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Human beings adapt to their living environments and benefit from the opportunities offered by these environments as much as possible. It is possible to observe many examples of this situation. Almost every community gets familiar with the opportunities and boundaries of their natural environment and develops a life style parallel to these characteristics. In the mountainous regions of southern Turkey, these lifestyles sometimes include yaylas (high plateau or upland) and yayla activity, a type of transhumance where people traditionally move between environments in order to find adequate fodder and water for this grazing flock. An agreed definition and practice types of yayla and yayla activity in many parts of the world has not yet been made, but in Turkısh history and settlement culture, yayla and yayla activity practices have a profound role. Yayla activity is both a life style and one of the sources of cultural heritage. A number of researchers have introduced definitions for yayla settlements and yayla activities. The large distribution and regional characteristics of yaylas make it difficult to list all characteristics in a single definition. Therefore, in the present paper, regional and local characteristics were set aside and common characteristics were emphasized in definitions. Grazing areas in high places, where summers are cool and winter conditions are harsh in mountainous regions, are called yayla (İzbırak, 1992:339). When considered as a settlement place and economic activity area, yayla is defined as an area where groups of people living in separate settlements, with different socio-economic status migrate in certain parts of the year and carry out human and economic activities (Emiroğlu, 1977:9). The facts that animals are taken to high places kept and grazed there in plains and hillsides of mountain ridges for grazing in the arid summer season and are taken to coasts and valleys in winters led to introduction of the terms “yaylak” and “kışlak” (Darkot, 1968:131–132).
Natural Environment and Culture in the Mediterranean Region The Mediterranean Basin is located at the intersection of two major landmasses, Eurasia and Africa, which contributes to its cultural and high biodiversity. The greatest impacts have been deforestation, habitat fragmentation, intensive grazing and fires, and infrastructure development, especially on the coast, which have distinctly altered the landscape. In view of the valuable natural heritage there is a great need for weighing our ecological impact in order to achieve a balance between biodiversity conservation and human development and above all, how to maintain traditional rural livelihoods in a way that benefits biodiversity. This book synthesizes knowledge from many disciplines to throw some light on the unpredictability of forthcoming changes.