Poor Water Management, Increased Salt Production Threaten Flamingo Boom in Central Turkey


Flamingos in southern France. Photo: Andrea Schaffer / Creative Commons.

Heavy rainfall this year in Central Anatolia has been good for Turkey's flamingo population, which has been breeding in record numbers on Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake) near the city of Konya. But plans to ramp up salt production in the lake could leave the situation considerably less, well, rosy for the gangly pink birds.

"This year did not start off well for flamingos. Four thousand flamingo breeding pairs' nests in the Gediz Delta colony were destroyed by dogs. Thousands of flamingo chicks failed to hatch. The strongest hope left was Tuz Gölü," Süreyya İsfendiyaroğlu, a bird researcher and the science coordinator at Doğa Derneği (Nature Association) wrote for the Turkish-language newspaper Radikal.

Record Baby Boom For Flamingos on Tuz Gölü
The number of chicks hatching in Tuz Gölü had fallen as low as 1,000 in 2008 due to light rainfall and diversions to dams, İsfendiyaroğlu wrote, describing his excitement at seeing thousands of birds over the lake this year during a small-plane over-flight of the area. Surveys counted 16,000 young flamingos -- a record for the Mediterranean and West African region.

The flamingos aren't out of the woods yet, though. This year's record rains are just a respite for the lake, which had previously decreased in size by 60 percent over 18 years due to climate change, dams, and overuse of groundwater reserves, according to the newspaper Today's Zaman. Earlier this year, the World Wildlife Fund Turkey reported that half of the country's 2.5 million hectares of wetlands had been lost over the past 40 years due to poor water-management practices and water pollution.

Lake's Ecological Balance At Stake
Tuz Gölü is particularly threatened by plans to expand salt-harvesting areas on the lake, an engineering professor told the Anatolia news agency last month.

"Recent recovery in the water reserve of the lake is thanks to record rainfall. But water sources in the region are not well-managed," said Professor Semih Ekercin from Aksaray University. "The dam that was recently established on Peçeneközü River, the last aboveground water source for the lake, has weakened the lake's water reserve." Because of this, he said, increased salt production could irreparably damage the ecological balance of the lake, leaving one less safe haven for Turkey's flamingos.

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Tags: Animals | Birds | Turkey