Bolkar Mountains This is an IBA in danger! 

Year of compilation: 2016

Site description
The high mountain fields (alpine zone) located in the middle of the mountain range stay covered with snow until the end of July and include glacier lakes. One of these lakes (Kara Lake) is home to the Rana holtzi, which lives only in this region in the world and is under the threat of extinction. The KBA is very rich in terms of wildlife. (Eken et al. 2006).

Bolkar Dağları (Mountains) comprises the huge massif, largely formed of hard Permo-Carboniferous limestones, that forms the insurmountable barrier between Central Anatolia and the Mediterranean coastline, and represents the second highest mountain group in the Taurus mountains after the Aladağlar.
The area is largely unprotected. The greatest threats come from the ongoing 'traditional' processes of depasturing stock - parts of the mountain are very heavily grazed - and collection of fuelwood. The construction of dams in some of the Southern gorges has caused localised destruction to these remarkable areas.
The Bolkars are mainly formed of Permo-Carboniferous limestones, many hundreds of metres thick, deposited in the ancient Sea of Tethys (Mesogea). At the end of the Mesozoic era, the Toros Mountains started tor ise and fold (along with the Alps), as the Tethys began to narrow, such that by the beginning of the Tertiary period the Toros chain had largely become dry land. Later (at the end of the Pliocene period) the Bolkar range moved southwards (together with the Aladağlar and Geyik ranges) as the Arabian Plate moved northwards into south-eastern Anatolia. The mountains rose yet further from the end of the Pliocene to the beginning of the Ouaternary. At certain periods during this history, periods of increased rainfall and river formation accelerated the formation of the karstic scenery seen today: the deep valleys and canyons (some 1500 m. deep), so characteristic of the Southern flanks of the mountain, formed underthese conditions. The landscape was further shaped during the last Ice Age, when the more elevated parts of the Bolkar range remained under a permanent snow (during this time the altitude of the snowline averaged 2780 m.). A series of cirques, assoriated with the main peaks, are perhaps the most obvious result of glaciation. A number of tarns have formed within these hollows, the principal two being Karagöl ('Black Lake', at 2590 m.) and Çiniligöl ('Tile Lake', 2660 m.).
The climate of the mountain range is highly varied. In general, the Southern slopes are subject to a montane Mediterranean climate, whilst the northerly slopes have a Continental climate more typical of Central Anatolia. In addition, someofthe deepest valleys on the Southern flanks have a humid microclimate, and are important both for populations of Euro-Siberian species, together with a number of relict species (most notably Flueggea anatolica).
(Byfield et al., 2010)

It is a large mountain range located between the Eastern Mediterranean Region and the Central Anatolian Plateau. Its location in the transition zone of two regions and its diversifıed geomorphological structure has made the Bolkar Mountains one of Turkey's most unique areas in terms of natural life and rare species (Eken et al. 2006).

The Bolkar Dağları (Mountains) comprises a monumental range of mountains that run for 70 km. in a south-west to north-easterly direction, and forms the apparently insurmountable barrier between the steppes of Central Anatolia and the Mediterranean coastline. The range rises gradually from west to east, reaching its maximum elevation in the north-east. Here, relatively large areas to the south-east of Maden village lie above 3000 m., and at 3524 m., Medetsiz Tepesi represent the second highest peak in the Toros mountains after the Aladağlar range to the North-east.

 (Byfield et al., 2010)

Key biodiversity
KBA is the one of the most peerless wildlife area of our country. There are special species of  many living beings in the area. There are approximately 300 Turkish endemic plant species in KBA. It is known that almost ten of them's ranges are bounded only by Bolkar Dağları.
It is also quite important site with regard to birds, especially raptors.
Some of the breeding raptors in the area are Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus), Bearded vulture (Gypaetos barbatus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Black kite (Milvus migrans), and Caspian snowcock (Tetraogallus caspius). Bolkar Dağları is also one of the most important mammal zone of our country. Wild goat (Capra aegagrus), Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx), Wooly dormouse (Dryomys laniger) and three different bat species make the area get KBA status. Moreover,  one of the most important species of Bolkar Dağları is Taurus Frog (Rana holtzi), which lives only in Bolkar Dağları in the world. 
This endemic living being, which lives in Kara Göl and Çinili Göl regions, is one of the most valuable specy of Bolkar Dağları.
KBA is also important for it's butterflies and damselflies. Two Turkish endemic butterflies live in Bolkar Dağları (Eken et al., 2006).

GLOBAL CONSERVATION CONCERN SPP. [16 TAXA] Alkanna pinardii [END, V], Asplenium reuteri [END,E], Astragalus aydosensis [END, V], Colchicum balansae [END, V], Consolida cruciata [END, I], Cyclamen cilicium [END, V], C. pseudibericum [END, V], Echinops mersinensis [END, V], Flueggea anatolica [END n/l], Galanthus nivalis ssp. cilicicus [END, V], Helichrysum peshmenianum [END, E], Iris junonia [END, V], Myosotis ramosissima ssp. uncata [END, I], Ophrys cilicica [END, V], Polygala inexpectata [END, V], Silene pompeiopolitana [END, E]

Achillea kotschyi ssp. canescens [END, R], A monocephala [END, K], A spinulifolia [END, R], Aethionema capitatum [END, R], A. cordatum [R], A. demirizii [END, R], A. glaucescens [END, K], A. huber-morathii [END, R], A. schistosum [END, R], Ajugapostii [END, R], Alchemilla paracompactilis [END, K], Alkanna aucherana [END, R], Allium alpinarii [END, R], A. decidum [END, R], A. gayi [END, R], Alyssum argyrophyllum [END, R], A. cilicicum [END, R], A. giosnanum [END, R], Anthemis fimbriata [END, R], A. oxylepis [END, R], A. pauciloba var. sieheana [END, R], Anthyllis vulneraria ssp. variegata [END, R], Arabis androsaceae [END, R], A aubretioides [END, R], Aristolochia cilicica [END, R], Asperula cilicica [END, R], A. stricta ssp. grandiflora [END, R], Astragalus chrysochlorus [END, R], A. goeznensis [END, R], A. plumosus var. akardaghicus [END, R], A. plumosus var. plumosus [END, R], A. stenosemioides [END, R], A. suberosus ssp. mersinensis [END, K], Brachypodium kotschyi [END, R], Campanula psilostachya [END, R], C. trachyphylla [END, R], Centaurea amanicola [END, R], C. antiochia var. praealta [END, R], C. calcitrapa ssp. cilicica [END, R], C. chrysantha [END, R], C. kotschyi var. kotschyi [END, R], C. sieheana [END, K], C. solstitialis ssp. carneola [END, R], Chamaecytisus drepanolobus [END, R], Cicer floribundum [END, R], Cicerbita brevirostris [END, R], Cirsium cilicicum [END, R], Corydalis solida ssp. tauricola [END, R], Cousinia ermenekensis [END, R], Crocus cancellatus ssp. cancellatus [END, R], C. reticulatus ssp. hittiticus [END, R], C. sieheanus [END, R], Dianthus elegans var. actinopetalus [END, R], Draba acaulis [END, R], D. elegans [END, R], Ebenus cappadocica [END, R], E. longipes [END, R], Echinophora carvifolia [END, R], Erodium cedrorum ssp. salmoneum [END, R], E. leucanthum [END, R], E. micropetalum [END, R], Euphorbia rhytidosperma [END, R], E. schottiana [END, K], Ferulago pachyloba [END, R], Festuca cataonica [END, R], Fritillaria aurea [END, R], Galium membranaceum [END, R], Gentiana boissieri [END, R], Gentianella holosteoides [END, K], Geranium Lasiopus [END, K], Gnaphalium leucopilinum [END, R], Gypsophita curvifolia [END, R], Helianthemum strickeri [END, K], Heptaptera cilicica [END, R], Heracleum pastinaca [END, R], Hesperis campicarpa [END, R], H. matronalis ssp. cilicica [END, R], Hyacinthella glabrescens [END, R], H. hispida [END, R], Hypericum crenulatum [END, R], H. kotschyanum [END, R], H. rupestre [END, R], H. vacciniifolium [END, R], Iris sprengeri [END, R], Isatis callifera [END, R], I. frigida [END, R], Johrenia alpına [END, f | R], Kitaibelia balansae [END, R], Lamium eriocephalum ssp. eriocephalum [END, R], L. garganicum ssp. nepetifolium [END, R], Lathyrus cilicicus [END, R], Linaria genistifolia ssp. polyclada [END, R], Linum anisocalyx [END, R], L. ciliatum [END, R], L. empetrifolium [END, R], Michauxia thyrsoidea [END, R], Micromeria cilicica [END, R], Minuartia anatolica var. scleranthoides [END, R], M. umbellulifera ssp. umbellulifera var. kurdica [END, R], Minuartia umbellu¬lifera ssp. umbellulifera var. umbellulifera [END, R], Omphalodes luciliae ssp. cilicica [END, R], Onosma angustissimum [END, R], Onriganum boissieri [END, K], O. micranthum [END, R], Ornithogalum alpigenum [END, R], Pastinaca zozimioides [END, K], Phryna ortegioides [END, R], Poa speluncarum [END, R], Potentilla pulvinaris ssp. argentea [END, R], P. pulvinaris ssp. pulvinaris [END, R], P. tauricola [END, R], Prenanthes glareosa [END, R], Reseda balansae [END, R], Rhamnus hirtellus [END, R], Salvia aucheri var. aucheri [END, R], S. Cilicica [END, R], S. modesta [END, R], S. quezelii [END, R], Scandix balansae [END, R], Scorzonera lacera [END, R], Scrophularia libanotica ssp. libanotica var. oligantha [END, R], Scutellaria rubicunda ssp. pannosula [END, R], Senecio farfarifolius [END, R], S. tauricolus [END, R], Serratula lasiocephala [END, R], Sideritis serratifolia [END, R], Silene caryophylloides ssp. stentoria [END, R], S. squamigera [END, R], Stachys annua ssp. cilicica [END, R], Tanacetum argenteum ssp. flabellifolium [END, R], Thlaspi cilicicum [END, R], T. elegans [END, R], Thymelaea cilicica [END, R], Thymus sipyleus ssp. sipyleus var. sipyleus [END, R], Tordylium elegans [END, R], Trigonella cilicica [END,R], T. rhytidocarpa [END, R],T.rigida[END,R],Tripleurospermum kotschyi [END, R], Valeriana bolkarica [END, R], Verbascum chlorostegium [END, R], V. cili¬cicum [END, R], V. cilicium [END, R], V. linearilobum [END, R], V. lyratifolium [END, R], V. meincheanum [END, R], V. tauri [END, R], Veronica bombycina ssp. bolkardaghensis [END, R], V. kotschyana [END, R], V. macrostachya ssp. sorgerae [END, R], V. surculosa [END, R], Viola crassifolia [END, R]

Allium calyptratum [R], A. Curtum [R], A. roseum [V], A. trifoliatum [R], Anthericum liliago [R], Arum dioscoridis var. liepoldtii [R], Colchicum stevenii [R], Eminium rauwotffii var. kotschyi [E], Eranthis hye¬malis [V], Erica sicula ssp. libanotica [V], Fritillaria acmopetala ssp. acmopetala [R], Hyacinthus orientalis [V], Ophrys fleischmanni [R], Ruscus aculeatus var. angustifolius [V], Scilla cilicica [R] (Byfield et al., 2010).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Dam construction, interventions in the water regime, grazing pressure, illegal wood cutting (Eken et al. 20006).

The main threat to the mountain massif stems from excessive levels of grazing, which have largely destroyed the vegetation structure, particularly over the high plateau areas of the mountain (for example, the Dömbelek Yaylası area). There is an urgent need to regulate grazing within the site, particularly in areas rich in endemics.
Forest cover in more accessible areas of the site has been severely reduced, and in some areas is largely destroyed, with only a handful of surviving individuals of Cedrus libani. There is an urgent need to regulate both fuelwood collection and grazing within such areas in order to encourage the natural regeneration of the forest cover.
Afforestation activities, conversely, are taking place at up to 2,900 m. In time, the dense growth of trees will in their own right lead to a loss of diversity, and the possible extinction of endemic taxa.
A number of developments affect limited, yet valuable, parts of the site. Increasing numbers of secondary homes are under coristruction, particularly assodated with the yayla settlements along the Southern flanks of the mountain massif. The recent construction of a small ski centre on the north-west side of Medetsiz Tepesi is likely to severely jeopardise the fragile high alpine area of the site, increasing access to unique high alpine vegetation. Water for the hotels is supplied from the two large glaical lakes, and may affect the aquatic and wetland vegetation of these water-bopdies, as well as rare species (most notably, the endemic frog Rana holtzii).
During the 1990s the Pozantı-Tarsus motorway was constructed through the Cilician Gates, but did not greatly damage the limestone cliff vegetation of the site. It is not known how increased pollution from vehicle exhaust will affect the vegetation of the site.

The population of Flueggea anatolica (a Tertiary relict with a remarkably disjunct distribution through the old world) numbers relatively few individuals and covers only about one hectare. At the time of its discovery a significant proportion of stems had been cut to make a sheep pen. Such activities should be discouraged, and the popula¬tion closely monitored (Byfield et al., 2010).

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
None (Eken, 2006).

Protected areas
None (Eken et al. 2006).

Bolkar Dağları is partly protected: The lakes are of the high peaks has been designated as the Karagöl, Çiniligöl and Meydan Yaylası Natural Heritage Area (Class I) on 7 October 1994. Two monumental tree individuals - the Ana Ardıç and Koca Katran - have been designated as Natural Mouments. The remainder of the mountain block receives no formal protection.
Centre of Plant Diversity: SWA No. 15, Isaurian, Lycaonian and Cilician Taurus.
Bern Convention Appendix I spedes: Alkanna pinardii, Silene pompeiopolitana.
Bern Convention Endangered Natural Habitats: 42.1952 - Eastern Taurus Cilician fir forests, 42.6643 - Taurus Pallas' pine forests, 42.85B1 - Southern Anatolian Aegean pine forests, 42.A351 - Montane Taurus Grecian juniper forests, 42.A43 - Anatolian stinking juniper woods, 42.B12 - Central Taurus cedar of Lebanon forests (Byfield et al., 2010).

Habitat and land use
The area includes the widest high mountain fields of the Mediterranean region. The southem slopes of the mountain contain different Mediterranean flora species. The deep canyons of the region contain a mild and humid microclimate. Therefore, they contain sub-tropical species not seen anywhere else in Turkey. The northern slopes have a Central Anatolian terrestrial climate. They contain mountain steppes and scarce forest cover (Eken et al. 2006).

The vegetation on the Southern flanks of the massif includes all the typical Mediterranean mountain vegetation types from Aegean Pine forest and maquis at low altitudes, through Black Pine, Cedar of Lebanon and Cilician Fır forests. The northern flanks are less diverse, and are typified by extensive montane steppe with scattered stands of Quercus pubescens. The subalpine and alpine zones, includes extensive, if overgrazed, montane plateau, together with cliff faces, glacial lakes and seepage mires associated with the highest peaks. The flora is extraordinarily rich. A total of 1685 plant taxa have been recorded, including approximately 323 Turkish endemics. No fewer than 183 nationally rare taxa have been recorded, but since the vast bulk of these are endemics (172) the overall total of rarities is likely to be considerably higher. As such the Bolkar Dağları represent one of the richest mountain areas of Turkey, and indeed Europe.
In general, the vegetation of the Southern slopes of the massif is Mediterranean in characteristic, with extensive maquis and coniferous forest at lower altitudes, topped by a vast exposed summit ridge. maquis scrub communities occurs from sea level to 500 m., and are dominated by Quercus coccifera, in association with other widespread species such as Ceratonia siliqua, Laurus nobilis, Olea europea and Pistacia lentiscus.
The forest vegetation on the Southern slopes is characterised by three separate zones. Between 500-1100 (-1200) m., Aegean Pine (Pinus brutia) is dominant, though replaced by Ouercus coccifera scrubland where the pine forest has been damaged or cleared. This woodland grades into upland Black Pine (Pinus nigra ssp. pallasiana) from 1100 to 1600 m.: this belt is not continuous, and is replaced by forests of Juniperus where the pine cover has been damaged or destroyed. Between around 1200 to 1700 m., Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) is also characteristic, with occasional individuals found as high as 2000 m. Again, these have suffered severely from cutting and overgrazing, to be replaced in many areas by a sparse cover of Juniperus excelsa. Finally, on north-facing slopes within the same altitudinal belt, Cilician Fir (Abies cilicica ssp. cilicica) is found. Whilst normally restricted to the southern flanks of the massif, this species extends through the Gülek Boğazı (pass) into the north-eastern parts of the range.

A series of deep canyons cut their way through the forested areas, particularly on the Southern slopes of the mountain. The most important of these have been created by the rivers known as the Cehennemdere and the Kadıncıkdere, together with a further two gorges cut by the Pozantı and Tarsus rivers at the extreme south-east corner of the range. The valley floors of the Cehennemdere and the Kadıncıkdere valleys are often as much as 1500 m. below the adjacent slopes and meadows. Accordingly extensive chasmophyte communities exist on the many high cliffs (with rare speries such as Hypericum rupestre). In addition, the valleys are influenced by a humid microclimate that has permitted the survival of vegetation types more typical of the Black Sea coastline. Thus, in the Kadıncık valley, well-developed stands of Ostrya carpinifolia (often in association with Taxus baccata) occur. Broad-leaved gallery forest spreads along the floor of the lower reaches of the Cehennemdere valley, and is dominated by Alnus orientalis var. orientalis, A. orientalis var. puberula, Cornus mas, C. sanguinea ssp. cilicica and Taxus baccata. These valleys are also exceptionally rich in narrow endemics: up to 30% of the flora is endemic, and includes very local species such as Ajuga postii, Echinops mersinensis and Flueggea anatolica. The latter is an endemic Tertiary relict, described in 1993, belonging to a genus whose closest relative grows in Pakistan (F. virosa).

The canyons are also of considerable importance for their monumental individuals of certain tree species, presumably surviving here due to the inaccessible nature of these valleys. At 2000 years old, a specimen of Juniperus foetidissima (the 'Ana Ardıç') in the Kadıncıkdere valley is the oldest tree so far identified in Turkey: it measures 25 m. in height, with a girth of 9 m. Additional monumental individuals are found in the Cehennemdere val¬ley: one sperimen of Cedrus libani (the 'Koca Katran'), 40 m. tall, with a girth of 7.5 m., is one of the oldest in Turkey (at 650 years old). In addition, a 1000-year-old J. foetidissima - known locally as Kocaardıç or 'Huge Juniper' - also occurs.

The two easternmost gorges - formed where the Pozantı Deresi and a tributary of the Tarsus Çayı cut their way deeply through the Toros Mountains, between the massive upland areas of the Bolkar and the Aladağlar - have been of exceptional importance over history as one of the three major passes through this mighty chain of mountains. The western gorge is crowned by the 'Pylae Ciliciae' - the Cilician Gates - the historic pass through which Cyrus and his 10,000 troops, and later Alexander the Great, passed during their respective campaigns against the Persians. A rock cut inscription within the Pass dates purportedly from the time of Alexander. More recently the old Tekir Yaylası- Tarsus road largely followed this route (although avoided the Gates themselves), although the railway follows the eastern cut, following the route of the Pozantı Deresi. Today, the new Pozantı-Tarsus motorway passes through the gorge. The Turkish name - Gülek Boğazı - is taken from the name of a castle that sits some 300 m. above the pass, and motorway passes through the gorge. The Turkish name - Gülek Boğazı - is taken from the name of a castle that sits some 300 m. above the pass, and named after a prominent Cilician family of that name. The sheer limestone rocks of the Gülek Boğazı has a long history of botanical exploration, attracted by its relative ease of access and its rich flora. More than 100 foreign and native botanists have contributed to its flora since the beginning of the nineteenth century, and for many plants the Gülek Boğazı represents their locus classicus. A number of species are either wholly or largely confined to this part of the IPA, notably Achillea mono- cephala, Asplenium reuteri, Cirsium cilicicum, Helianthemum strickeri, Hyacinthella hispida, Iris junonia, Verbascum cilicicum and V. cilicium.
High montane cushion steppe extends from the upper forest limit (typically at around 1800 m.) to around 2600 m., and is dominated by spiny cushion forming species, including Acantholimon ulucinum, Astragalus angustifolius, A. plumosus ssp. okardaghicus and Onobrychis cornuta. Grazing tolerant species such as Alopecurus vaginatus,
Asphodeline taurica, Ballota saxatilis ssp. saxatilis, Euphorbia kotschyana, Marrubium globosum ssp. micranthum, M. parviflorum ssp. parviflorum, Phlomis armeniaca, P. pungens, Verbascum flavipannosum, V. protractum, Vicia canescens ssp. gregaria and V. canescens ssp. latistipulata are common within this zone.
The vegetation on the northern parts of the mountain range largely comprises typical steppe, with highly localised stands of Ouercus pubescens (up to 1700 m.). In this area, the steppe above and below 1700 m., though superficially similar, shows important floristic differences. Whilst the upper section is typical high montane steppe (as above), the lower montane steppe is composed of different species of Acantholimon and Astragalus, most notably Acantholimon acerosum, Astragalus creticus and A. gummifer.

The alpine zone is associated with the principal limestone peaks (at over 2500 m.) and comprises a mosaic of vegetation types, depending on soil characteristics and degree of exposure. Rock, scree and exposed rocky summit ridge vegetation occurs on drier soils associated with the high peaks, and supports nationally rare species such as Draba acaulis, Gnaphalium leucopilinum, Lamium eriocephalum, L. garganicum ssp. nepetifolium and Vavilovia formosa. Meadow vegetation rich in members of the Cyperaceae and Juncaceae occurs over richer and permanently damp soils. A range of wetland vegetation types occur, associated with calcareous springs, along streamsides (with a notable dominance of Alchemilla and Epilobium species), and on flat ground adjacent to the lakes. Many alpine species of northern origin have survived in the region since the Ice Ages: examples include Botrychium lunaria, Cerastium cerastoides, Gentiana brachyphylta ssp. favratii, G. verna ssp. balcanica, Gentianella ciliata ssp. blepharophora, G. caucasea and Polygonum bistorta.
The flora of the Bolkar Dağları is exceptionally rich. The total recorded vascular plant flora numbers 1685 taxa - one-seventh of the overall Turkish flora - and of these no fewer than 323 taxa are Turkish endemics. As such, this mountain block perhaps has a richer diversity of plant species than any other in Turkey. Of the species that have been classified according to floristic element, the majority fail within the Mediterranean element (59%), but both Irano-Turanian (31%) and Euro-Siberian (10%) are also well represented

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bolkar Mountains. Downloaded from on 16/08/2022.