The sweetgum tree (Liquidambar orientalis) spreads across Turkeys south-western region and is an endemic tree species limited to Southern Aegean and Rhodes Island. Usually found in groups or as individual trees along streams and in areas with high water table, the only place where this species forms actual forests is Koycegiz. However, sweetgum forests total area decreased from 6.312 ha in 1949 to 1.348 ha in 2011. The main reason for this is the conversion of their habitat through cutting the trees or other drying out methods for citrus plantation as the soils where they occur have high water table and are suitable for agriculture. Currently, the remaining sweetgum forests are too fragmented and risk extinction as their characteristics for genetic transfer have weakened. On the other hand, the interests to this once sacred tree to the locals has diminished, thus the forests slowly sink to oblivion.
Nature Conservation Center has implemented the Return of the Sweetgum Project between 2009 and 2011 in the region in order to clear off the conflict. The work aims to decrease the patchiness of the sweetgum forest around Koycegiz Lake through the creation of ecological corridors (by means of purchasing or nationalisation of agricultural and other occupied lands) and to raise awareness of local people and encourage their participation into the conservation of sweetgum forests by highlighting the forgotten economic values of the sweetgum and the regions ecotourism potential.
- Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover - Environmental