Constraints and Challenges to the Sustainable Wild-Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in Köprülü Kanyon National Park, Turkey

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Medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) have provided significant goods and services (e.g. food, primary medicine and herbal tea) for human well-being from prehistoric times up to the present. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) (2002) remarks that the majority of the world's population, particularly in developing countries, still depends on traditional medicine systems to provide its primary healthcare needs. In developed countries, traditional medicine has also been popular as an alternative treatment system because of the recognition of the benefits of herbal products. Moreover, MAPs have been important products for the local communities (particularly landless and poor people in developing countries) to generate cash income, and thereby to improve their livelihoods. These plants are used in a variety of sectors such as pharmacology, cosmetic, perfume and dyes. Consequently, the values of MAPs for human well-being are very high and therefore the demand for those species has increased at global level.

The high demand for MAPs at global level has created an international market, but also has begun to threaten the existence of approximately 4000 species. Some of the reasons for this are overexploitation, destruction of natural habitats, land conversion, lack of property rights, lack of regulations and standards for sustainable harvesting and generally the absence of a policy framework (Schippmann et al. 2006; Hamilton 2003; Medicinal Plant Specialist Group 2007). The long-term conservation and sustainability of MAPs is necessary for meeting the needs of present and future generations. Within this context, Köprülü Kanyon National Park from Turkey can serve as a case study.

Köprülü Kanyon is one of Turkey's largest national parks and has a high diversity of MAPs. The area was designed as a national park on 12 December 1973 due to its outstanding natural and geomorphological features as well as cultural assets (Antalya Orman Bölge Müdürlüğü 1993). The national park comprises the whole range of vegetation zones from Thermo-Mediterranean to Alpine environment and the flora therefore is very rich (between 900–1000 species). For example, about 20 percent of the species in the national park are endemic (Ayaşlıgil 1987). In addition, the national park comprises about 40 endemic taxa and 110 economically important plants including MAPs (Özçelik et al. 2006). The diversity of MAPs provides significant economic revenue for the local people (poor and with least land) living inside and adjacent to the national park. The wild-collection of MAPs has been one of the main economic activities of the local people, particularly in the forest villages (e.g. Çaltepe and Ballıbucak), where the unemployment rate is high. Unfortunately, the lack of a mechanism for regulating the wild-collection of the target plants has led to the uncontrolled harvesting of these species; thereby threatening the long-term conservation and sustainable use of MAPs in the national park. Therefore, a mechanism for ensuring the sustainable wild-collection of MAPs is needed for contributing to the biodiversity conservation and also sustainable livelihoods in the national park. The purpose of this study is to examine current constraints and potential responses for achieving the conservation and sustainable wild-collection of MAPs in Köprülü Kanyon National Park. It is expected that the results of the study will be useful for decision-makers and those who are responsible for the management of MAPs to promote a better understanding under which conditions the sustainable use of these plants can be achieved in the national park.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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