The Project “Technical Assistance for Strengthening the National Nature Protection System for Implementation of Natura 2000 Requirements” officially ended on the 6th of September 2018 and the successful 36-month implementation period was celebrated with an event at the Bilkent Hotel in Ankara with the participation of more than 200 people.
Following the opening speech by the Team Leader, Begona Matilla Soloaga; Mr. Tibor Sztaricskai, Deputy Head of Economic and Social Development Sector, EU Delegation to Turkey, continued with his speech by introducing IPA I and IPA II programs and emphasised how important the Project was for Turkey.
Mr. Yusuf Kandazoğlu, Director General of Nature Conservation and National Parks, later took the floor to summarise the nature protection history of Turkey and thanked the Project Management Team, Professors who contributed to project’s tasks, the Technical Assistance Team and all other participants who were present at the event. The last speaker, Mr. Rıfat Ünal Sayman, Director of REC, mentioned his experience during the study-visit to Hungary and thanked all participants for contributing to the success of the Project.
During the second session of the Event, Ms. Matilla Soloaga summarised the main outputs and achievements of the project, which mainly focused on providing technical assistance to Turkey in order to improve its technical capacity for the selection and implementation of Natura 2000.
As The Habitats and Birds Directives are the cornerstones of nature conservation in the EU and the main conservation features for Natura 2000, all member/candidate states as well as Turkey are obliged to select special protection areas for birds listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive and the sites of community importance following the provisions of the Habitats Directive.
Once these reference lists are prepared (one list of each of the three biogeographical regions in Turkey), the second necessary step in the project was to establish a sound methodology for the selection of Natura 2000. In accordance with this aim, the Standard Data Forms for all the potentially selected Natura 2000 sites in the pilot area of Central Anatolia (34) were also produced, instead of the 6 sample SDFs required by the ToR.
The SDFs were completed with individual maps of each of the potential Natura 2000 sites, in order to provide the Beneficiary with the necessary documentation required by the European Commission when presenting a proposal of Natura 2000 sites. Moreover, a database compatible with both Natura 2000 databases in the EU and the Turkish biodiversity database ‘Noah’s Ark’ was also created in order to allow the storage and processing of the huge amount of data that the selection of Natura 2000 sites in Turkey will generate.
During the project’s implementation period, more than 45 events were organised that aimed to improve the capacity of the Beneficiary and other stakeholders regarding Natura 2000 and the EU Nature Conservation Directives; 4 study-visits were taken in order for the Beneficiary to learn from the experience in the implementation of Natura 2000 from different member states.
Representatives of 12 Turkish universities, as well as different environmental NGOs, 133 EU experts from 14 countries and more than 50 Turkish experts participated in the project during its 36-month period.
The project has provided Turkey with all the necessary tools to start the selection of Natura 2000 sites in the three Biogeographical regions occurring in the Country, and for the proposal of amendments to Annexes I and II in the Habitats Directive. The Reference Lists of Habitats and Species of Community Interest in Turkey, the Interpretation Manual of Habitat Types in Turkey, the checked methodology for the selection of Natura 2000 sites integrating the SCP approach and Natura 2000 criteria and the Natura 2000 Database, will allow Turkey to fulfil its obligations and to exercise its rights as a candidate country to the EU in regards to nature conservation.
Other methodologies and tools created by the project include the Tablet System for the field inventory of distribution of habitat types and the methodology for the production of predictive modelling of habitats distribution, which has proven to be of great help not only for the completion of the Tasks in the project, but also as cost-effective methodologies to allow the selection of Natura 2000 sites in the whole Turkish territory in a relatively short time at a relatively low cost.
Moreover, the increasing of capacity in the Beneficiary institution and the scientific community for the selection and implementation of Natura 2000, has also been remarkable throughout the project’s life.
Taking advantage of the momentum created by the project by continuing with the Natura 2000 process in the short term, will not only guarantee the sustainability of the project’s results, but also the improvement of the Turkish network of natural protected areas, the fulfilment of Turkish obligations and the exercising of its rights regarding nature conservation as a candidate country to the EU.