Protecting biocultural diversity at Kazdaği National Park, Balikesir, Turkey: the role of Sacred Natural Sites

Key words: , , , ,
Issue: Volume 14, Issue 2, 2020


Official nature conservation efforts have lasted a little more than a century in the world. However, the history of protection of Sacred Natural Sites (SNSs) by local cultural groups goes back thousands of years because these places have sacred value and meaning for them. This article documents, categorises, and maps the SNSs in Kazdağı National Park (KDNP), one of the most significant national parks in terms of biocultural diversity. Official nature conservation practices in the area focus on preserving biological resources but neglect cultural, sacred, and spiritual resources and practices inside the park. 24 SNSs have been identified in and around the KDNP, and have been categorised and mapped based on their characteristics. The study identifies how SNSs are protected by traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and discusses how they can be integrated into modern nature protection programs. SNSs can provide an opportunity for park managers to include more spiritual and sacred dimension to their work, yet they might cause overcrowding of protected areas because of excessive tourist flows. Therefore, careful planning balancing the biological and cultural approaches, and being both locally inclusive and participatory, is necessary. Recognising and including SNSs in protected area management practice will both protect the rights of local communities and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources.

Full text

Permalink (doi)

Authors Affiliations

Yılmaz Arı (1)
1) Bandirma Onyedi Eylül University, Turkey
* Corresponding author.


Adams, W.M. (2003), “Nature and the colonial mind” in Decolonising nature: strategies for con-servation in a post-colonial Era W.M. Adams and M. Mulligan (eds.), p. 16-50, Earthscan, London.
Anderson, D.M., Salick, J., Moseley, R.K. and Xiaokun, O. (2005), “Conserving the sacred medicine mountains: a vegetation analysis of Tibetan sacred sites in Northwest Yunnan”, Biodiversity. Conservation, no. 14, p. 3065–3091.
Arı, Y. (2004), “Environmental Impacts of Cılbak Rituals at Kazdağı National Park, Turkey”, Proceedings of the Third Turkey-Romania Geographic Academic Seminar, p. 224-230, Inkılap Kitabevi, İstanbul.
Arı, Y. (2008), “Eko turizm mi ego turizm mi? Kazdağı (Balıkesir) Örneği”, TUCAUM V. Ulusal Coğrafya Sempozyumu Bildiriler Kitabı, p. 421-428, Ankara.
Arı, Y. and Köse, A. (2009), “Cultural diversity and nature: nature conservation at Kazdagi National Park, Turkey” in Cultural diversity, K., Donert, Y., Arı, M., Attard, M. O’Rilly and D., Schmeinc (eds.) Herodot Book, Series no. 9, p. 25-30.
Arı, Y. and Soykan, A. (2006a), “Kazdağı Milli Parkı’nda kültürel ekoloji ve doğa koruma”, Türk Coğrafya Dergisi, no. 44, p. 11-32.
Arı, Y. and Soykan, A. (2006b), “Kazdağı Milli Parkı’nın yerel toplumlar üzerindeki ekonomik ve sosyal etkileri”, Kazdağları 2. Ulusal Sempozyumu Bildiriler Kitabı, p. 234-245, Çanakkale.
Avcı, D. (2017), “Mining conflicts and transformative politics: A comparison of Intag (Ecuador) and Mount Ida (Turkey) environmental struggles”, Geoforum, no. 84, p. 316-325.
Avcı, D., Adaman, F. and Özkaynak, B. (2010), “Valuation languages in environmental conflicts: How stakeholders oppose or support gold mining at Mount Ida, Turkey”, Ecological Economics, vol. 70, no. 2, p. 228-238.
Berkes, F. (1999), Sacred ecology: traditional ecological knowledge and resource management, Taylor and Francis, Philadelphia and London.
Berkes, F. (2008), Sacred Ecology, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management, Routledge, New York and London.
Berkes, F. (2012), Sacred Ecology (3rd Edition), Routladge, New York.
Berkes, F. and Folke, C. (1998), “Linking social and ecological systems for resilience and sustainability”, Beijer Discussion Paper Series, no. 52. Stockholm, Sweden.
Berkes, F. Colding, J. and Folke, C. (2000). “Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management”, Ecological applications, vol. 10, no. 5, p. 1251-1262.
Bernbaum, E. (2012), “Sacred Mountains and Global Changes: Impacts and Responses” in Sacred Natural Sites, B., Verschuuren, J., McNeely, G., Oviedo and R. Wild, (eds.), p. 59-67, Routledge.
Bulut, I. (2011), “Anadolu’da inanışların ve geleneklerin doğa korunması açısından önemi üzerine örnekler”, Atatürk Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, vol.11, no.46, p.119-134.
Campbell, M.O. (2005), “Sacred groves for forest conservation in Ghana’s coastal savannas: assessing ecological and social dimensions”, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, vol. 26, no. 2, p.151–169.
Çelik, S. Karabacak, E. and Uysal, I. (2008), “Plants have been collected from mythological Kazdağı (mt. Ida) National Park, West Turkey by Turkmens and their folk, cultural and social uses”, European Journal of Scientific Research, vol. 4, p. 835-843.
Çetin, B. Şahin, K. and Coşkun, M. (2017), “Disiplinler arası yaklaşımla bir kutsal mekânın oluşumu, peyzajı ve fonksiyonel özellikleri: Pir Hatip ziyareti (Nusaybin)”, Turkish Studies, vol. 12, no. 21, p. 179-206.
Colding, J. and Folke, C. (1997), “The relations among threatened species, their protection, and taboos”, Conservation Ecology, 20 June 2020,
Dereli, D. and Arı, Y. (2012), “Kazdağı Milli Parkı’nda Ziyaretçi Yönetimi”, Kazdağları III. Ulusal Sempozyumu Bildirileri Kitabı, p. 179-186. Balıkesir.
Dudley, N., Higgins‐Zogib, L. and Mansourian, S. (2009), “The links between protected areas, faiths, and sacred natural sites”, Conservation Biology, vol. 23, no. 3, p. 568-577.
Dudley, N., Hockings, M. and Stolton, S. (2003), Protection assured: guaranteeing the effective management of the world’s protected areas–a review of options. A background paper for the World Commission of Protected Areas, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Dudley, N., Higgins-Zogib, L. and Mansourian, S. (eds.) (2005), Beyond Belief: Linking faiths and protected areas to support biodiversity conservation. A research report by WWF, Equilibrium and The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), World Wide Fund for Nature.
Duymaz, A. (2001), “Kazdağı ve Sarıkız efsaneleri üzerine bir değerlendirme”, Balıkesir Üniversitesi. Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi, vol. 4, no. 5, p. 88–102.
Duymaz, A. and Şahin, H.İ. (2008), “Kaz dağlarında dağ, ağaç ve ocak kültü”, Balıkesir Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi, vol. 11, no.19, p. 116-126.
Frascaroli, F. (2013), “Catholicism and conservation: The potential of sacred natural sites for biodiversity management in Central Italy”, Human Ecology, vol. 41. no. 4, p. 587-601.
Frascaroli, F., Bhagwat, S. and Diemer, M. (2014), “Healing animals, feeding souls: ethnobotanical values at sacred sites in Central Italy”, Economic Botany, vol. 68, no. 4, p. 438–451.
Harmon, D. (2007), “A Bridge over the Chasm: Finding ways to achieve integrated natural and cultural heritage conservation”, International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 13, no. 4/5, p. 380–392.
Hurley, P.T. and Arı, Y. (2011), “Mining (dis) amenity: The political ecology of mining opposition in the Kaz (Ida) mountain region of western Turkey” Development and Change, vol. 42, no. 6, p. 1393-1415.
Hurley, P.T. and Arı, Y. (2018) “Saying “No” to (the) Oxygen Capital? Amenity migration, counter-territorialisation, and uneven rural landscape change in the Kaz Dağları (Ida Mountains) of western Turkey”, Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 62, p. 195-208.
Jackson, W. and Ormsby, A. (2017), “Urban sacred natural sites–a call for research”, Urban Ecosystems, vol. 20, no. 3, p. 675-681.
KDMP, (2020), Kazdağı National Park Official Web Site, 01 February 2020,
Köse, A. (1997), “Kaz Dağı’nda doğal çevre özelliklerine dayanan günübirlik rekreasyon alanlarına üç örnek: Ayazma, Pınarbaşı ve Sütüven”, Türk Coğrafya Dergisi, no.32, p. 237-262.
Lebbie, A.R. and Guries, R.P. (1995), “Ethnobotanical value and conservation of sacred groves of the Kpaa Mende in Sierra Leone”, Economic Botany, vol. 49, no. 3, p. 297-308.
Maffi, L. (2012), “What is biocultural diversity” in Biocultural diversity conservation: a global sourcebook, L. Maffi and E. Woodley (eds), p.1-11, Routledge.
Malhotra, K.C., Gokhale, Y., Chatterjee, S. and Srivastava, S. (2001), Cultural and ecological dimensions of sacred groves in India, Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi.
Mallarach, J.M. (2010), “Applicability of the IUCN-UNESCO Guidelines for protected area managers on sacred natural sites: first assessment”, The Diversity of Sacred Lands” Europe: Proceedings of the Third Workshop of the Delos Initiative-Inari/Aanaar, p. 260-270.
Mallarach, J.M. and Papayannis, T. (2007), “Protected areas and spirituality”, Proceedings of the First Workshop of the Delos Initiative, IUCN, Gland.
Metcalfe, K., French-Constant, K. and Gordon, I. (2009), “Sacred sites as hotspots for biodiversity: The Three Sisters Cave complex in coastal Kenya”, Oryx, vol. 44, no. 1, p.118–123.
Nasr, S.H. (1996), “Religion and the order of nature: the 1994 Cadbury lectures at the University of Birmingham”, Quarterly Review of Biology, vol. 72, no. 4, p. 453.
Öner, N., Özden, S. and Birben, Ü. (2010), “Relationship between a natural monumental stand in Turkey and local beliefs”, Journal of Environmental Biology, vol. 31, no. 1, p. 149–155.
Oviedo, G. Jeanrenaud, S. and Otegui, M. (2005), Protecting Sacred Natural Sites of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples: An IUCN Perspective, Gland, Switzerland, 20 June 2020,
Özkan, O. and Uzun, A. (2019), “Spatial perceptions and thoughts of retirement migrants in the case of Kazdağı (Ida Mountain) National Park and its vicinity (Balıkesir-Turkey)”, Turkish Journal of Geographical Sciences, vol. 17, no. 2, p. 237-259.
Posey, D. (ed.) (1999), Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, A Comprehensive Contribution to the UNEP Global Biodiversity Assessment, Intermediate Technology Publications, London, 20 June 2020,
Pretty, J., Adams, B., Berkes, F., de Athayde, S.F., Dudley, N., Hunn, E., Maffi, L., Milton, K., Rapport, D., Robbins, P., Sterling, E., Stolton, S., Tsing, A., Vintinnerk, E. and Pilgrim, S. (2009), “The intersections of biological diversity and cultural diversity: towards integration”, Conservation and Society, vol. 7, no. 2, p. 100-112.
Pungetti, G., Oviedo, G. and Hooke, D. (eds.) (2012), Sacred Species and Sites: Advances in Biocultural Conservation, Cambridge University Press.
Rutte, C. (2011), “The sacred commons: conflicts and solutions of resource management in sacred natural sites”, Biological Conservation, vol. 144, no. 10, p. 2387-2394.
Samakov, A. and Berkes, F. (2017), “Spiritual commons: sacred sites as core of community-conserved areas in Kyrgyzstan”, International Journal of the Commons, vol. 11, no. 1, p. 422-444.
Satıl, F., Dirmenci, T. and Tümen, G. (2006), “Kazdağı Milli Parkının öncelikli koruma alanlarının sınıflandırılması ve önemli bitkileri”, Kazdağları II. Ulusal Sempozyumu, p. 391-401. Çanakkale.
Satıl, F., Tümen, G., Dirmenci, T., Arı Y., Çelik, A. and Malyer, H. (2006), “Kazdağı Milli Parkı ve Çevresinde (Balıkesir) Etnobotanik Envanter Çalışması 2004-2006”, Türkiye Bilimler Akademisi, Kültür Envanteri Dergisi, no. 5, p. 171-203.
Satıl, F. (2009), “Threatening factors on plant diversity of Kazdağ (Ida mountain) national park in Turkey and suggestions for conservation”, Biotechnology & Biotechnological Equipment, vol. 23, no. 2, p. 208–221.
Schaaf, T. and Lee, C. (Eds.) (2006), Conserving Cultural and Biological Diversity: The Role of Sacred Natural Sites and Cultural Landscapes, UNESCO, Paris.
Shen, X., Lu, Z., Li, S. and Chen, N. (2012), “Tibetan sacred sites: understanding the traditional management system and its role in modern conservation”, Ecology and Society, vol. 17, no. 2, p. 13.
South Marmara Development Agency (2020), Balıkesir Turizm Yatırım Rehberi, 17 September 2020,
Stepp, J.R., Cervone, S., Castaneda, H., Lasseter, A., Stocks, G. and Gichon, Y. (2004), “Development of a GIS for Global Biocultural Diversity”, Policy Matters, vol. 13, p. 267–270.
Tatar, B. (2017), “Kutsal mekan’: Fenomenolojik bir analiz”, Milel ve Nihal, vol. 14, no. 2, p. 8-22.
Tengö, M. and von Heland, J. (2011), “Adaptive capacity of local indigenous institutions: the case of the taboo forests of southern Madagascar” in Adapting institutions. Governance, Complexity and Social-ecological Resilience, E. Boyd and C. Folke (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Thorley, A. and Gunn, C.M. (2008), Sacred Sites: An Overview, The Gaia Foundation, Bath.
Turner, N.J., Ari, Y., Berkes, F., Davidson-Hunt, I., Ertug, Z.F. and Miller, A. (2009), “Cultural management of living trees: an international perspective”, Journal of Ethnobiology, vol. 29, no. 2, p. 237–270.
UNDRIP (2007), Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, United Nations, General Assembly, 61st session, agenda item 68, Report of the Human Rights Council, UNESCO, Paris.
Uysal, I. (2010), “An overview of plant diversity of Kazdagi (Mt. Ida) Forest National Park, Turkey”, Journal of Environmental Biology, vol. 31, no 1/2, p. 141-147.
Uzun, A. and Özkan, O. (2019), “Emekli göçü literatürünün değerlendirilmesi”, Eastern Geographical Review, vol. 24, no. 41, p. 141-152.
Uzun, A. and Yıldız, B. (2020), “Cultural geography of sacred places: The case study of Nazımiye District (Tunceli)”, International Journal of Geography and Geography Education (IGGE), no. 41, p. 129-140.
Verschuuren, B., Mallarach, J.M. and Oviedo, G. (2007). Sacred Sites and Protected Areas. IUCN Categories of Protected Areas Summit, Almeria, Spain. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 164-169.
Verschuuren, B., Wild, R., McNeely, J.A. and Oviedo, G. (eds.) (2010), Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature and Culture, Earthscan, London.
Verschuuren, B., McNeely, J., Oviedo, G. and Wild, R. (2012), “Introduction: Sacred Natural Sites the Foundations of Conservation”, Sacred Natural Sites, p. 27-40, Routledge.
Wild, R. and McLeod, C. (2008), Sacred Natural Sites. Guidelines for Protected Area Managers, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Yürüdür, E. and Toksoy, M. (2017), “Halk kültürü ve doğa koruma: Tokat örneği”, Gaziosmanpaşa Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol. 12, no. 2, p. 161-176.

This post has already been read 2320 times!

About journal

Title: Human Geographies - Journal of Studies and Research in Human Geography
ISSN online: 2067-2284
ISSN print: 1843-6587
Imprint: University of Bucharest
Frequency: Biannual (May&November)
First volume: 1/2007
Current volume: 14/2020
Language: English
Indexed in: SCOPUS, ERIH PLUS, EBSCO (SocINDEX), ProQuest (Social Science Journals, SciTech Journals, Natural Science Journals), Index Copernicus, National Technical Information Service (NTiS), Bodleian Libraries, ExLibris SFX, DOAJ, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library, Google Scholar, Ulrich
Creative Commons License


Prof. dr. Liliana Dumitrache
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Geography- Human and Economic Geography Department, 1 Nicolae Balcescu Av., 010041, Bucharest, Romania

Dr. Daniela Dumbrăveanu
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Geography- Human and Economic Geography Department, 1 Nicolae Balcescu Av., 010041, Bucharest, Romania

Dr. Mariana Nae
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Geography- Human and Economic Geography Department, 1 Nicolae Balcescu Av., 010041, Bucharest, Romania

Dr. Gabriel Simion
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Geography- Human and Economic Geography Department, 1 Nicolae Balcescu Av., 010041, Bucharest, Romania

SCImago Journal & Country Rank