystem services, promote adaptation to climate change, develop tools to support the sustainable use and protection of resources, monitor environmental health and strengthen institutional capacity development. Within a broader framework to support digital transformation, the project “Enhancement of ecosystem services through sustainable management of Yedigoller National Park” worked to define visitor-oriented technical, administrative and educational instruments to achieve these important objectives.

The project was operationally launched in March 2023 as a collaboration with the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Türkiye, with the technical support of the Nature Conservation Centre.

The project team organized field trips, conducted face-to-face surveys to determine the visitor profile for the National Park, planned a variety of landscape equipment designs, and developed a new generation of digital tool prototypes to raise awareness about climate change and protected areas. Workshops were organized with the staff of the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks enabling teams from FAO and the Directorate to exchange knowledge and experience. A total of 11 reports were published to disseminate the findings obtained from studies carried out throughout the project. The final closing meeting of the project was held in Ankara on 14 March.

Özcan Türkoğlu, FAO Senior Programme Coordinator, who gave the opening remarks at the final meeting, emphasized the importance of the project’s findings, not only for Yedigöller but for all protected areas in Türkiye. As he explained, “from the perspective of climate change, one of the most important findings of this protected area management project is that the development of sustainable solutions to address current threats to the forest ecosystem, simultaneously supports the ability of the national park to provide ecosystem services.” He also emphasized the responsibility of stakeholders to act to help ensure a better environment.

Hasan Başyiğit, Regional Director of the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, highlighted the importance of maintaining the visual quality of the landscape, the ecosystems and the biodiversity of Yedigöller National Park. Citing the wide-ranging reports published by the joint project, he drew attention to the importance of developing holistic and sustainable solutions to key challenges in the national park, notably soil compaction, decline in water quality, and loss of wildlife and biodiversity linked to the rise in visitor numbers, noting that the development of such solutions “will contribute to strengthening the institutional capacity of the national park administration in the long term”.

In his presentation at the closing meeting, Yıldıray Lise, Project National Advisor from the Nature Conservation Centre, explained why a multi-stage and collaborative management plan is necessary for the Yedigöller National Park, going forward, and how the National Park can be managed more effectively, emphasizing in particular the importance of developing partnerships and collaborations that “bring together the active stakeholders in and around the National Park”. He also highlighted the case for the creation of a study and research programme for Yedigöller as well as for other national parks, noting that “establishing a visitor management system, even if it starts as a simple one, is essential for the creation of a management strategy for the area”. He elaborated: “The preparation of a region-specific management plan for the joint management of protected areas in the Yedigöller National Park and the establishment of ecological corridors within the Yedigöller Wildlife Development Area are very important for nature conservation activities in the area. In previous workshops, we raised the possibility of creating a protected area working group under the Governorship of Bolu. The establishment of a structure to handle all protected areas in Bolu province in a holistic manner would set an example for all of Türkiye.”

In her presentation, Professor Nilgül Karadeniz, Project Consultant and Member of the Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Landscape Architecture at Ankara University, shared how the project plans to raise awareness about protected areas and the effects of climate change through the design of landscape equipment, and how this equipment can be used to contribute to visitor management. “During the project”, she explained”, prototype designs for information boards were prepared to raise awareness of the negative impacts of climate change in Yedigöller National Park. We also completed preliminary studies on ways to update landscape equipment elements, which we shared with the field teams from Yedigöller and other national parks.” Prof. Dr. Karadeniz concluded her presentation by showing images of the landscape equipment designed during the project.

Can Kutay, FAO Communication Support Assistant, gave a presentation on the Visitor Management Strategy developed for Yedigöller National Park, and emphasized the importance of digital assets for visitors to raise awareness about protected areas and the impacts of climate change. As he explained: “Encouraging visitors to use a digital national park appointment system while planning their Yedigöller trips will help keep visitor density under control while helping to build visitor profiles. Placing QR codes at various points for visitors to interact with will also provide easy and interactive access to a wide range of information about the local habitat and ecosystem. The experiences gained from the example of Yedigöller can create opportunities for more widespread adoption of these practices through a comprehensive branding and campaign covering other protected areas and national parks.”

Lastly, in her presentation on the project outcomes, Evetta Zenina, FAO Natural Resources Specialist and Technical Leader of the Project, highlighted the importance of the results for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in Türkiye’s national parks. Looking ahead, she explained that “the development of a roadmap for scaling up the project results and experiences will serve as a strategic guide for the dissemination of successful interventions to wider contexts and increase the impact of the project from local to national and even international levels”. She continued: “By aligning project outputs with national strategies such as biodiversity conservation and sustainable development agendas, the project provides greater synergies between local initiatives and broader policy objectives, increasing the overall effectiveness of conservation efforts.” She concluded: “This project has not only produced valuable reports, it also demonstrates how scientific and technical knowledge can be utilized to ensure and improve the sustainable management of Yedigöller National Park, thus contributing to the broader goals of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem sustainability.”