Wetlands serve a variety of ecological services including feeding downstream waters, recharging groundwater supplies, and removing pollution. Economists estimate that one acre of wetlands provides about $10,000 worth of ecosystem services which include filtering and recharging drinking water, preventing flooding, protecting our coasts from hurricanes and storms, and providing habitat for diverse wildlife populations.
Wetlands are home to hundreds of species of birds, fish, amphibians, mammals, and insects. Some of these species live only in the wetlands and the conservation of wetlands is critical to their survival. Roughly 80% of birds and 95% of commercially important fish are dependent on wetlands as either shelter or a source of food. In addition, a number of species make the wetlands their primary breeding and nesting grounds, making the continued survival of wildlife tied directly to the wetlands.
The Edremit-Dalyan wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem, but they can be much more than a large expanse of otherwise unusable land in the middle of an expanding community. By making a few simple additions to the area, it can be turned into a beautiful space that can be enjoyed by residents and tourists.As a first phase of the project, a series of walking paths and platforms that sit atop the wetlands can be built for visitors to enjoy the nature. While being unobtrusive and non-harmful to the existing ecosystem, the path system will allow guests to get up close and personal with animals and insects as well as explore the local plant life. Shelters and information boards can also be built among the walking paths to create community spaces that will support public education and increase awareness about wetlands and ecosystem conservation. Other fitness activities like biking and running will be possible on the paths. This addition alone will improve the community functioning of the space beyond its natural benefits.
One of the cleanest coastal regions in Turkey, the Gulf of Edremit in Turkey's northwest is a region that has been growing exponentially in the last few decades. To fulfil the needs of the growing population a domestic wastewater treatment facility was built in 1997. Currently, Edremit's water treatment facility is working at full capacity, however particularly in heavy tourist season during summer months it becomes overloaded and can not serve the wastewater treatment needs of the region sufficiently. Additionally, untreated industrial wastewater from the region along with used geothermal wastewater from local hotels are sometimes being drained through a nearby canal into the sea, causing unpleasant sight and odor in the area and threatening the ecological balance of the region.
The domestic wastewater treatment facility is located in the wetland area and has been involved in public education efforts to increase awareness about importance of wastewater treatment and supporting a healthy environment. A wetland park in the proximity of the treatment plant will create a great opportunity for synergistic joint community education projects on nature conservation.
Previous research conducted by local university scientists showed that the waters in and around the wetland area are contaminated with heavy metals, mostly related to the industrial activities in the region and resulting industrial wastewater that is currently being discharged into the vicinity of the beaches without any treatment. This threatens the ecological balance of both the wetlands and the nearby sea. Even though the wetland itself functions as a filter for contaminants, when the contaminant levels are high, it may become necessary to supplement this functionality with either a wastewater treatment system, a bioremediation system or a phytoremediation system which is a system based on plants. A good example of a phytoremediation system is in Holland which can also be a model for unsupported wastewater treatment needs of Edremit region. Keukenhof Park, located in South Holland, in the small town of Lisse, is the world's largest flower garden. According to the official website for the Keukenhof Park, approximately 7,000,000 bulbs are planted annually in the park, which covers an area of 32 hectares. The tulips planted in this park have reduced the levels of harmful chemicals in the surrounding area and has provided a sustainable environment. If implemented, planting a large tulip garden in and around the Edremit wetland, the tulips could supplement the industrial wastewater treatment needs of the region with their special ability to filter heavy metals via phytoremediation. They filter contaminants such as mercury out of the surrounding water, making it safer and more sustainable. If included in the Edremit Wetland Park`s future phases, phytoremediation through tulip garden would be a pleasant and natural support to conserve and sustain Edremit’s environment.
Following construction of a walking pathway and information boards, the goal of the second phase of the Edremit Wetland Park Project is the construction of a water institute. This will serve as a center for public education about wetland ecology, and natural resources in Edremit and Mount Ida region. It will house community activities and will serve as an educational center for local students. It will be the ultimate community gathering point and benefit the entire region through its sustainable design, educational exhibits and hands-on-activities. The main feature of the water institute will be a series of educational exhibits to inform visitors about the importance of wetlands, the local ecosystem, energy efficiency, sustainability, and the research being conducted by local universities.
Several universities and organizations in the area have been interested in studying the Edremit-Dalyan wetlands for years and published scientific reports of their results from the research in the area. The construction of the water research facility will serve as a base for these researchers to conduct their work. Studies have already begun on the chemical characteristics of the water in the wetlands conducted by Dokuz Eylul University's geological engineering department. Further research into water quality, plant life, insects and animals, and sustainable energy could all be made possible by the development of a water institute.
One important piece of the design and construction of the institute will be its impact on the wetlands it aims to protect. By making the building environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and sustainable, the water research institute can be an example of how people can build beautiful structures that coexist with nature.
The design of the building will be critical in creating long-term sustainability. A large amount of inspiration can be drawn from similar wetlandwater park structures around the world. By designing the interior with few corridors and large open spaces, heating and cooling needs are significantly reduced. Large windows and roof top windows allow plenty of natural light into the building, reducing electricity needs and promoting the health and wellness of visitors and employees. A green roof made of local vegetation helps control storm water as well as filtering rainwater. It can also keep the building cooler and provide a home for birds and insects while being beautiful to look at.
Energy efficiency is also key to being an environmentally friendly fixture. Similar to many other buildings in the area, solar power can be generated with the addition of solar panels to the site. These can produce enough clean energy to power the building. Besides design elements, other ways to reduce energy needs for the building include using solar power to heat water the building will use and the implementation of a geothermal pump to move heat in and out of the building.
Click here to download flyers handed out in Turkey (in Turkish)
The exhibits in the wetland park will provide children, families, and other visitors with the opportunity to learn about the wetland and ecology of the surrounding area. Hands on, interactive exhibits will be key to maximizing visitors' learning experience and increasing their understanding of the importance of wetlands and natural ecosystems.
A number of K-12 schools, including nearby Edremit-Zeytinli Naim Süleymanoğlu elementary and middle school, could utilize the water institute as a dedicated wetland/ecology learning center. The students from this school in 2012 had proven their dedication to protecting the environment by bringing home the 1st place prize from Paris, France for their “Our Green School” project in a contest organized by UNESCO World Heritage Eco Learning Program. Grade 4 and 5 students from Naim Süleymanoğlu elementary school were the winners among 130,000 students from 37 countries over the world. The science education of these young, successful and environmentally conscious learners could be enhanced even further with the opportunity to experience hands on learning. Instilling an appreciation of nature and the wetlands ecosystem at an early age is critical to the long-term preservation of these wetlands.
The natural resources the area offers have been attracting millions of tourists each year during the last decades.The wetland park will complement and boost the eco-friendly tourism of Edremit region. This will result in increased economic activity and will improve the local economy. Visitors to the wetland park will be in the area eating and shopping in nearby restaurants and shops. There will also be an increase in jobs in the region to service increased tourism activity in the area. In addition, bordering property values will increase as the wetlands are turned into a beautiful and useful park which will be the first of its kind in Turkey.