Even the plants of Istanbul are escaping to nature

Even the plants of Istanbul are escaping to nature

Prof. Ünal Akkemik, the head of the Forest Botany Department of Istanbul University’s Forestry Faculty, is the one who enabled me to meet the Belgrade Forest in Istanbul in real life.

He is the protector of the Belgrade Forest for me.

Are trees drying out there? Or, is there any change in the legal status of the forest? I ask him all such questions. He scours throughout the forest in order to find out whether everything is in place. 

Prof. Akkemik recently launched a book, a great yield of years of hard work: “The Natural Plants of Istanbul.”

In addition to being a highly significant bibliographic source for researchers and a nature lover, the book, which was out by ÇEKÜL Publishing, is a key record that shows what we have been losing in Istanbul. 

Akkemik has verified a total of 2,200 plant genres within the wide borders of 8,500-year old Istanbul. He has mentioned 981 of them in this book with their photos. 

City center left to invasive genres

Akkemik was able to find these 981 plants thanks to Istanbul’s mild temperature, rich forestry base and geographical structure surrounded by seas. However, as Akkemik discovered during his fieldwork, Istanbul’s natural plants have moved to the north, leaving the inner-city’s ecosystem to invasive genres.

Akkemik, who tracked the plants which “escaped to nature” in a bid to survive by their own means, says more studies are needed in this field. Thanks to his book, we have now known which plants exist in Istanbul.

I have not mentioned today’s concrete trend. Istanbul has not only lost, but also gained several things through urbanization. Akkemik says Istanbul has started to host many “exotic” plantations, which were brought into the city through landscape design efforts from somewhere else in the world.  These plantations had however, not taken place in the book. Among them, only the ones which started to escape from Istanbul for survival on their own means were mentioned, as they have become part of Istanbul’s nature. 

On migration route of plants

A 50-km-long section spanning from Istanbul’s north to south hosts many genres from Turkey’s northern Black Sea region and southern Mediterranean region. The 150-300 meter high mountainous section in the middle of the city has similar plantation diversity with Central Anatolia. 

According to Akkemik, Istanbul’s plantation diversity traced back to very old times. 

“Istanbul was one of the most important migration routes for plantations during the ice ages from a north-to-south axis and the time of global warming from a south-to-north axis. The city’s mild temperature and rich water sources created a fertile ground for these migrating plants to survive here. Therefore, Istanbul’s plantation spectrum is that much diverse,” he says.

A giant wetland was dried to build Istanbul’s third airport. And this rich plantation area does not exist anymore. 

Istanbul is suffering from a wave of concretization. 

Let’s imagine an ice age starts again…

Can Istanbul become a key migration route for plants?

It is hard to believe. At this rate, there will be no land or water that plants need.