Sand dune - Country Report, Turkey

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Original Authors: Turhan Uslu and Albert Salman, updated with a map derived from Turhan Uslu ( by J Patrick Doody, December 2007


The coastline of Turkey has a length of 8,333 km. Originally about 110 sand dune systems existed with a total length of 845 km (c10% of the Turkish coastline) and a total surface of 36,600 ha (0.046% of Turkey), but the systems were rapidly disappearing. There are some very old dune systems (including fossil dunes from early post-glacial periods), while others are still developing around river mouths.


Almost all the dune systems form in the immediate vicinity of rivers, sometimes as part of a large delta system. They may lie between the sea and lakes (lagoons). The west-east orientation of the main mountain chains has been important for the distribution of the dune systems. The high mountains of the Black Sea coast and the Toros Mountains along the Mediterranean, together with their big rivers, have resulted in large, mostly longshore sandbanks and dunes. These include the major systems of Çukurova and Göksu along the Mediterranean and Bafra and Çaramba along the Black Sea. The longest dune system is found around the Sakarya River and runs for approximately 55 km. Along the Aegean coast, most dune systems are formed in shallow bays.

Three very distinctive types of dunes are formed in deltas, on coastal plains and in bays. The maximum height (about 50 m) as well as the maximum width (4.3 km) is found in S.W. Turkey (Kalkan-Ovagelemi). Many different dune forms are present, e.g. huge beach plains with embryo dunes, parabolic dunes, blowouts, dune slacks, lakes, secondary barchans and many dune fields. Important halophytic areas, saltmarshes and lagoons are found in and around many dune sites. In the Mediterranean systems the calcium carbonate content is very high, while siliceous sands prevail along the Black Sea and Marmara.


At least 525 plant species are found in the dune areas (excluding saltmarshes). 23 of these are endemic species, while another 71 are rare or threatened with extinction. The vegetation is very xerophytic and includes many maquis species in the scrub zone. Many of the associations are also endemic, although only on north west Turkish coasts where there are 13 endemic associations. Almost all the communities are influenced by grazing, especially along the Mediterranean. In most of the areas the following zonation can be observed:

Strandline. Cakile maritima, Salsola kali, Euphorbia peplis and Xanthium strumarium (Cakiletea maritimae) is the predominant vegetation;

Foredune. The vegetation includes Ammophila arenaria, Eryngium maritimum, Medicago marina, Cyperus capitatus, Otanthus maritimus, Pancratium maritimum, Euphorbia paralias and Elymus farctus (Ammophiletea);

Dune grassland Heavily grazed, often cultivated, flat grasslands occur with Bromus tectorum, Hordeum murinum, Lagurus ovatus, Cynodon dactylon, Plantago cretica, Paronychia argentea and Asphodelus microcarpus;

Dune heath

Erica manipuliflora and E. arborea are the most frequent species;

Dune slack

These often species-rich areas include Trachomitum venetum, Inula viscosa, Schoenus nigricans, Holoschoenus vulgaris, Phyla nodiflora, Mentha aquatica, Orchis palustris and Phragmites australis;

Dune scrub

In some areas, vegetation with species such as Sarcopoterium spinosum, Verbascum sinuatum and Lavandula stoechas occurs in lower areas in between dune ridges. More typically, the vegetation is composed of the Quercetea ilicis, which includes species such as Rhamnus oleoides, Pistacia lentiscus, Osyris alba, Myrtus communis, Phillyrea latifolia, Vitex agnus-castus, Nerium oleander and Daphne gnidioides;


Along the Mediterranean coasts Pinus brutia and P. pinea forest is normal. In northwest Turkey other types of woodland occur, for example with Juniperus oxycedrus ssp. macrocarpa.

In areas where salt water comes to the surface or where seawater influences the edge of the dune, a variety of halophytic vegetation occurs. This includes pioneer vegetation with Juncus maritimus, Salicornia europaea, Cressa cretica and Halocnemum strobulaceum; vegetation of halophytic plains with Phragmites australis, Juncus maritimus and Artemisia santonicum and saltmarsh proper with Arthrocnemum fruticosum, Limonium virgatum, Junçus acutus, Puccinellia convoluta and Aeluropus littoralis.


The map shows the distribution of the major coastal dune systems around 1970. The sites included in the list are over 100 ha and still relatively intact geomorphologically.


01. Turunçlu - Dörtyol 861

02. Çukurova Delta 8073

03. Göksü Delta 1426

04. Finike-Yeniceköy 600

05. Kale-Beymelek 339

06. Gavuragili-Gelemis 1679

07. Tuzla 183

08. Dalyanköy-Poyraz 322

09. Bozcaada 200

10. Kumburnu 104

11. Abdürrahim 252

12. Bayramtepe-Esence 626

13. Durusu (Terkos) 2044

14. Akpinar 1409

15. Kumköy (Kilyos) 522

16. Karaagaç-Melen 1818

17. Sarikum 304

18. Alaçam-Balik Gölü 1879

19. Asaragac - Sakarli 2175

20. Ordu-Güngören 217

There is no information available on adjacent habitats or protected status for individual sites. An update of this information is available for a few sites:

The Kizilirmak Delta is located on the Black Sea shore in the province of Samsun in north Turkey. The dunes contain significant areas of Mediterranean shrubland;

The Göksu Delta is located at the mouth of the Göksu River on the Mediterranean Sea, between Silifke and Taşucu, in Içel Province on the eastern coast of Turkey;

The Akyatan Lagoon is located on the Mediterranean shore in the Karataş district in the province of Adana, 48 km south of the city of Adana.

From the Ramsar Sites Information Service @


Overgrazing, especially by goats, has been the most important influence on the vegetation of almost all dune systems for centuries. When combined with burning by shepherds, this has resulted in enormous damage to vegetation, which in turn has often led to erosion and deflation of the dune system.

Afforestation projects, partly designed to stabilise the dunes, began on a small scale in 1885. However, it was not until 1970 when major afforestation took place. Nowadays, many projects are carried out and they are continuing on a massive scale. Between 1961 and 1990, 10,672 ha of coastal dune (29% of the Turkish coastal dunes) were afforested. There is a new 5,000 ha afforestation project in Yumurtalik (Çukurova), which threatens to destroy the surviving dune vegetation in this area. Natural vegetation is removed and replaced mostly by Acacia cyanophylla and Eucalyptus camaldulensis (both exotic), while Pinus pinea has been commonly used in recent years. Pinus maritima, Cupressus sempervirens, Spartium junceum, Robinia pseudoacacia and Tamarix smyrnensis are also planted. These projects are very harmful to the plant communities and species diversity. If afforestation is necessary, it should only be carried out with local dune scrub species, many of which are adapted to the dune environment.

Many dune fields have been, or are being brought into cultivation, mostly since 1970. There are also many projects for horticulture, and sand extraction increased during the same period for soil improvement, buildings and industrial complexes. Several thousand hectares have suffered considerable damage in this way. A growing number of dune systems have suffered from road construction, especially since the massive tourism and residential building boom in the 1980s. At least 5,000 ha have been destroyed. Through the combination of these developments, only about 30 out of the original 110 dune areas surveyed (27%) are left relatively intact. Since 1980 approximately 1,000 ha of dunes and beaches have been destroyed each year. This destruction and the growing tourist pressure on beaches have resulted in a serious threat to monk seals and marine turtles (e.g. the endangered loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta and the green turtle, Chelonia mydas).

Original Contact: Prof. Dr. T. Uslu, web site @