30 January 2006

Threatened land snails of Istanbul

One of the land snail surveys we did during our 2004 summer expedition in Turkey was at a location west of Istanbul and consisting of limestone meadows north of a brackish water lake known as Küçükçekmece. The results of our survey just got published1.

Tim (left) and Francisco at one of our stations (C3) during the land snail survey of the Sazlı Dere (Reedy Creek) area in June 2004. (To properly view the Turkish characters set the encoding of your browser to Unicode, UTF-8.)

We found 24 species of land snails, 21 of which were native to our survey area. One unexpected find was Albinaria caerulea, a species that previously had been assumed to have been introduced to the Istanbul area. But based on its abundance and distribution pattern, we decided that it was actually native to our survey area. The list of all the species we found is in our paper.

Xerolenta obvia, a native of the istanbul area, aestivating on a lichen covered limestone rock.

In a 2003 book2 published by the Turkish branch of the World Wildlife Fund, this area was designated as an Important Plant Area under serious threat from development. Our observations and the photographs we took during our survey further support the imminent threat this unique area is facing. The creek had recently been dammed to provide water for the ever growing population of Istanbul. This, of course, flooded some of the valley, but there were still enough hills and rocks left for snails and other wildlife. The water basin surrounding the dam is protected, at least on paper, but the areas further away from the dam are rapidly disappearing under concrete and asphalt.

This low hill with limestone rocks was our last station (C12) during the survey. The lake in the background towards the south is Küçükçekmece. All around this hill there were residential buildings. We were probably the first and the last ones to collect snails there.

1. Örstan, A., Pearce, T.A. & Welter–Schultes, F. 2005. Land snail diversity in a threatened limestone district near Istanbul, Turkey. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation 28: 181-188. Download pdf copies from here or here.
2. Özhatay, N., Byfield, A. & Atay, S., 2003. Türkiye’nin Önemli Bitki Alanlari [Important Plant Areas in Turkey]. WWF Türkiye, Istanbul.

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