Impact on Coastal Ecosystems

Rapid tourism development along the coasts has endangered the cliffs (Kaya and Smardon 2000) and has led to tremendous changes in land use (Kuvan 2005). For example, since the enactment of the tourism encouragement law, large forested coastal areas in Turkey have been offered to entrepreneurs to develop large mass tourism complexes (Kuvan 2010). A total forested area of 3936.90 ha had been allocated by the Ministry of Forestry to tourism development by 2001 (Kuvan 2010; citing official sources from the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism). There are no official data for forest allocations after 2001, but Kuvan (2010) maintains that this process has continued at an alarming pace. For example, in 2004, a forested area of more than 300 ha was allocated for the construction of two golf courses in Antalya, a move that was strongly contested by the local stakeholders (Kuvan 2010). Most trees were cut for the construction of golf courses and five-star hotels (Kuvan 2005). For example, in Belek (in the province of Antalya), all developments have taken place in forested lands which previously had the status of conservation areas (Kuvan 2005). This clearly shows that, in Turkey, the economic objective of developing mass tourism has taken priority over environmental conservation (Kuvan 2005).

It was not only the hotel projects and golf courses that benefited from the transfer of forested land, but second-home residences benefited, as well (Burak et al. 2004). Residential and hotel constructions have led to forest fragmentation and, ultimately, to the degradation of forest ecosystems (Kaya and Raynal 2001; cited in Kuvan 2010). Many coastal forests have been considerably reduced, as an effect of land allocation to tourism operations. For example, between 1972 and 1988, the protected area of the Olympos-Beydaglari Coastal National Park was reduced from 69,800 ha to only 34,425 ha (Kuvan 2010: 162).

More recently, in the 1990s, the Ministry of Tourism decided to open the highlands of the Black Sea region to tourism development (Ozden et al. 2004). However, the new infrastructure built in the area and the increased demand for land for tourism development and second homes threaten not only the fragile ecosystems in the area, but also the traditional local culture (Ozden et al. 2004; see also Chap. 5 by Alaeddinoglu and §eremet in this book).

Other coastal ecosystems (such as the sand dune ecosystem in Belek) have also been considerably impacted by the increase in construction sites and infrastructure (Kuvan 2005; Kuvan and Akan 2005). Particularly affected are endemic species, such as the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and the monk seal (Monachus monachus) (Burak et al. 2004; Tosun and Caliskan 2011; Blue Plan 2012). Even though marine turtles are a protected species in Turkey, their existence is threatened by mass tourism development, mainly due to the night lights and sand extraction (Kuvan 2005: 271; De Stefano 2004). In fact, in 1998, a WWF survey found that the ecosystems of 40 % of the Turkish Mediterranean coastline were seriously damaged by tourism development (De Stefano 2004: 29).

 
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