This wetland, located in the middle of the Yeşilhisar-Develi Plain and known as Sultansazlığı (Sultan Marsh), consists of a freshwater marsh covered with reeds in its southern section, the saline Lake Yay in the northern section, and the barren lands surrounding these two. Sultan Marsh is fed by streams descending from the Ala Mountains in the south as well as by springs with a high output. The Akkoy Dam has been constructed for irrigation purposes on Yeşilhisar Stream, a stream that originates in the Ala Mountains and curves down into the plain from north of Yeşilhisar Country without a well-defined bed. Dundarlı Stream, which comes in from the south and descends into the plain three km. west of the villages of Ovaçiftlik joining the marsh as a delta, has also been dammed up by Kovalı Dam for irrigation purposes. Ağaçasar Dam as well has been built for the purpose of irrigation on Yahyalı Stream, which descends from the Ala Mountains, crossing the County of Yahyalı and reaching the marsh through a number of canals. Develi Stream, which originates on Mountain Koç and crosses Develi Country, flowing on into the plain, disappears near the villages of Sindelhöyük without reaching the lake. It is planned to use the Soysallı spring north of Lake Yay, which have a high output, for irrigation purposes in summer as well, and to channel the rest of the water into the lake. Studies concerning these projects were undertaken in 1960 and culminated in the implementation of the Great Develi Irrigation Project at the beginning of the 1970's. The same project also included draining of Sultan Marsh and Lake Yay. Nevertheless, when the General Directorate of National Parks and Hunting and the Association for the Conservation of Nature in Turkey joined forces to protest the destruction of this important wetland in 1974, their protests won acceptance and appropriate modifications were made in the project, and both the marsh and the lake were spared.
There are number of islands in Lake Yay, a salt water lake is situated between the freshwater marshes on its north and south. These islands are important breeding grounds for birds.
A large part of these freshwater marshes is covered with reeds, and reed communities are encountered growing on the lake floor and floating on its surface as well. Among these extensive beds of reeds and cattails, several small ponds of still water of one hectare or less can be seen. Several species of the underwater plants known as Myrophyllum, a favourite food of ducks, are found in these areas of open water. Such species as Carex, Typha, Juncus and Scirpus are encountered in the north section of Sultan Marsh and Sazdamları marsh north of Lake Yay. Such salt-resistant species as Salicornia are found in the barren areas surrounding the marshes and the lake, while steppe vegetation such as Depioioum, Limmonium, Astragallus and Cynodon are found in the less salty areas.
Freshwater tortoises, water snakes, green frogs, water frogs, and night frogs are encountered in the freshwater marshes and reedbeds, and small fish of the family Cyprinidae are found at the outlets of Soysallı spring and the mouths of Yahyalı and Dundarlı streams. Among mammals, the Shrew (Neomys anomalus) is found in the reedbeds.
Sultan Marsh is one of the largest and most important wetlands in Turkey as well as in the Middle East and Europe. The number of species of birds, both predators and warblers, that visit, winter or breed in this area and its environs, where fresh and saltwater ecosystems are found side by side, is around 250, with extremely high number of certain bird communities during the migration season. Population of Flamingo reach 50.000, Shelduck 10.000 and ducks of various species 600.000. Another salient feature of the area is its importance as the southernmost breeding ground in the Western Palaearctic Region for several species of birds. Pintail Duck, Teal, Tufted Duck and Blackheaded Gull may be cited as examples. The wealth and composition of species, the large populations afforded refuge, the number of varied habitats found side by side and the existing flora and fauna make this a high class a wetland by international standards.
Main Breeding Species:
Flamingo, Spoonbill, White Pelican, Glossy Ibis, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron, Night Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Redthroated Diver, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern, Stork, Greyleg Goose, Shelduck, Ruddy Shelduck, Gadwall, Teal Mallard, Pintail Duck, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Waterhen, Little Crake, Corn Crake, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Oyster Catcher, Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Pratincole, Woodcock, Redshank, Blackheaded Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern, Whiskered Tern, Least Tern, White-winged Black Tern and, in the barren areas, Sandgrouse.
Visitors and Wintering Species:
Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Cormorant, Pygmy Cormorant, Dalmatian Pelican, Bittern, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Black Stock, Flamingo, Mute Swan, Greyleg Goose, White-fronted Goose, Shelduck, Ruddy Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Pintail Duck, Garganey, Shoveler, Marbled Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Tufted Duck, Smew, Stiff-tailed Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Dotterel, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Green Plover, Spurwing Plover, Ruff, Godwit, Curlew, Sandpipers, Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Lesser Blackbacked Gull and Herring Gull.