TR060
Eastern Black Sea Mountains This is an IBA in danger! 


Year of compilation: 2016

Site description
The mountains, which begin from the coast line, are relatively low to the west and increase in height to the east. They reach their peak at 3932 meters which is the fourth highest peak of Turkey. There are many peaks above 3000 meters in the region. A few examples are: Deveboynu Hills (3082 m), Soğanlı Mountains (3376 m), Altıparmak Mountain (3499 m), Demir Mountain (3188 m), Güngörmez Mountain (3523 m), Kurt Mountain (3224m) and Gül Mountain (3348 m).
The northern slopes of the mountain are steep along the sea side. Many watercourses and seasonal streams flow from the deep valleys into the sea in the south-north direction, establishing waterfalls. Small glacier lakes and a series of small glaciers are found at the higher levels of the mountain. The mountains stretch steeply, meet the East Anatolian plateau and the Çoruh Valley to the south. The level of heights to the south change between 200 and 1500 meters.
The Eastern Black Sea Mountains are the highest rainfall receiving area of Turkey with an annual rainfall as high as 2500 millimeters. As the altitude increases, temperature differences from warm to cold are experienced. The different geological structure of the region, the amount of rainfall, the temperature differences have resulted in the diversity of habitats and species.
Eken et al. 2006

The region, which is the largest protection area in Turkey, consists of a mountain series mostly in the form of alkaline volcanic rocks, about 250 kilometers in length and includes the Eastern Black Sea coast line. The western border of the region is drawn by the Harşit Stream, the southeastern by the Çoruh River, the eastern by the Karçal Mountains and the Georgian border.
Eken et al. 2006


Key biodiversity
This IBA combines two former IBAs (Kaçkar Dağları [IBA no. 13] and North-east Turkey [IBA no. 16]) but also extends further west and east of these sites. The site includes a major bottleneck of migratory birds of prey (the Çoruh Valley and many other valleys that raptors use to cross the mountain range), as well as three major mountain ranges (Soğanlı, Kaçkar, and Karçal) noted for their extensive forests and extensive alpine habitats (representing a fine example of Eurasian high montane habitat). A number of newly discovered sites that would have qualified as IBAs in their own right have been included within this IBA, emphasizing the fact that the area is of uniform character and that conservation of the area requires a large scale approach. A combination of varied geology, great altitudinal range and distinctive climate (the area has the highest precipitation in Turkey, in places over 2000 mm annually) has resulted in an exceptional vegetation and a wide range of habitats. The climax community at low altitudes is Colchic forest, varying from deciduous forest at low altitudes to Colchic forest at higher altitudes. Above the tree line, extensive alpine grasslands (yayla) and slopes covered with Rhododendrorı and Juniperus scrub prevail, whilst the highest areas are characterised by massive cliffs, rocky scree and rıumerous lakes. The main mountain ridge marks the boundary between the wet Euxine vegetation on the Black Sea slopes and much drier vegetation in the rain shadow area to the south. To the south, Pinus nigra and P. sylvestris dominate the upper slopes, whilst Quercus scrub and open forest dominate the lower slopes. Extensive, largely unvegetated, rocky slopes occur, particularly in the gorge of the Çoruh river (noted for a very rich flora, with exceptionally high endemism).
The area has a very rich flora: ca. 2500 species of vascular plants occur, including 160 endemics to the region. Large mammals are well represented, including Brown Bear Ursus arctos, Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra, lbex Capra aegagrus, Wolf Can is lupus, Wild Cat Felix silvestris and Lynx Lynx lyrıx. The area is also important for a number of amphibians and reptiles, and at least three species of Viper are recorded, including the endemic Vipera pontica which is found only in the Çoruh Valley near Artvin. In addition the area is known for its wide range of butterfly taxa.
"The area qualifies for its breeding populations of Lammergeier (20 pairs), Griffon Vulture (20 pairs), Black Vulture (10 pairs), Golden Eagle (10 pairs), Caucasian Black Grouse (the Turkish distribution of vvhich is confined to this IBA) and Caspian Snowcock. During 1993 a survey revealed the presence of 134 lekking male Caucasian Black Grouse at six of the seven localities studied. Given the small area surveyed and the wide availability of suitable habitat (yaylas with Rhododendron or Juniperus scrub at 1800-3000 m), the entire population in the IBA may exceed one thousand pairs.
North-east Turkey is best known for the vast numbers of raptors that migrate through the area. The mountains and sea force them to follow the north-south oriented valleys, and staggering numbers of raptors have been observed at these bottlenecks. The most complete autumn count (in 1976) produced 380,220 birds including Honey Buzzard (138,000), Black Kite (5775) and Buzzard (205,000), but the actual number of birds migrating through the IBA may actually be much higher as important new passage points have been discovered in recent years. Spring passage involves smaller numbers of birds (max. 205,131 during an 8 week count in 1994) including Honey Buzzard (25,183), Black Kite (9069) and Buzzard (136,327).
The Doğu Karadeniz Dağları is the only Turkish site that qualifies as a Eurasian High Montane (Alpine) biome.
Magnin & Yarar 1997


Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Unplanned settlement, highway construction, increasing plateau tourism, dam construction, creation of agricultural fields.
Eken et al. 2006


Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
A total of 133,109 ha of the IBA has protection status. Two National Parks (designated in 1994) are located within the IBA: Hatila Vadisi (17,104 ha) and Kaçkar Dağları (51,550 ha). Other protected areas are the Çamburnu Nature Reserve (180 ha, 1993), the Uzungöl Nature Park (1625 ha, 1989), the Çoruh Vadisi Permanent Wildlife Reserve (8700 ha, 1971), the Verçenik Permanent Wildlife Reserve (50,458 ha, 1980), the Şavşat Balıklı Permanent Wildlife Reserve (3492 ha, 1981), and the Kaçkar Permanent Wildlife Reserve (4143 ha, 1973) which falls within the Kaçkar Dağları National Park. The area is one of the few areas in Turkey where no major hydrological engineering schemes have been implemented. However, large dams are planned on the Çoruh river and construction of one of these (the giant, 2118 GWh/p.a. Deriner dam near Artvin) is set to commence very soon. Virtually every stream in the area has been subject to development plans. For example, the Fırtına valley (Çamlıhemşin) has no less than 6 regulators, 6 dams and 10 hydro-power stations planned on its course. Obviously large scale water manipulation schemes could have far-reaching consequences for the natural habitats in the area (flooding, climatic change, access roads, construction) and each project should be subject to criticial assessment before being given official permission. According to a 1995 study by DHKD (based on 1984 figures), of 913,000 ha of forest within the Trabzon and Artvin Forestry Regions, only 12% can be classified as ""old growth forests"" i.e. largely intact primary forests. The remainder has been degraded as a result of commercial patterns of felling and harvesting. DHKD has made detailed recommendations to the Ministry of Forestry for changes in management techniques that would lead to preservation of the remaining old growth forests. As a result of its rich geology, the area has long attracted mining companies. A number of mines have long been operational, such as the copper mine at Göktaş. Pollution is a very major problem in the vicinity of the mines, with severe effects on vegetation and wildlife: the Çoruh river is devoid of fish from the point where the Göktaş mining sewage enters its course. Preliminary work has started to mine gold near Artvin, just outside the Hatila Vadisi National Park. During 1987, DHKD and BirdLife International carried out a study into the local tradition of falconry. The raptors which follow the ""eastern Black Sea Route” are subject to heavy persecution by local people. Trappes employ Red-backed Shrikes to lure migrating Sparrowhawks into their nets, and the trapped Sparrowhawks are kept mainly as pets, whilst very few are trained and used to hunt migratory Quail. There is little trade in the Sparrowhawks. After a few weeks most of the birds are released but probably too late in the year for them to continue their migration and it is feared that most of the birds die during the course of the winter. In addition to the Sparrowhawks, a large number of other raptors die because they are shot and trapped, and then fed to the decoy birds. The total number of raptors that perish in the course of the event is estimated at 25,000 annually. DHKD has carried out a number of educational activities in the main trapping area, including an extensive school programme (funded by BirdLife Netherlands) during autumn 1994.
DHKD has run a WWF International-funded conservation project in the area since 1993. The project aims to prepare recommendations for establishing a system of protected areas in the region and to integrate development with nature conservation. The project, which is operated in conjunction with the Ministry of Forestry and based at the Forestry Research Institute in Trabzon, identified the Fırtına valley as a suitable site for a pilot project on sustainable forest management practices.


Protected areas
National Park, Nature Protection Area, Nature Park, Nature Monument, VVildlife Development Area, Specially Protected Area, Natural Site, Archeological Site.
Eken et al. 2006


Habitat and land use
The area contains many different types of habitats. These habitats, to the south from the north, can be summarized as: A Coastal ecosystem consisting of rocky cliffs and sand dunes, watercourses lined by humid flora, agricultural fields, broad-leaved woodland in lower altitudes (beech, hombeam, chestnut, Calabrian red pine), coniferous trees as the altitude increases (eastern spruce, eastern black sea fir, scotch pine), mixed high altitude mountain forests, Rhododendron spp. within the forest zone and above the forest border, bushes, peatland, high mountain steppes, some alpine lakes and steep rocky cliffs at the highest peaks.
Although the forests have been transformed into tea and hazelnut fields at lower altitudes, the naturally old forests continue to exist at higher altitudes and on steeper slopes. Broad-leaved woodland with Castanea sativa and Quercus petrea ssp. iberica are seen up till 800-900 meters. These forests also include Carpirıus betulus and Fagus orientalis. Broad-leaved forests, chestnut and oak forests, are dominant with the eastern beech until 1700 meters.
Picea orientalis begin to be seen as individuals at 900 meters and following 1500 meters they become wide and pure stands.
After the forest border at 1700-2000 meters, thick bushes dominant with Rhododendron caucasicum can be seen. The high mountain steppes, with many endemic species, are present between 2000 and 3100 meters. The steep rocky cliffs, above the high mountain steppes, are covered with snow most of the year and they are rich in terms of rare and endemic plant species.
Especially the Ikizdere-Çağırankaya small peatland lakes and the Ağaçbaşı plateau in the Soğanlı Mountains contain peatland with rare plant species. Humid watercourse forests and alluvial forests, dominant with Alnus glutinosa, are seen along the mountain series.
The Fırtına Valley holds one of the best examples of the pure Buxus semperuirens forests of Turkey; the Çimil and Kabahor valleys in the upper part of ikizdere; the Hopa Çamburunu where the Pinus syluestris grows at sea level; the mountains and peaks of Artvin together with Gümüşhane Örümcek, ali have naturally old forests containing monumental trees. These are ali examples of the unique habitats existing within this ecoregion.
The slopes of the Southern region hold a less humid climate. This region also includes Black Sea forest zone plants together with Öksin and Irano-Turanian plants. 
The thin coastal strip is densely populated, with tea, corn and hazelnuts being the main crops. The area is an increasingly popular holiday destination for trekking, climbing and rafting, and several areas have been designated by the Ministry of Tourism as tourism development areas.
Eken et al. 2006


Land ownership




Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Eastern Black Sea Mountains. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/12/2020.