Addressing Invasive Alien Species Threats at Key Marine Biodiversity Areas

Lion Fish (Pterois miles), ©Prof. Dr. Cemal TURAN

What is the project about?

Turkey’s coastline stretches 8,333 km, bordering four different major seas: the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara and Black Seas. These extensive marine ecosystems support Turkey’s overall high level of marine biodiversity. In total, nearly 5,000 plant and animal species have been identified in Turkey’s marine waters. Invasive Alien Species (IAS) have been identified by the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs (MFWA) as one of the principal threats to Turkey’s marine biodiversity. Approximately 450 IAS have been reported on the coasts of Turkey. In the 2011 national review of IAS in marine waters it was found that 66% of the total IAS in Turkey’s coastal waters arrived via the Suez Canal, while 30% arrived via ship transport.

The project strategy follows three-stage hierarchical approach for addressing IAS outlined by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): prevention, control, and mitigation. The long-term project goal is to minimize negative impacts of IAS in support of conservation Turkey’s globally significant native marine biodiversity. The project aims to ensure resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems through strengthened capacities and investment in prevention, detection, control and management of Invasive Alien Species.

What has been the situation?

In total, nearly 5,000 plant and animal species have been identified in Turkey’s marine waters. Some 472 species of marine fish have been identified, of which 50% are believed to be at risk of decline due to a combination of threats. While the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey have higher biological diversity, the Black Sea has historically supported substantially more productive fisheries. The Black Sea has a lower salinity level (surface water: 18‰), and the number of species living in it is only 20% of the number that live in saline water (> 34‰) of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. The difference in diversity is due partly to the fact that the continental shelf of the Black Sea is very narrow and deep water (>150 m) is azoic due to the presence of hydrogen sulphide, which limits the abundance and species variability of benthos. The Aegean Sea and its islands contain abundant microhabitats – including those dominated by seagrasses and algae (Posidonia oceanica and Cystoseira spp., coralligenous) – which play an important role in the sustainability of the ecosystem.

Invasive Alien Species (IAS) have been identified by Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, as one of the principal threats to Turkey’s biodiversity and coastal development, and are considered to be one of the principal causes for marine and coastal biodiversity loss in the country. This vulnerability is mainly due to the fact that Turkey is surrounded by three different marine environments, with high endemism but at the same time having high risk of entry of IAS. Currently, approximately 450 IAS have been reported along the coast of Turkey and 21 species in the Turkish Black Sea.

There are two major pathways for IAS into Turkey’s marine waters: The Suez Canal (opened in 1869), and “ship-mediated transport” (commonly through transport of ballast water, but also possible via external adhesion (hull fouling) or other ship-related means). In the 2011 national review of IAS in marine waters (Cinar et al, 2011), it was found that 66% of the total IAS in Turkey’s coastal waters arrived via the Suez Canal, while 30% arrived via ship transport. As stated in the review, the majority of species (306 species, 76% of total number of species) have become established in the area, while 59 species are classified as casual (15%), 23 species as questionable (6%) and 13 species as cryptogenic (3%). One new alien species was introduced to the coasts of Turkey every 4 weeks between 1991 and 2010. The majority of aliens were found on soft substratum (198 species) in shallow waters (0-10 m) (319 species). Some species such as Caulerpa cylindracea, Amphistegina lobifera, Amphisorus hemprichii, Rhopilema nomadica, Mnemiopsis leidyi, Hydroides spp., Ficopomatus enigmaticus, Charybdis longicollis, Rapana venosa, Asterias rubens, Siganus spp. and Lagocephalus sceleratus show a highly invasive character, and have great impacts both on the prevailing ecosystems and humans.

What is our mission?

The project aims to minimize the negative impacts of Invasive Alien Species in order to support the conservation of the globally significant native biodiversity of Turkey’s coastal and marine ecosystems. The project aims to ensure resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems through strengthened capacities and investment in prevention, detection, control and management of Invasive Alien Species. The project also seeks to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, to the extent relevant and feasible within the scope of the project. In order to achieve the project objective, and address the barriers, the project’s intervention has been organized into three components

How are we doing this?

The project will achieve its objective through working on three components.

Component 1. Effective national policy framework on marine Invasive Alien Species

  • Regulations on introduction, early detection, prevention and management of IAS in marine and coastal wetland ecosystems developed and submitted for adoption. 

  • Main pathway and vectors for IAS identified
  • Protocols and quarantine mechanisms consistent with bio-security requirements and international standards for IAS in marine and coastal wetland ecosystems in place
  • Fiscal incentives introduced for effective removal of IAS (e.g. Lion fish, Balloon fish) in marine and coastal wetland ecosystems (to encourage selective fishing and removal of IAS by fishers) jointly with MFAL.
  • Regulations and standards on control, minimization and removal of IAS from ballast water developed jointly with MTMAC and put for enforcement
  • Sustainability and Replication mechanism: National Strategy and Action Plan on IAS in marine and coastal wetland ecosystems developed and approved to inform future actions on identifying priority habitats and species to be protected, evaluating financial and socio-economic effects of action/inaction for marine and freshwater IAS based on a thorough cost/benefit analysis.

Component 2. Capacity building, knowledge and information sharing systems to address the IAS threats

  • Inter-sectoral multi-stakeholder Advisory Technical Board under Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs with increased capacity to deal with IAS prevention, early detection, rapid response, management and eradication
  • Information system with official list of prohibited IAS, modules on risk analysis, early warning response and monitoring for IAS in marine and coastal ecosystems is in use by government regulators. The system enables a comprehensive inventory and monitoring of IAS threats at the most sensitive marine and coastal habitats and species (posidonia meadows, coralligenous, sea turtles, anchovy, mussel, oyster), as well as measures to detect and prevent entry of risky IAS at key points of entry.
  • Engagement with shipping industry, and transport and customs sectors, on implementation of regulations and standards on control, minimization and removal of IAS from ballast water; and on procedures for regulating the entry of species for ornamental and aquaculture purposes to mitigate the introduction of marine and freshwater IAS.
  • Increased knowledge and awareness on IAS threats, impacts, management options and best practices for relevant industries, enterprises (aquaculture, transport, custom, tourism, etc.) media, security forces (gendarme), schools etc. through a comprehensive national communication, outreach program and delivery of community training

Component 3. Investment in sustainable management, prevention, eradication, and control of IAS and restoration of IAS- degraded habitat at key marine and coastal areas

  • Management plans designed and launched for 4 areas (İğneada, Kırklareli; Marmara Islands, Balıkesir; Ayvalık Islands, Balıkesir; Samandağ, Hatay) with identification of site-specific measures for prevention, ensure eradication, control and management of IAS
  • Measures to detect, control spread of IAS at the target sites in collaboration with local communities, and targeted restoration of ecosystems degraded as a result of IAS.
  • Support for the recovery of native species disturbed by IAS at selected sites

How will Turkey benefit?

The project has a three-stage hierarchical approach, combined with the 15 guiding principles for the prevention, control, and mitigation of impacts from IAS that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species. The three-stage hierarchical approach relates to the prevention, control, and mitigation of IAS and their negative impacts on native ecosystems and species. The specific implementation of each of these approaches depends on the particular characteristics of each IAS and the corresponding characteristics of native species and the type of habitat targeted.

This first part of the theory of change is expected to directly reduce the rate of new IAS introductions into Turkey’s marine water in the future. This will be achieved by increasing the capacity of the Government of Turkey to implement the Ballast Water Convention and the National Ballast Water Management Strategy. Monitoring and controlling ballast water will significantly reduce the risk of new IAS introductions. With fewer new marine IAS introductions there will be fewer negative impacts on native biodiversity, as well as fewer negative economic and social impacts along Turkey’s coasts.

The second part of the theory-of-change relates to the control of IAS already present in Turkey’s marine ecosystems. The project addresses this strategy through multiple outputs, while incorporating a majority of the CBD’s guiding principles. The project will pilot control measures at four sites in key marine ecosystems distributed among Turkey’s four major bordering seas, the Black Sea, Marmara Sea, Aegean, and Mediterranean (Levantine sub-region). The control part of the strategy works at both the national and local levels. At the national level, the project will improve national institutional coordination for control of marine IAS throughout all of Turkey by establishing an inter-institutional coordination mechanism involving all key national stakeholder institutions. Primarily this will include MoFWA, MoTMAC, and MFAL, as well as potentially the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance. The project will also develop a national strategy on addressing marine IAS, which will be integrated with the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. The national strategy on marine IAS will include gender mainstreaming considerations, as relevant. In addition, the project will improve knowledge management related to marine IAS, in order for key stakeholders to have an improved understanding of the status of marine IAS, and improve capacities to enforce regulations and other control measures related to marine IAS. At the site level, the project will develop marine IAS management plans involving all key local stakeholders (including women’s groups representatives). The project also plans to provide capacity strengthening support for IAS management and control at both the national and local levels, through training, improved management procedures and mechanisms (e.g. site-based IAS working groups), and necessary equipment. Both the prevention and control strategies will be implemented through the project’s education and awareness activities, which will increase the understanding of the marine IAS problem, and recognition of means to address marine IAS amongst local authorities, targeted user groups, and the general public. Finally, the project will also undertake some direct control measures to minimize negative impacts of marine IAS, and strengthen native biota and ecosystems. The direct control measures will be implemented through the fiscal incentive mechanisms to be piloted by the project; these mechanisms will be structured to leverage local resource user efforts in order to physically remove targeted marine IAS that have significant negative impacts on native biodiversity and ecosystems. It is anticipated that these efforts will primarily target the veined whelk (Rapana venosa), North Atlantic seastar (Asterias rubens), and lionfish (Pterois spp.).

Status:

Ongoing

Project start date:

January 2018

Estimated end date:

December 2023

Focus area:

  • build resilience to shocks and crisis
  • Project office:

    UNDP in Turkey

    Implementing partner:

    Min. of Forest and Wat. Aff.

    Funding Support by

    Donor name

  • Global Environment Fund Truste
  • Amount contributed

    $373,187

    Delivery in previous fiscal year

    2019 $62,935

    2018 $40,600

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