Phycology جلبک شناسی

نخستین پایگاه اطلاعاتی جلبک شناسی به زبان فارسی

دایرکتوری تالابهای ایران

با سلام

مطلب زیر دایرکتوری تالابهای ایران نام داشته و اطلاعاتی در مورد تمامی تالابهای ایران ارائه می نماید که شامل اطلاعات توپوگرافی، جغرافیایی، هوا و اقلیم، زمین شناسی، هیدرولوژی و مانند آن است.

 


A Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East

ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN

 

INTRODUCTION

by Jamshid Mansoori

[go to site descriptions]

Area: 1,648,195 sq.km.

Population: 58,206,250 (1992 census).

The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the largest countries in Southwest Asia, with a land area almost equal to that of Italy, Spain, France and the British Isles combined. It is bounded to the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, and to the west by Iraq and Turkey. Altitudes range from 26 metres below sea-level on the shores of the Caspian to 5,774 m at the summit of Mount Damavand, an almost perfect volcanic cone in the central Alborz Mountains near Tehran.

Approximately 60% of Iran is classified as desert and semi-desert, and over half of the country is mountainous, with ranges oriented more or less parallel to its international borders. The Alborz Mountains run from west to east across the north of the country, and the Zagros Mountains from northwest to southeast along its western borders. The Alborz Mountains, with their eastern extensions, and the Zagros Mountains which merge into the Mekran Range in the southeast, form a giant supine "V" which encloses the vast and roughly triangular area constituting Iran's central plateau. This arid plateau, which continues eastward into Afghanistan and Pakistan, has an average elevation of 1,200-1,300 m above sea level, and comprises a number of salt basins and sand deserts including the Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert) and the Dasht-e Lut (Great Sand Desert). There are also many isolated chains of mountains within the central plateau, running mostly parallel to the Zagros Mountains.

Geographically, the Iranian plateau dates from the Tertiary period, although older formations exist in many areas. Severe orogenic uplift and folding produced much of this land from an enormous sea in the mid-Miocene. Due to their comparatively young ages, the principal mountain ranges are still settling, and this seems to be one of the causes of the earthquakes that frequently rock the country.

Climatic differences are great. Much of the country has a desert climate with an average annual precipitation of less than 300 mm, but some parts of the Caspian lowlands and north slope of the Alborz Mountains receive as much as 2,000 mm of rainfall. Summers are generally warm to hot with almost continuous sunshine, while winters can be extremely cold, with cold airstreams blowing from the northeast. Mean January temperatures range from 20C along the Gulf of Oman coast in the southeast to minus 2C in northwestern Iran, while extreme temperatures range from a maximum of 53C in the south to minus 38C in the extreme northwest.

Iran may be divided into four main physiographic regions: the Caspian region; the central plateau; the Zagros and associated ranges; and the southern coastal lowlands (Firouz, 1974). The Caspian region comprises a humid region of comparatively high precipitation, ranging from 2,000 mm in Gilan in the west to about 500 mm in Gorgan in the east, and with the rainfall more evenly distributed throughout the year than elsewhere in the country. The northern slopes of the Alborz Mountains overlooking the Caspian Sea receive some of the highest rainfall in the country, and support dense deciduous forest. To the south of the Alborz, the arid central plateau extends eastward from the Zagros Mountains in the west to the border with Afghanistan in the east. The high mountain barriers in the north and west exclude the moisture-bearing clouds from the Caspian and Mediterranean regions, resulting in low annual precipitation ranging from a maximum of about 350 mm to a minimum of less than 40 mm.

The complex Zagros Mountains, which form the western and southern borders of the central plateau, extend approximately 1,770 km from the Turkish border southeastward to the province of Baluchistan in extreme southeastern Iran. In their higher parts, these mountains rise to elevations of between 3,000 and 4,600 m. Annual precipitation decreases from west to east and from north to south, ranging from about 1,000 mm in the northwest to as little as 200 mm in the southeast. Much of this region was formerly characterized by a climax woodland of two main types: a forest dominated by evergreen oaks Quercus spp. at higher elevations, and a steppe-forest composed of pistachio Pistacia spp. and almond Amygdalus spp. trees at lower elevations. Dry farming has been practised in the Zagros for many millennia and this, together with the cutting of wood for fuel, has been instrumental in the disappearance of a major part of the woodland. Large tracts of woodland now survive only in some of the remoter areas of the high Zagros and on certain isolated mountain ranges on the southern edge of the central plateau.

The narrow coastal plain along the shores of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman is characterized by open park-like stands of Acacia, Prosopis and Tamarix and extensive date-palm groves. Annual precipitation ranges from 100 to 300 mm, mostly falling between November and April, although in the extreme southeast, the southwest monsoon occasionally brings some rain in late summer. In the extreme southwest, the Mesopotamian lowlands extend into Iran in Khuzestan Province, and here, along the major rivers, there are still some remnants of the once extensive riverine thickets of Populus euphraticus and Tamarix spp.

Iran possesses an extremely diverse fauna and flora, partly because of its

great range of habitats - from permanent snows to deep deserts and from lush deciduous forests in the north to palm groves and mangroves in the south - and partly because of its position at a crossroads between three major faunal regions. The greater part of the country is situated in the Palearctic Region, with typically Western Palearctic species predominating throughout the northwest, west and central parts of the country and some typically Eastern Palearctic species extending into northeastern Iran in the highlands of Khorasan. In southern Iran, two other faunal regions have a pronounced influence: the Indo-malayan Region in the southeast, and the Afro-tropical Region in the extreme southwest. About 125 species of mammals (Harrington, 1977; Eetemad, 1986) and 500 species of birds (Scott et al., 1975; Mansoori, 1995) have been recorded, while at least 270 species of fish (including 33 endemic species) are known from the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea. A recent check-list records over 1,000 species of fish as being known to occur or potentially occurring in Iranian fresh and salt waters.

Botanically, Iran forms a bridge between four major phyto-geological regions: the Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian, Euro-Siberian and Sudanian (Zohary, 1973). It is also one of the largest speciation centres of the Holarctic desert flora, with Irano-Turanian species predominating. The total number of plant species present has been variously estimated at between seven thousand and ten thousand, about 20% of which are endemic.

Approximately 11.5% of Iran's land area is under cultivation, with wheat, rice and tobacco being the principal crops. Wheat is grown mostly in the uplands in the west and northwest, while rice and tobacco are grown mainly in the Caspian lowlands. Other crops include barley, sugar-beet, cotton, dates, raisins and tea. Over much of the arid interior of the country, the principal farming activity is livestock raising, especially sheep and goats. The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the world's largest oil producers, and much of the economy is based on the petroleum industry. The country has rich mineral resources, including iron ore, copper, manganese, chromite, coal and salt, and has an important textile industry. Other industries include sugar-refining, food processing and the production of petrochemicals, iron and steel, cement and building materials. Traditional handicrafts, notably carpets, also play an important role in the economy.

Summary of Wetland Situation

Although much of Iran is extremely dry, the country possesses a great diversity of wetland ecosystems, most of which can be grouped into six major systems: the wetlands of the south Caspian lowlands in Gilan and Mazandaran Provinces in the north; the wetlands of the Uromiyeh Basin in Azarbayjan Province in the northwest; the wetlands of Khuzestan Province in the southwest; the wetlands of central Fars Province in the southern Zagros; the wetlands of the Sistan Basin on the border with Afghanistan in the east; and the wetlands along the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman coasts in the south.

The wetlands of Gilan and Mazandaran comprise an almost unbroken chain of freshwater lakes and marshes, brackish lagoons, irrigation ponds and rice paddies stretching for some 700 km along the shores of the Caspian Sea from the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan in the west to the border with Turkmenistan in the east. Two of the most important wetlands in these lowlands are Anzali Mordab in the west and the Gorgan Bay/Miankaleh complex in the east. The former comprises a complex of shallow, freshwater lakes with extensive reed-beds and surrounding flood-meadows, while the latter is a large shallow brackish lagoon with extensive seasonally flooded sedge marshes and tamarisk thickets, almost completely cut off from the Caspian Sea by the 60 km long Miankaleh Peninsula.

One of the most important types of wetland in the south Caspian lowlands is the "ab-bandan", a small, man-made reservoir or flooded rice paddy with a luxuriant growth of underwater vegetation. These shallow wetlands, varying in size from 3 ha to 1,000 ha, provide excellent feeding and roosting areas for large numbers of migratory waterfowl. Most were originally built as temporary water storage areas to provide water for irrigation during the dry summer months. However, many also serve as private reserves for duck-trapping during the winter months; some have been built specifically for this purpose, and as such are jealously guarded. In the late 1950s, Savage (1963) estimated that there were some 400 ab-bandans in Mazandaran alone, covering about 11,000 ha. Recent surveys by personnel from the Department of the Environment have revealed that there are still about 115 ab-bandans and "damgah" (ponds created specially for duck-trapping) in Gilan and Mazandaran, totalling some 10,000 ha. Although these ab-bandans represent only a small proportion of the total wetland habitat in the south Caspian, they comprise a very important component of the habitat available for waterfowl because they embrace some of the richest feeding habitats in the region, and provide undisturbed areas where waterfowl can rest during the day. The construction of large dams on the main rivers at some time in the future would render many of the ab-bandans obsolete for irrigation purposes, and could lead to their conversion to agricultural land, very much to the detriment of wintering waterfowl. In recognition of this potential threat, the maintenance and preservation of ab-bandans has become an important part of the Department of the Environment's programme of wetland conservation in the south Caspian region.

The Uromiyeh Basin in the highlands of Azarbayjan in northwestern Iran includes a number of important wetlands centred on Lake Uromiyeh itself, a vast, shallow, hypersaline lake of some 483,000 ha with numerous small islands and spectacular breeding colonies of White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) and many other species of waterfowl. Although the lake is too saline to support any plants or animals other than the alga Enteromorpha and the brine shrimp Artemia, the numerous small fresh and brackish water lakes and marshes along the rivers which enter the lake support abundant aquatic vegetation and are very rich in wildlife.

In extreme southwestern Iran, three large rivers rising in the Zagros Mountains (the Karun, Dez and Kharkeh) flow out onto the plains of Khuzestan and create a vast complex of seasonal floodplain wetlands which extend southward to the head of the Gulf. In the west, these wetlands are contiguous with the great floodplain wetlands of lower Mesopotamia in Iraq. The most important wetland in this region is Shadegan Marshes, some 290,000 ha of seasonally flooded sedge marsh and brackish lagoons adjacent to the extensive intertidal mudflats at the head of the Gulf. Other similar, but much smaller, floodplain wetlands occur further south along the Gulf coast, notably in the delta of the Helleh River near Bushire.

Near the eastern end of the Zagros Mountains in central Fars Province, there is a group of large wetlands set in broad valleys between rugged mountain ranges. These wetlands include freshwater lakes and marshes, such as Dasht-e Arjan and the Haftbarm Lakes, and brackish to saline lakes with extensive brackish marshes, such as Parishan, Maharloo, Bakhtegan and Tashk. Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk (together known as the Neiris Lakes) are fed by the Kur River; during years of heavy rainfall they unite to form a single lake of about 108,000 ha. In most years, however, the water surface is much less than this, and the two lakes are surrounded by extensive bare salt flats.

In the Sistan Basin, on the border between Iran and Afghanistan, there is a vast complex of freshwater lakes with extensive reed-beds which at times of peak flooding can cover over 200,000 ha. These wetlands are unusual in that although the three main lakes, Hamoun-i Puzak, Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand, lie within an internal drainage basin, they are predominantly freshwater. The system is fed by the Hirmand River, which rises in the Hindu Kush in northern Afghanistan. During long periods of drought, as occurred throughout the late 1960s and again in the 1980s, the Hirmand supplies sufficient water to flood only the uppermost of the lakes, the Hamoun-i Puzak, which lies almost entirely within Afghanistan. However, during years of unusually heavy rainfall, as occurred in the late 1970s and again in 1990, the floodwaters of the Hirmand sweep through all three lakes and overflow into a vast salt waste to the southeast, flushing the salts out of the system in the process.

Each of these five major regions comprises a complex of large and small lakes and marshes, providing a wide diversity of habitat types and supporting a rich and diverse flora. Phragmites reed-beds are characteristic of many of the wetlands, and are particularly extensive at Anzali Mordab in the southwest Caspian, in the Hamoun wetlands in the Sistan Basin, at Dasht-e Arjan and Lake Parishan in Fars, and at several of the wetlands in the Uromiyeh Basin in Azarbayjan. The reed-beds are highly productive, and provide breeding habitat for many species of waterfowl. The reeds are traditionally used for thatching, especially in Gilan, Mazandaran and Sistan, where reeds are harvested on a large scale not only for local use but also for export to other parts of the country for roofing materials and mat-making.

The sixth major wetland system in Iran comprises the numerous tidal creeks and large areas of intertidal mudflats and mangrove swamps along Iran's 2,000 km of coastline on the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Mangroves are at the extreme limit of their distribution in the southern Gulf, and comprise only a single species, Avicennia marina. Harrington (1976b) gives a detailed description of mangrove distribution in Iran, and estimates the total area of mangrove at 8,900 ha. Much the largest of the mangrove/mudflats ecosystems is found in the Khouran Straits north of Qeshm Island, where there are some 100,000 ha of low-lying islands, mangroves, mudflats and creeks. Further east, along the Gulf of Oman coast in Persian Baluchistan, offshore depths increase to over 50 m and the coastline has extensive sand dunes, long sandy beaches and stretches of sea-cliffs interrupted at intervals by large creek systems with extensive mangroves and mudflats. Where the sublittoral has hard substrates, coral reefs and seagrass beds appear. The large bays at Pozm and Chahbahar in the east lie in a region with an extremely rich and diverse marine fauna.

There are seven large offshore islands in the eastern Gulf, Qeshm, Hormoz, Larak, Hengam, Kish, Henderabi and Lavan, as well as many smaller islands and islets, some of which are extremely important for breeding sea-birds and marine turtles. All of the larger islands are rocky and sparsely populated, and the easternmost are surrounded by substantial coral reefs. The little information available on Iran's coral reefs has been summarized by UNEP/IUCN (1988).

The desert interior of Iran is almost completely surrounded by a ring of high mountain ranges, the source of numerous perennial and seasonal rivers which flow down into the interior deserts and are eventually lost in great salt wastes such as the Dasht-e Kavir in the north and the Hamoun-i Jaz Murian in the south. Some of the larger rivers terminate in extensive brackish and saline lakes, such as Gavekhoni Lake at the mouth of the Zaindeh Rud in Isfahan Province. In years of high rainfall, such wetlands may remain flooded throughout the year. Elsewhere in the country, there are various isolated small lakes, spring-fed pools and seasonal marshes, particularly in the west, west-central and northwest, many of which support a diverse aquatic flora and fauna, and some of which may, at certain times of the year, be important for migratory waterfowl.

The wetlands of Iran constitute vital staging and wintering areas for millions of migratory waterfowl using the West Siberian-Caspian-East African and Central Siberian-Indus-South Asian flyways, and also support large breeding populations of many species. Several million waterfowl utilize the wetlands as wintering habitat, while perhaps as many birds again use the wetlands as staging areas on their way to and from wintering areas further to the southwest or southeast. The wetlands of Iran are very important for seven species of birds listed as globally threatened in the 1994 IUCN List of Threatened Animals (Groombridge, 1993), namely Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus), Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus), Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala), White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus). A further four threatened species formerly occurred in significant numbers, but are now only scarce passage migrants or vagrants, namely Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis), Pallas' Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), Sociable Plover (Chettusia gregaria) and Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris). The status of three of the globally threatened species, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Oxyura leucocephala and Numenius tenuirostris, within Iran and throughout their world ranges has recently been summarized by Green (1993), Anstey (1989) and Gretton (1991), respectively.

In many parts of Iran, the level of exploitation of wetlands is high. Floodplain wetlands, river banks and lake shores are utilized for the cultivation of cereals, rice or vegetables, while the rivers and lakes themselves support intensive freshwater fisheries. The wetlands provide vital sources of water for domestic and industrial consumption, and constitute natural water storage reservoirs which can be utilized for irrigation purposes. Many of the larger rivers have been dammed to provide the means for generating hydro-electricity, while some of the inland salt lakes are exploited as an abundant source of various salts. Reeds are widely used for thatching and weaving purposes or as fuel, and in the vast reed-beds of the Sistan Basin, marsh-dwelling communities were until recently almost totally dependent on reeds for their construction needs. Large numbers of domestic livestock, particularly cattle and water buffalo, are allowed to graze on wetland vegetation, and in some areas, aquatic plants are harvested to provide fodder during the winter months.

Waterfowl hunting occurs at wetlands throughout Iran. Sport hunting is common, and occurs on a large scale at wetlands near the larger cities. In many rural areas, however, waterfowl are shot, netted or trapped primarily for their meat value. In the south Caspian lowlands in particular, enormous numbers of waterbirds are harvested on a commercial basis, and provide a livelihood for hundreds of people. Savage (1963) has given an early account of waterfowl hunting in the south Caspian region. He studied waterfowl hunting in northern Iran between 1957 and 1959, and concluded that over 1,200,000 ducks were being killed annually in Gilan and Mazandaran during an average season. The principal method of capture at that time was by means of a net, gong and flare at night. Mist-nests and clap-nets sited at pools to which ducks were attracted by trained decoy-ducks were also widely used, as were long flight nets. Shooting, although increasing, accounted for only about 9% of the kill in 1957-59. A survey of duck hunting in the south Caspian region in the early 1970s, conducted by personnel from the Department of the Environment, suggested that the annual harvest of ducks and coots may have been as high as three million birds. Use of the traditional net, gong and flare technique and clap-netting were still widespread, but shooting and flight-netting had increased considerably since the 1950s. Between the 1970s and the early 1990s, the number of waterfowl wintering in the south Caspian region fell dramatically, almost certainly as a result of the excessive hunting pressure, and the annual harvest, although still high, is now well below the 1970s levels.

Wetlands in Iran, as elsewhere in the region, are increasingly coming under pressure from man's activities. Undoubtedly the most serious threats to wetlands have been the drainage and "reclamation" of wetlands for agriculture, industry and urban development, and diversion of water supplies for irrigation purposes. Flood control projects and irrigation schemes on the Hirmand River in Afghanistan have considerably affected the wetlands of the Sistan Basin, especially during years of below average rainfall. Increased siltation is becoming a problem at some wetlands, as deforestation and overgrazing in the water catchment areas lead to severe soil erosion, increased silt loads in the rivers and flash-flooding. Such problems are especially serious in the south Caspian lowlands; the wetlands of the Anzali Mordab complex, in particular, are threatened by increased rates of siltation and accelerated eutrophication. Most of Iran's major rivers have been dammed to permit the generation of hydro-electricity and to provide water for irrigation purposes, industrial use and domestic consumption. Because of soil erosion in the catchment areas, many of the dams have silted up much more rapidly than was anticipated, with consequent loss in water storage capacity and greatly reduced value for water supply and generation of electricity. In the 1970s, increased coastal erosion in the delta of the Sefid Rud in the south Caspian was attributed to a reduction in the amount of silt reaching the delta following the construction of a large dam upstream in the Alborz Mountains. At some wetlands, especially in the Sistan Basin, heavy grazing of marsh vegetation by domestic livestock is inhibiting natural plant succession, and is causing permanent damage to aquatic plant communities as the highly palatable species are grazed to extinction. This degradation of wetland vegetation and the introduction of exotic fish species have had a detrimental effect on some of the native freshwater fishes. Some of the mangrove communities in the Persian Gulf have also been degraded by excessive utilization for fuelwood and fodder, and over-grazing by camels. Many wetlands, especially those downstream of large urban centres and major farming areas, have been polluted with domestic sewage, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, industrial effluents and other waste products, and some of Iran's coastal wetlands and inshore waters are now badly polluted. The petrochemical industry in the Persian Gulf continues to pose a number of threats to the environment, not least pollution. The movement of oil tankers through the Gulf presents a continued threat to marine life and to the increasingly important Gulf fisheries.

One of the major environmental threats to wetlands in southwestern Iran during the 1980s came from the consequences of the prolonged military conflict between Iran and Iraq. In 1983, the Nowruz oil field in the Persian Gulf northwest of Kharg Island was damaged, resulting in severe pollution of the sea by oil and gas leakage. The very important Shadegan Marshes and tidal mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa (a Ramsar Site) in Khuzestan and Lake Zaribar in Kurdistan were also damaged during the war, particularly because of the use of chemical weapons by Iraq. The Gulf War in 1990-91 seems to have had much less of an impact on wetlands in Iran. At the invitation of the Iranian Government, a Japanese mission visited Iran in July and August 1991 to assess the environmental impact of the Gulf War on Iran's Gulf coast. This mission investigated the Gulf coast from Khuzestan to Bushire and Kharg Island, but was unable to find any direct evidence of damage to wildlife populations from oil spills. However, air pollution from the burning oil wells in Kuwait is reported to have damaged vegetation at some of the wetlands in Khuzestan, and this problem is still being investigated.

Despite the high human pressures on wetland resources and increasing demand for more land for agriculture, there have been relatively few major losses of wetland habitat in Iran in recent decades. Locally, losses have been severe, especially in the wetlands of Khuzestan in the southwest and in the Hamoun wetlands in the Sistan Basin. However, in most regions of the country, many of the wetlands remain in relatively good condition. This is due in large part to the active policy of wetland conservation pursued by the Government of Iran since the late 1960s, and the establishment of an effective network of protected areas which includes many of the country's most important wetlands.

The first protected area incorporating a major wetland (Lake Uromiyeh) was established in 1967 by the Iran Game and Fish Department, later to become the Department of the Environment. By the end of 1991, the system of protected areas in Iran included seven National Parks, 23 Wildlife Refuges, 43 Protected Areas and four National Nature Monuments, totalling at least 8,041,265 ha and covering over 4.8% of the country. Wetlands figure prominently in this network of reserves. One of the National Parks, nine of the Wildlife Refuges and ten of the Protected Areas were established primarily to protect wetland ecosystems, while a further two Protected Areas and a Wildlife Refuge incorporate important wetland habitat. These 23 reserves are listed in Table 1. Of the 63 internationally important wetlands described in this inventory, no less than 20 are now wholly or partly included within reserves. In the mid-1970s, it was estimated that between 40% and 75% of all ducks, geese, swans and coots wintering in Iran did so within protected areas, and with increased levels of disturbance at unprotected wetlands in recent years, this proportion may now be considerably higher.

Wetland Research

A great deal of information is available on the wetlands of Iran, particularly with respect to their importance for birds. Early accounts of the wetlands and their waterfowl were provided by Savage (1964), Firouz (1968), Savage and Firouz (1968) and Firouz and Ferguson (1970a, 1970b). The wetlands of Gilan Province in the southwest Caspian were described in some detail by Ferguson (1972). Information available up to the end of 1970 was summarized in a small booklet on the wetlands and waterfowl of Iran produced by the Game and Fish Department for distribution at the International Conference on Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl held in Ramsar, Iran, in January and February 1971 (Anon, 1971).

As a Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention, the Islamic Republic of Iran has presented a considerable amount of information on its major wetlands and conservation activities at the Conferences of the Parties to the Convention and at related international wetland meetings (e.g. Ashtiani-Zarandi, 1990; Division of Research and Development, 1972; Mansoori, 1984; Scott, 1976c; Vahedi, 1982). Information on the 18 wetlands of international importance designated by Iran for inclusion in the Ramsar List has been published in successive editions of A Directory of Wetlands of International Importance (most recently in WCMC, 1990, and Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1993). The 18 Ramsar sites have also been described in some detail by Carp (1980) in A Directory of Western Palearctic Wetlands. A recent inventory of Important Bird Areas in the Middle East, sponsored by BirdLife International, describes 105 sites of special importance for bird conservation in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Evans, 1994). These include all of the 63 wetlands of international importance identified in the present inventory, as well as a number of smaller wetlands of only national or regional importance.

Iran was the first country in the Middle East to carry out a national wetlands inventory. This was undertaken by personnel of the Department of the Environment during the early 1970s, and identified a total of 286 wetlands, 33 of which were considered to be of international importance (Scott, 1976a & 1976c). In 1990, the Department of the Environment launched a major project to update the wetland inventory and to describe the key wetlands in Iran, which special attention being given to aquatic plants, waterbirds and mammals. During the first phase of the project (1990-1994), some 58 of the most important wetlands were investigated (Motalebbi-Pour, 1993).

Much of the information on the importance of Iran's wetlands for waterfowl has been derived from mid-winter waterfowl counts. Annual mid-winter counts were initiated by the Game and Fish Department in 1966/67, and have been continued ever since, except for a gap of one year (1979) during the revolution. Initially, counts were confined to the south Caspian region, but in early 1970, coverage was extended to the wetlands of Azarbayjan, Fars and Sistan. The important wetlands of Khuzestan were counted for the first time in February 1971, as were some of the wetlands along the coast of the Persian Gulf and Persian Baluchistan. Small fixed-winged aircraft were used for censusing waterfowl at the huge and otherwise largely inaccessible wetlands of Khuzestan, Fars and Sistan from 1973 to 1976, and the entire south coast of Iran was surveyed from the air in the winters of 1973/74 and 1974/75. The overall coverage of the mid-winter waterfowl counts was considered to be very good at this time, with between 160 and 300 sites being covered each winter (Scott, 1976d). In an effort to obtain a better understanding of waterfowl movements within Iran during the course of the winter, nationwide counts of waterfowl were also carried out during the month of November in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Also during the early 1970s, breeding season surveys were undertaken at all wetlands in Iran which were thought likely to be important for breeding waterfowl. These surveys included several aerial censuses of the huge breeding colonies of Greater Flamingo, White Pelican and other waterfowl at Lake Uromiyeh, and boat surveys to islands in the Persian Gulf known or thought to be important for breeding sea-birds. Estimates of the wintering and breeding populations of waterfowl and sea-birds in Iran, based on surveys undertaken between 1970 and 1976, are given in Table 2.

Aircraft ceased to become available for waterfowl counts in 1977, and for a few years immediately following the revolution, the mid-winter counts occurred at a greatly reduced level. However, some 40 sites were being counted annually by the mid-1980s, and since then the number of sites counted has increased rapidly to levels comparable with those achieved in the early 1970s. Thus, over 100 sites were counted in January 1988, 124 in January 1992 and 153 sites in January 1994. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to carry out any aerial counts in recent years, and since effective coverage of many of the vast wetlands in central and southern Iran can only be achieved from the air, direct comparison between some of the count data from the early 1970s and count data from the early 1990s remains difficult (Perennou et al., 1994).

In 1966, the Game and Fish Department initiated a duck-banding programme in the south Caspian region, and in 1970, banding activities were extended to include Greater Flamingos at the Lake Uromiyeh colony. In the early 1970s, the Department of the Environment established a national bird-banding scheme, with its own rings bearing a Tehran address. Banding activities were rapidly expanded to take in a wide variety of waterfowl, notably White Pelicans and gulls (Larus spp.) at Lake Uromiyeh, Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) in Gilan, herons and egrets (Ardeidae) in Fars and on the Gulf coast, Common Cranes (Grus grus) in Fars, shorebirds in the south Caspian region and Tehran area, and terns (Sterna spp.) in the Gulf. Bird-banding activities in Iran and all recoveries reported up to the end of 1975 have been summarized by Cornwallis and Ferguson (1970) and Argyle (1975a, 1976a).

Many other wetland-related research activities were initiated by the Game and Fish Department and later the Department of the Environment in the late 1960s and 1970s. These included the following:

- Monthly counts of waterfowl from September to March at selected sites in the south Caspian lowlands (1971/1972 and 1972/73).

- Research on breeding Greater Flamingos at Lake Uromiyeh (initiated in 1970 and continuing).

- A study of waterfowl hunting in the south Caspian region, including an assessment of the annual harvest (early 1970s).

- A nationwide census of breeding White Storks (Ciconia ciconia), carried out in 1974 as part of an international census of storks in Europe and the Middle East (Fotoohi & Scott, 1975).

- Surveys of breeding sea-birds on islands in the Persian Gulf (1972-1977).

- A study of Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) in the Caspian littoral with particular reference to the Anzali Mordab area and Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge (Carnie, 1973).

- Studies on marine turtles in the Persian Gulf, especially at Sheedvar Island (early 1970s).

In the winter of 1975/76, the Department of the Environment, in collaboration with the International Crane Foundation, initiated a project to re-establish the endangered Siberian Crane as a wintering species in Iran through cross-fostering with Common Cranes. The first phase of the project involved the banding and colour-marking of Common Cranes on their wintering grounds at Dasht-e Arjan in Fars. One hundred and eighty-three Common Cranes were marked in 1976, 1977 and 1978 (Farhadpour, 1987). However, with the rediscovery of a wild population of Siberian Cranes wintering in Iran in 1977/78, this project was abandoned.

Since the revolution in 1978, the Department of the Environment has been formulating a policy of wetland conservation, and has been carrying out a systematic investigation of its wetlands and waterfowl populations. Some of the most important projects in recent years have been as follows:

- An investigation of the phenomenon of sea-level rise in the Caspian Sea since the late 1970s.

- Research on the limnology, ecology, flora and fauna of Siahkeshim Marsh in the Anzali Mordab complex in the southwest Caspian. The results of this study have been presented in an illustrated booklet published in Farsi (Riazi, undated).

- A project for the restoration of the wetlands of the Anzali Mordab. This project, which was initiated in 1990, is expected to be continued and expanded with the cooperation of the World Bank.

- A study of the ecology, biology and economic values of Phalacrocorax carbo in the south Caspian region (Monavari, 1988).

- A project to promote sustainable utilization of wetland resources in the Hamoun wetlands in the Sistan Basin.

- Research on changes in the aquatic vegetation of the Hamoun wetlands, with particular reference to the disappearance of Phragmites reed-beds.

A considerable amount of fisheries research has been carried out in the Caspian Sea and in adjacent coastal wetlands by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot). This organization has also conducted limnological and hydrological research in the Caspian, particularly with respect to the rise in sea level since the late 1970s. The National Centre for Marine Science is responsible for marine research in the Persian Gulf. A marine laboratory was established at Bandar Abbas in the southern Gulf in the early 1970s, and a marine research station was constructed on nearby Hormoz Island.

Other wetland research has included several investigations on the hydrobiology of the Neiris Lakes in Fars, the Hamoun wetlands in Sistan, and Lake Uromiyeh in Azarbayjan (e.g. Loffler, 1959, 1961, 1968; Savage, 1968). In the 1960s, the University of Shiraz provided support for a major study of the wetlands of Fars Province (Cornwallis, 1968a, 1968b). In recent years, the University of Tehran has also been involved in research on wetland fauna and flora. Two M.Sc. students from this university are currently studying the limnology and avifauna of Lakes Ajigol and Ulmagol on the Turkoman Steppes in Mazandaran. The University of Tabriz is currently undertaking a project on the sustainable utilization of wetland resources at Lake Uromiyeh in Azarbayjan.

Wetland Area Legislation

Early descriptions of environmental management and protection in Iran are given in Firouz et al. (1970), Firouz (1974), Firouz and Harrington (1976) and Harrington (1976a). More recently, environmental legislation has been summarized by IUCN (1992). The first law concerning the conservation of nature in Iran was passed in 1956 and created the Game Council of Iran, which was charged with the control of hunting activities and the establishment of hunting centres for the protection of endangered species. In 1967, two new laws were enacted: the Law of Protection and Exploitation of Forest and Range and the Law on Game and Fish. The latter created the Game and Fish Department as an independent governmental organization, and gave this body the powers to declare certain areas for the protection of flora and fauna. The Game and Fish Law, as amended in 1975, represents the basic legal control through which exploitation of wildlife is curtailed, hunting and shooting are regulated, and game species are legally protected.

The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act of 1974 superseded all previous enabling nature conservation legislation, and remains the main law covering conservation within Iran. This Act placed wetlands under the jurisdiction of the newly created Department of the Environment. Since the proclamation of Iran as an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979, all laws relating to the conservation of the natural environment have been implemented on the basis of Constitutional Act No.50 of the Republic, which states that all citizens are required to honour the conservation of nature and natural resources.

In 1971, Iran hosted an International Conference on the Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl at the small resort town of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. It was at this conference that the final text of the Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention) was approved and opened for signature. The Government of Iran ratified the Convention on 23 June 1975, and designated 18 wetlands (totalling 1,357,550 ha) for inclusion in the Convention List of Wetlands of International Importance (Table 3). No new sites have been added to the Ramsar List since then, but several sites are currently being considered by the Department of the Environment for designation in the near future.

Also at international level, the Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified the World Heritage Convention, although it has not designated any natural World Heritage Sites, and has signed (but not ratified) the Biodiversity Convention. Iran participates in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme, and as of December 1993, had designated nine Biosphere Reserves covering a total of 2,699,731 ha. Four of these Biosphere Reserves (Arjan, Hara, Uromiyeh and Miankaleh) contain internationally important wetlands described in this inventory. The Islamic Republic of Iran has also ratified the Regional Convention for Cooperation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution, and the Action Plan for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Areas (Evans, 1994). A joint agreement was signed with the USSR in 1973 to combat pollution in the Caspian Sea (IUCN, 1992).

Wetland Area Administration

The Department of the Environment, established in March 1972, is the only organization responsible for the investigation, management and conservation of wetlands in Iran. Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act of 1974, this Department superseded the Game and Fish Department (created in 1967), which itself superseded the Game Council of Iran (created in 1956). The Department is responsible for the protection of wildlife, hunting and fishing in inland waters, as well as protection of the natural environment. The Department undertakes long-term environmental studies and management projects, with responsibilities which include the conservation and enhancement of wildlife resources and prevention of pollution. It puts forward regulations on habitat management, and has introduced environmental legislation regarding pollution. Long-term programmes include the cleaning of the Caspian Sea and Iranian rivers, and prevention of air pollution (IUCN, 1992).

After the proclamation of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the Department of the Environment became responsible for environmental preservation according to a new philosophy, policy aim and strategy, centred on the continued utilization of environmental resources (IUCN, 1992). Any development activity likely to have an impact on wetlands must receive the necessary permission from the Department of the Environment, and an environmental impact assessment must be carried out before any work can begin. However, any organization or institute wishing to carry out research in wetlands is allowed to do so, provided that permission has first been obtained from the Department.

The establishment of hunting reserves in Iran dates back to ancient Persian times, but it was not until the creation of the Game Council in 1956 that the foundations for the present system of protected areas were laid. The Game Council was created with a policy to set up hunting centres for the protection of endangered species and the control of hunting. In 1967, the newly created Game and Fish Department was empowered by law to declare certain areas for the protection of flora and fauna. Two types of designated area were established: Protected Regions in which hunting and land-use activities were subject to certain controls, and Wildlife Parks in which wildlife and their habitats were strictly protected. These sites were re-classified in 1974 following the introduction of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, which defined four categories of protected natural area: National Park, Wildlife Refuge, Protected Area and National Natural Monument (Firouz & Harrington, 1976). These four categories are described by IUCN (1992) and Evans (1994).

The Game and Fish Law of 1967 also provided for the establishment of Protected Rivers and Fishing Refuges. Protected Rivers are areas designated to protect natural habitats from fishing. By the end of 1991, there were five Protected Rivers under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Environment: the Chalus, Karadj, Lar/Haraz, Sardab and Jajerud. Other specified areas include all marshes, wetlands, waterways and bays along the Caspian Sea, all of which are declared protected in so far as fishing is concerned (IUCN, 1992).

Organizations involved with Wetlands

Department of the Environment

Protection and enhancement of the environment; management of wildlife and fisheries in inland waters; jurisdiction and management of protected areas and wetlands; prevention of pollution and environmental degradation; promulgation of emission and quality standards and criteria for air, water, soil, wastes and noise.

Ministry of Water and Power

Enforcement of water quality standards and criteria; water treatment plants and sewage systems; dam construction and irrigation; hydrobiological and hydrochemical research.

Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Management and conservation of forests and range lands, including watershed and soil conservation.

National Fisheries Organization (Shilot)

Management of fisheries in the Caspian region; limnological, hydrological and fisheries research.

National Centre for Marine Science

Marine research.

Tehran University

Research on wetland fauna and flora.

University of Tabriz

Research on wetland fauna and flora.

University of Shiraz

Research on the wetlands of Fars Province.

 

 

Islamic Republic of Iran (part 2)

 

WETLANDS

Site descriptions compiled by Derek A. Scott from internal reports of the Iran Department of the Environment, IWRB waterfowl counts in Iran (1967-1993), the published literature, and personal observations (1970-76), with additional information received from personnel of the Department of the Environment, Eskandar Firouz and Mohammad Nosrati. All of the 63 internationally important wetlands described in this inventory have also been identified as "Important Bird Areas" by BirdLife International, and are described in Evans (1994).

____________________________________________________________________________

Akh Gol (1)

Location: 3933'N, 4447'E; in the Aras Valley in extreme northwestern Iran, 115 km north of Khoy, Azarbayjan Province.

Area: 600 ha.

Altitude: 820 m.

Overview: A small brackish lake with associated marshes in a region of semi-arid steppic hills in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important primarily as a breeding area for waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris.

Physical features: Akh Gol is a small brackish lake and marshes set in an amphitheatre of rugged lava hills on the south side of the Aras River valley near the border with the Republic of Armenia. The lake is fed by small springs and local run-off, and drains eastwards into the Aras River about 5 km away. The small western portion of the lake retains water throughout the summer, but the main eastern section dries out in late summer, exposing extensive bare mudflats. The lake is generally frozen over and under snow cover in mid-winter.

Ecological features: Fresh to brackish marshes with extensive Phragmites reed-beds around the western margins of the lake, and a large area of brackish Salicornia flats with scattered clumps of Phragmites and Tamarix on the plains to the east. The hills to the north and south support steppic vegetation dominated by Artemisia.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The lake has been designated a No-Hunting Area. It has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Livestock grazing and probably some waterfowl hunting.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The lake is in the process of being drained for agricultural land.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The site is primarily important for its breeding waterfowl which include 100-150 pairs of Himantopus himantopus. At least one pair of Marmaronetta angustirostris bred in 1974, and Oxyura leucocephala may have bred in recent years. Other breeding species include Podiceps cristatus, Burhinus oedicnemus, Charadrius dubius, C. alexandrinus (20-30 pairs), Vanellus vanellus (10-15 pairs), Tringa totanus (15-20 pairs), T. hypoleucos and Acrocephalus arundinaceus. Circus pygargus has been observed in summer and may breed in the area. Up to 90 Tadorna ferruginea have been recorded on passage (November).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Several waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment, mostly during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Green (1993); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a & 3c (possibly also 2a). Akh Gol is a good representative example of a natural wetland characteristic of the uplands of northwestern Iran. It is probably a regular breeding area for Marmaronetta angustirostris (a threatened species), and regularly supports over 1% of the regional breeding population of Himantopus himantopus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Dasht-e Moghan (2)

Location: 3935'N, 4800'E; near the town of Parsabad on the plains of the Aras River in extreme northeastern Azarbayjan Province, about 160 km north of Ardabil.

Area: 3,000 ha.

Altitude: 10 m.

Overview: An area of wet cultivated plains along the Aras River, important for wintering geese (Anser spp.). Unprotected.

Physical features: The Dasht-e Moghan is a wet cultivated plain, about 30 sq.km in extent, bordered in the northwest by the Aras River and in the northeast by the international frontier with the Republic of Azerbaijan. At this point, the Aras River is wide and meandering, with many braided channels, shingle banks, quiet backwaters with marsh vegetation, and shrub-covered islands. The river, which forms the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan, flows in a broad valley about 1.5-2.0 km wide and 10 m below the level of the adjacent plains. These are densely populated, with many small villages, and are almost entirely under cultivation for cotton and wheat.

Ecological features: Riverine habitats include braided channels, shingle banks, stagnant pools with emergent marsh vegetation, open Tamarix scrub (mainly on the many small islands) and grassy areas. The plains are mostly under cultivation for cotton and wheat, although there are some areas of short grassland and Artemisia steppe in the east and stands of poplars around the villages.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Agriculture (mainly cotton and wheat) and some livestock grazing.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The goose flocks feeding on the cultivated plains are subject to high levels of disturbance from farm workers, and there is some waterfowl hunting.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for geese (Anser albifrons and A. anser) and ducks. Up to 320 A. albifrons and 1,370 A. anser have been recorded, this being one of the best areas for A. albifrons in Iran. The goose flocks feed at dawn and dusk on the cultivated plains of the Dasht-e Moghan and spend much of the day loafing on shingle banks in the river where they are free from disturbance. Four Anser erythropus were present in the area in November 1971. Small numbers of Mergus merganser (maximum 18) occur along the river and Ciconia nigra has been recorded in winter. Other wintering birds have included up to 188 Egretta alba, 274 Cygnus olor, 149 Tadorna ferruginea, 2,320 Anas crecca, 1,660 A. platyrhynchos, 200 Aythya ferina, 400 A. fuligula, 400 Vanellus vanellus and 9 Tringa nebularia. Aquila heliaca, Falco cherrug, F. peregrinus and F. columbarius are regular winter visitors, and small numbers of Tetrax tetrax have occurred in late autumn.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment on a number of occasions since 1969.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 3c. The Dasht-e Moghan regularly supports over 1% of the regional wintering population of Anser albifrons and A. anser.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Gori Gol (3)

Location: 3750'N, 4640'E; on the north side of the main Tabriz to Tehran highway, about 40 km east-southeast of Tabriz, Azarbayjan Province.

Area: 120 ha.

Altitude: 1,950 m.

Overview: A small freshwater lake with associated marshes in the steppic uplands of northwestern Iran, important primarily as a breeding area for waterfowl including Oxyura leucocephala. The lake has been designated as a Ramsar Site, but is otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Gori Gol (or Gory Gol) is a fresh to brackish, eutrophic lake fed by local rainfall, springs and small streams, and receiving the bulk of its water after the spring snow-melt. The lake has an average depth of about 2-3 metres, and shows little fluctuation in water level. It overflows at its northeast corner into a small stream. The bottom consists of a mud deposit on shale and rocks. The lake is generally frozen over by late December and remains frozen, often under deep snow cover, throughout the winter.

Ecological features: There are extensive areas of Phragmites, Juncus, Carex and Scirpus around the shores of the lake and abundant underwater vegetation. The surrounding area is semi-arid, steppic country with one small settlement and wheat cultivation on the west and damp grassland on the southwest. The main Tabriz-Tehran road passes close by the south side of the lake.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: There is no legal habitat protection. However, hunting is prohibited, and the Department of the Environment maintains some control over the area. Lake Gori (120 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975, and has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Sport fishing, grazing, reed-cutting and wildfowl hunting. Some outdoor recreation by the inhabitants of Tabriz, especially at weekends and holidays.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The lake remains in good condition, and there are no serious threats. However, lying close to the main Tabriz-Tehran road and only 45 km from Tabriz, the lake is subjected to intensive recreational use, including shooting and fishing. This causes a considerable amount of disturbance to breeding waterbirds.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The site has some value for outdoor recreation for the people of Tabriz.

Noteworthy fauna: An important site for breeding waterfowl, notably Podiceps nigricollis (125-150 pairs), Aythya nyroca (several pairs) and Oxyura leucocephala (several pairs), and the only known breeding locality in Iran for Podiceps grisegena (1 or 2 pairs). Other breeding species include Fulica atra (100s of pairs), Vanellus vanellus (15-20 pairs), Tringa totanus (15-20 pairs), Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus. Porzana parva has been heard calling in summer, and may breed. Feeding flocks of Pelecanus onocrotalus occasionally frequent the lake in summer, presumably from the breeding colony at Lake Uromiyeh. A wide variety of waterfowl occur on passage, including up to 70 Ardeola ralloides, 100 Tadorna ferruginea, 1,000 Anas querquedula, 150 A. clypeata, 400 Aythya fuligula, 40 A. nyroca, 15 O. leucocephala, 12,500 Fulica atra, 100 Himantopus himantopus, 70 Charadrius hiaticula, 100 Calidris minuta, 200 Philomachus pugnax, 25 Tringa stagnatilis, 100 T. glareola, 22 Gelochelidon nilotica, 80 Chlidonias hybridus and 400 C. leucopterus. Botaurus stellaris, Circus pygargus and Falco cherrug have been recorded on passage in small numbers. The lake has no value for wintering waterfowl as it is completely frozen over during the mid-winter period.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: The Ornithology Unit at the Department of the Environment has carried out a number of surveys of breeding waterfowl.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 2c & 3c. Gori Gol is a good representative example of a natural wetland characteristic of the uplands of northwestern Iran. It is a breeding site for Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala (globally threatened species), and is the only known breeding site for Podiceps grisegena in Iran. It is an important breeding site for many other species of waterfowl, and regularly supports over 1% of the regional breeding population of Podiceps nigricollis.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Uromiyeh (4)

Location: 3730'N, 4530'E; in a large internal drainage basin in western Azarbayjan Province, 60 km southwest of Tabriz.

Area: 483,000 ha.

Altitude: 1,280 m (Kabudan peak at 1,525 m).

Overview: A large, shallow, hypersaline lake with numerous islands and extensive fringing brackish to saline marshes, in a large internal drainage basin in the uplands of northwestern Iran. The lake is of great importance as a breeding area for many species of waterfowl, notably Phoenicopterus ruber and Pelecanus onocrotalus, and as a staging area for migratory species in spring and autumn. The lake is protected as a National Park and Ramsar Site.

Physical features: Lake Uromiyeh (Orumiyeh), formerly known as Lake Rezaiyeh, is a vast hypersaline lake of great scenic beauty with numerous small islands and extensive salt-encrusted flats and shingle beaches. The lake is about 140 km long (from northwest to southeast) and up to 55 km wide near its southern end. The average depth of the lake is about five metres, except in the southern portion where depths reach 8 m. The bottom consists of mud or silt, often covered by salt crystals. Salinities range from 80 to 280 p.p.t. and the water temperature from 3C to 30C; the salts present in the lake are very similar to those in sea water. Seasonal inflow is mostly from snow-melt. This causes the lake to rise in spring by 1-2 m, and reach its highest levels in the first half of June. Evaporation then lowers the level again throughout the summer and autumn. Water temperatures are at their highest in August. There are several large areas of fresh to brackish marshes with abundant aquatic vegetation in the "deltas" of the many small rivers and streams which flow into the lake. The most extensive of these marshes is found at the mouth of the Jogatu Chay (river) at the south end of the lake. The lake includes 56, mostly small, uninhabited islands. The largest island, Kabudan (Ghoyoon Daghi), comprises 3,125 ha of hilly terrain covered with steppe vegetation and scattered trees. The climate is semi-arid, with very hot summers and extremely cold winters (temperatures regularly falling below -25C). The mean annual rainfall is in the range 400-600 mm.

Ecological features: The lake supports an abundant growth of the alga Enteromorpha intestinalis (Ulvaceae) and there is a build up of brine shrimp Artemia salina during the summer months. Savage (1968) has described secondary productivity in the lake ecosystem. In years when salt concentrations remain low, Enteromorpha becomes so abundant that the whole lake takes on the appearance of a thin vegetable soup. Artemia begins to appear in April, but does not build up in great strength until June; successive hatches maintain high numbers until September. The lake is too saline to support any other plants or animals. The shoreline vegetation is dominated by species of Atriplex, Frankenia and Suaeda. The marshes around the lake have typical saltmarsh plant communities with Juncus, some Phragmites reed-beds at river mouths, and occasional stands of Tamarix. Remnant stands of Pistasia atlantica woodland survive on the larger islands, notably Kabudan (Goyoon Daghi) and Ashk. Other conspicuous plants on the larger islands include Rhamnus pallasii and species of Artemisia, Dianthus, Cerasseus, Hodeum and Bromus. There are rolling wheat-lands to the west and south of the lake, and semi-arid steppe and hills to the north and east. Much of the surrounding semi-arid steppe has been converted to wheat fields. There are small human settlements at various points on the shore.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: Ghoyoon Daghi (Kabudan) Island was established as a Protected Region in February 1960. This was enlarged to encompass the entire lake and all its islands (483,000 ha) in August 1967. The Protected Region was reduced in size to 465,000 ha and given National Park status in the early 1970s. The National Park has since been reduced to its present size of 463,600 ha. The entire lake (483,000 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. 462,600 ha of the National Park were designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in June 1976. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Cornwallis (1976) recommended that the boundaries of the National Park be extended to the upper limit of the inundation zone of the lake. This would involve no conflict with agricultural interests, and would incorporate the Gordeh Git and Mamiyand marshes (site 6), the Talab-e-Garrous marshes, and Ghopi Bob Haydar (a small lake and freshwater marsh about 4 km southeast of Talab-e-Garrous) within the National Park.

Land use: Several small steamer services operate on the lake, ferrying people and supplies between five small ports, and there is some grazing by domestic livestock in peripheral marshes, but otherwise the entire area is protected as a National Park.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Freshwater discharge into the marshes at the south end of the lake was reduced in the early 1970s following the construction of a dam on the Mahabad River (as part of the Mahabad Multipurpose Drainage and Irrigation Project). However, this was partially compensated for by discharge from the irrigation scheme through two main drains emptying into one of the marshes (Talab-e-Garrous). These drains provide water to the marsh throughout the summer and have improved its value for nesting birds (Cornwallis, 1976). The most serious threat is likely to be water-borne pollution from towns in the catchment area, especially the large city of Tabriz to the northeast and the town of Uromiyeh to the west, and pollution with toxic chemicals used in the surrounding agricultural land.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The lake has little value for conventional outdoor recreation because of its extremely high salinity, but has exceptionally high values for eco-tourism because of its great scenic beauty and spectacular concentrations of waterbirds. Local people believe that the lake-side mud has special medicinal properties.

Noteworthy fauna: The lake is extremely important for breeding Pelecanus onocrotalus (1,000-1,600 pairs), Egretta garzetta (90 pairs), Plegadis falcinellus (100+ pairs), Platalea leucorodia (50-100 pairs), Phoenicopterus ruber (15,000-25,000 pairs), Tadorna ferruginea (300-500 pairs), Tadorna tadorna (4,000-5,000 pairs), Himantopus himantopus (300-500 pairs), Recurvirostra avosetta (1,500-2,000 pairs), Tringa totanus (2,000-3,000 pairs), Larus (cachinnans) armenicus (4,000-5,000 pairs) and Larus genei (3,000-4,000 pairs). Other breeding birds include several pairs of Anser anser, Marmaronetta angustirostris (maximum of 25 adults present in summer) and Aythya nyroca. Charadrius leschenaultii has been recorded during the summer months and may breed on the saline flats around the lake. The pelicans, spoonbills, Egretta garzetta and many of the gulls breed on a group of small islands (the Dowguzlar Islands) near the south end of the lake, and flight to the extensive brackish and freshwater wetlands on the plain to the south of the lake to feed. Savage (1964) surveyed the lake in 1960 and found only about 100 non-breeding flamingos; he located some old nest-mounds, and speculated that flamingos had bred in the past. However, some 10,000 to 12,000 birds were found breeding in 1965 and 1966, and in 1970, there were an estimated 40,000 birds at the colony. Aerial censuses of the breeding colonies in 1971 and 1972 indicated 15,000-20,000 pairs in both years, with an additional 5,000-10,000 non-breeders present. Flamingos are known to have bred in large numbers at Lake Uromiyeh every year since then, and numbers appear to be increasing slightly, with perhaps as many as 25,000 breeding pairs in recent years. The birds have bred at many localities amongst the numerous islands in the lake, and in some years there are several large colonies. After hatching, the chicks gather together in large creches and swim to the south end of the lake to feed in the extensive shallows. Towards the end of the breeding season, the adults congregate in huge rafts to moult.

Most other species of waterfowl breed on the mudflats surrounding the lake or in the extensive fresh to brackish marshes at the main river mouths.

The vast mudflats surrounding the lake are the most important autumn staging area for migratory shorebirds and Anas querquedula in Iran, while the open waters of the lake occasionally support huge numbers of passage Podiceps nigricollis. Over 425,000 waterfowl of at least 53 species were recorded in the Uromiyeh Basin during an aerial survey on 29-31 August 1973. These included an estimated 146,000 unidentified small shorebirds (probably mostly Calidris minuta and C. ferruginea) on the mudflats around the lake, along with over 21,000 A. querquedula and 13,600 Recurvirostra avosetta. The lake appears to be an important moulting area for Tadorna tadorna (with up to 35,000 in August), and in mild winters may support large numbers of wintering waterfowl. Peak counts of waterfowl are given in Table 4.

The islands in Lake Uromiyeh are the only known breeding locality for Falco biarmicus in Iran (at least five pairs) and also provide nesting sites for at least ten pairs of Neophron percnopterus. Falco cherrug and F. peregrinus have been recorded during the summer months and may breed; Gyps fulvus and Aegypius monachus are regular visitors from the surrounding hills; and Haliaeetus albicilla and Falco columbarius occur in winter. The Great Bustard Otis tarda was a regular visitor to the plains around the lake in the 1970s, with up to 19 being recorded in August, but the birds were not known to breed in the area. At least 187 species of birds have been recorded in the National Park.

Wild Sheep (Ovis ammon) of the western red race were introduced onto Kabudan Island in the 19th century, while Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) were introduced onto Ashk Island in the late 1970s. The sheep population peaked at over 4,000 in 1971/72, but then crashed to only about 1,150 in 1973/74. Leopard (Panthera pardus) were introduced onto Kabudan in about 1970 in an attempt to control Wild Sheep numbers. Although the Leopard are known to have bred on the island, they are believed to have died out towards the end of the decade.

Noteworthy flora: Several of the islands, notably Ashk and Kabudan, support almost pristine stands of Azarbayjan Pistachio (Pistacia atlantica) forest. The few surviving stands of this forest type elsewhere in northwestern Iran are now much degraded.

Scientific research and facilities: The Department of the Environment has carried out a considerable amount of research on the fauna of the lake and its islands, and especially on the introduced populations of Ovis ammon and Dama dama mesopotamica, and the breeding colony of Phoenicopterus ruber. A flamingo ringing programme was initiated in 1970, and by 1990, over 35,000 chicks had been ringed with metal rings bearing the inscription of the Department of the Environment. Pelican chicks have also been ringed on a regular basis since 1970, although in much smaller numbers, and some gulls were ringed in the late 1970s. Mid-winter waterfowl counts have been carried out on an annual basis since the early 1970s, and several aerial censuses of breeding waterfowl were conducted during the 1970s. Accommodation for research workers and basic laboratory facilities are available at the park headquarters on Kabudan Island.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment. The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Carp (1980); Cornwallis (1976); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz (1974); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Firouz et al. (1970); Green (1993); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage (1964, 1968); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1973b, 1975c, 1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1993); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. Lake Uromiyeh is a magnificent example of a natural, hypersaline lake with great scenic beauty. It is a regular breeding site for Marmaronetta angustirostris and Aythya nyroca (globally threatened species), and supports a great diversity of wetland fauna and flora associated with brackish and saline to hypersaline conditions. It is particularly important for its large breeding colonies of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Phoenicopterus ruber and Larus (cachinnans) armenicus, but also supports over 1% of the regional breeding populations of seven other species of waterfowl. During the migration seasons and in winter, it regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of an additional five species of waterfowl.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Shur Gol, Yadegarlu and Dorgeh Sangi Lakes (5)

Location: Shur Gol 3701'N, 4528'E; Yadegarlu 3702N, 4532'E; Dorgeh Sangi 3659'N, 4534'E. On the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh, 7-10 km south of the southeast corner of the lake and about 30-35 km northwest of Mahabad, Azarbayjan.

Area: 2,500 ha (Shur Gol 2,000 ha; Yadegarlu 350 ha; Dorgeh Sangi 150 ha).

Altitude: 1,290 m.

Overview: A group of fresh to brackish and saline lakes and marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The wetlands have been designated as a Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Shur Gol and the associated Hassanlu Marshes consist of a shallow, brackish to saline lake and marshland fed by local rainfall, springs, seepages and several small streams. The maximum depth of the lake is about one metre. Flooding occurs in autumn and winter, but drainage is virtually closed and the complex dries out completely only in very dry years. The much smaller Yadegarlu and Dorgeh Sangi wetlands a few km to the east and southeast are shallow freshwater lakes with peripheral eutrophic marshes. Both are subject to wide fluctuations in water level, and are often completely frozen over in winter.

Ecological features: The extensive marshes at Shur Gol and Yadegarlu are dominated by sedges (Carex) and grasses. There is relatively little aquatic vegetation at Dorgeh Sangi, where extensive bare mudflats are exposed at low water levels. The surrounding land includes wheat fields on the rolling hills and plains to the north, and more intensive agriculture in the vicinity of the villages to the south.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: There is no legal habitat protection, but the Department of the Environment exerts some control over hunting activities in the area. All three wetlands were designated as a single Ramsar Site of 2,500 ha on 23 June 1975. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Cornwallis (1976) recommended that Wildlife Refuges be established at Yadegarlu and Dorgeh Sangi lakes.

Land use: Waterfowl hunting, grazing of lakeshore vegetation by domestic livestock, and some traditional reed-cutting.

Possible changes in land use: Possible conversion of marshes for agriculture.

Disturbances and threats: Hunting pressure on waterfowl is reported to have been excessive, especially in the years immediately following the revolution, and grazing pressure on the aquatic vegetation is very high. There have been reports of wetland drainage for agriculture at Yadegarlu. However, all three wetlands were reported to be in good condition in January 1995.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetlands are especially important for breeding waterfowl, notably Ciconia ciconia, Plegadis falcinellus (50-75 pairs), Marmaronetta angustirostris (10-15 pairs), Aythya nyroca (several pairs), Oxyura leucocephala (several pairs) and Glareola pratincola (50-80 pairs), and passage ducks, Fulica atra (up to 120,000) and shorebirds. When not frozen over, the lakes also support large numbers of wintering waterfowl, mainly dabbling ducks and F. atra. A small flock of Cygnus columbianus (maximum 57) occurred regularly at these lakes in the early 1970s, and this was the only regular wintering site for C. columbianus in Iran at that time, with 41 in 1969/70, 57 in 1970/71, 4 in 1971/72 and 14 in 1974/75. A few C. columbianus were present in a flock of 30 swans (mainly C. cygnus) in January 1995. Small flocks of Anser erythropus (maximum 175) were recorded on autumn passage in the 1970s, and up to 120 Anser albifrons were present in winter, along with several hundred Anser anser. Ciconia nigra and Charadrius asiaticus have occurred as scarce passage migrants. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 5. The Great Bustard Otis tarda was an occasional visitor to the surrounding plains in the 1970s (maximum 6). Haliaeetus albicilla is a regular winter visitor, with up to three birds present at one time.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1970, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Cornwallis (1976); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. Shur Gol, Yadegarlu and Dorgeh Sangi lakes provide habitat for at least five threatened species of birds: Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala breed in the wetlands, and Anser erythropus and Otis tarda occur on passage. The wetlands support a high diversity of wetland fauna and flora, and constitute important feeding habitat for Pelecanus onocrotalus and other species from the internationally important breeding colonies at nearby Lake Uromiyeh. The wetlands regularly hold more than 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, as well as over 1% of the regional populations of eight species of waterfowl.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Gerde Gheet and Mamiyand (6)

Location: 3702'N, 4540'E; on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh, 10 km from the south end of the lake and about 30 km north of Mahabad, Azarbayjan.

Area: 500 ha.

Altitude: 1,300 m.

Overview: An area of freshwater marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: The wetland comprises two adjacent areas of freshwater marsh, Gerde Gheet and Mamiyand (Gordeh Git and Meimand), on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh.

Ecological features: Most of the wetland is covered in tall stands of Phragmites reeds.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The Department of the Environment controls hunting activities in the area. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Cornwallis (1976) recommended that the boundaries of the Lake Uromiyeh National Park be extended to the upper limit of the inundation zone of the lake. This would bring the Gerde Gheet and Mamiyand marshes within the boundaries of the National Park.

Land use: There is some waterfowl hunting in winter, and some grazing of aquatic vegetation by domestic livestock.

Possible changes in land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A breeding area for Ardea purpurea (several pairs), Ciconia ciconia, Circus aeruginosus (several pairs) and Glareola pratincola (50+ pairs). One or two pairs of Oxyura leucocephala were breeding in the marshes in the 1970s, and Marmaronetta angustirostris and Gelochelidon nilotica probably bred. Up to 20 Great Bustards Otis tarda have occurred on the surrounding plains in winter. Large numbers of wintering waterfowl have been recorded in recent years, including large numbers of Anser anser, up to 2,500 Tadorna ferruginea and 3,000 T. tadorna.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1970, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Cornwallis (1976); Evans (1994); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Gerde Gheet and Mamiyand support a small breeding population of Oxyura leucocephala (a threatened species) and probably also Marmaronetta angustirostris. In winter, the wetlands regularly support over 1% of the regional populations of Tadorna ferruginea and T. tadorna.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Ghara Gheshlaq Marshes (7)

Location: 3710'N, 4550'E, on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh, 12 km from the south end of the lake and about 20 km north of Mahabad, Azarbayjan.

Area: 400 ha.

Altitude: 1,290 m.

Overview: An area of freshwater marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The marshes have been designated as a No-hunting Area.

Physical features: Ghara Gheshlaq Marshes comprise some 400 ha of permanent and seasonally flooded freshwater marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh. The marshes are flooded to a maximum depth of about one metre, and are eutrophic. They are usually frozen over and under snow cover during the winter months. Peripheral areas of the wetland have been drained and converted to agricultural land.

Ecological features: Permanent freshwater marshes with extensive Phragmites reed-beds and little open water, surrounded by a belt of seasonally flooded sedge marshes and grassland.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The marshes have recently been designated as a No-Hunting Area, and are likely to be given Protected Area status within five years. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The Department of the Environment has proposed that Ghara Gheshlaq Marshes be designated as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Livestock grazing in the wetland, and agriculture in surrounding areas. There is a great deal of waterfowl hunting around the edges of the No-Hunting Area.

Possible changes in land use: Conversion of wetlands to agricultural land.

Disturbances and threats: Large portions of the marsh were drained by the Mahabad Multipurpose Drainage and Irrigation Project in the 1970s. Since the early 1980s, large-scale die-offs of waterfowl have been reported on several occasions during the breeding and migration seasons. As many as 100,000 waterfowl are believed to have died in a single year. The reason for the die-offs is unknown, but disease (possibly botulism) has been suspected.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The marshes are especially important for breeding waterfowl, including Podiceps cristatus (10-15 pairs), Nycticorax nycticorax (25 pairs), Egretta garzetta (25 pairs), Plegadis falcinellus (60 pairs), Marmaronetta angustirostris (10-20 pairs), Glareola pratincola (25 pairs) and Vanellus vanellus (common). Oxyura leucocephala and Himantopus himantopus have been recorded in summer, and may breed. Small flocks of Pelecanus onocrotalus and Platalea leucorodia from the nearby breeding colonies at Lake Uromiyeh regularly feed in the marshes during the summer months. The marshes occasionally hold large numbers of ducks and shorebirds during the migration seasons (e.g. up to 10,000 Anas acuta, 150 A. querquedula, 300 Philomachus pugnax and 100 Tringa glareola). In most winters, the wetland is frozen over and devoid of birds, but in mild years it may support large numbers of geese and ducks, e.g. up to 3,280 Anser anser, 280 Tadorna ferruginea, 15,000 T. tadorna, 500 Anas platyrhynchos and 2,700 Aythya fuligula. Anser albifrons and A. erythropus have occurred in small numbers. About 600 swans, mostly Cygnus cygnus but also including some C. olor and a few C. columbianus, were present in the winter of 1991/92. Circus pygargus (a scarce bird in Iran) was observed regularly during the summer months in the 1970s, and was believed to breed. Pandion haliaetus, Circus cyaneus and C. macrourus have been recorded on passage, and C. aeruginosus probably breeds. In recent years, the Great Bustard Otis tarda has occurred as a winter visitor to the area, with 24 in 1993 and 26 in 1994.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1970, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Cornwallis (1976); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Ghara Gheshlaq Marshes support a significant breeding population of Marmaronetta angustirostris (a threatened species). During the migration seasons and in winter, the wetlands regularly support over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser, Tadorna tadorna, Anas acuta and Aythya fuligula.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Kobi (8)

Location: 3657'N, 4530'E; on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh, 30 km from the south end of the lake and about 25 km northeast of Mahabad, Azarbayjan. (The longitude of this lake have often been given erroneously as 4552'E, e.g. in all Ramsar documentation).

Area: 1,200 ha.

Altitude: 1,290 m.

Overview: A fresh to brackish lake and associated marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The lake has been designated as a Ramsar Site, but is otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Lake Kobi (or Ghopi Bob Ali) is a shallow, eutrophic, fresh to brackish lake with extensive seasonally flooded marshes, receiving its water from local rainfall, several springs, seepages and temporary watercourses fed by snow-melt. The maximum depth is about 1.5 m; the bottom is comprised of mud. The lake overflows when full, flooding marshland to the north and west. It regularly freezes over in winter.

Ecological features: The lake supports an abundant growth of submerged vegetation; there are extensive sedge marshes around much of the shoreline, and Phragmites reed-beds occur in the south and to the northwest, together with some grassland. The whole area is surrounded by rolling steppic hills, with scattered settlements and cultivation to the north and south.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. Lake Kobi (1,200 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing of livestock and wildfowl hunting.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The marshes support a variety of breeding waterfowl, notably Nycticorax nycticorax (100 pairs), Ardeola ralloides (100 pairs), Egretta garzetta (100 pairs), Plegadis falcinellus (100-150 pairs) and Aythya nyroca (several pairs), and there was a breeding colony of 50 pairs of Podiceps nigricollis at the lake in 1972. Sterna albifrons is present in summer and may breed. Oxyura leucocephala occurs during the summer (maximum 33), but these birds appear to be non-breeders or feeding birds from breeding sites at other wetlands in the general area. The lake is an extremely important staging area for ducks, Fulica atra and shorebirds in autumn, regularly holding in excess of 100,000 birds. Peak counts have included 6,600 Phoenicopterus ruber, 3,000 Anas querquedula, 5,000 A. clypeata, 20,000 Aythya ferina and 50,000 F. atra, as well as over 100 O. leucocephala. Large numbers of ducks and coots remain throughout the winter in very mild years when the lake remains unfrozen. A flock of 16 Branta ruficollis in January 1970 was exceptional, as was a single Grus virgo in August 1972. Small numbers of Marmaronetta angustirostris and Charadrius asiaticus have been recorded on autumn passage. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 6. Haliaeetus albicilla and Falco columbarius are regular winter visitors, and Circus pygargus has been recorded in summer and may breed. The Great Bustard Otis tarda is an occasional visitor in small numbers to the surrounding plains (maximum 6).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1970, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Carp (1980); Cornwallis (1976); Evans (1994); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1978a); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 3a & 3c. Lake Kobi is a particularly good representative example of a natural brackish lake characteristic of the uplands of northwestern Iran. It supports significant numbers of two globally threatened species, Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala, during the summer and autumn, and Marmaronetta angustirostris has occurred on passage. Otis tarda is a regular visitor to the surrounding plains. The lake often holds over 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, and regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Phoenicopterus ruber, Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, Anas clypeata, Aythya ferina, Fulica atra and Himantopus himantopus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Nowruzlu Dam (9)

Location: 3655'N, 4610'E; in the valley of the Zarrineh Rud, 15 km southeast of Miandoab and about 45 km east-northeast of Mahabad, Azarbayjan.

Area: 1,000 ha.

Altitude: 1,260 m.

Overview: A small reservoir with adjacent arable land along the Zarrineh Rud to the southeast of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important as a feeding area for Pelecanus onocrotalus in summer, and as a wintering area for ducks and geese (Anatidae). Unprotected.

Physical features: Nowruzlu Dam is a small water storage reservoir on the Zarrineh Rud, one of the principal rivers flowing into Lake Uromiyeh; it is situated in a region of undulating plains set between ranges of stony hills. There is a small marshy area with some reed-beds and shrubby vegetation where the river enters the dam. The plain is fairly heavily populated, with several villages and a complex network of gravel and dirt roads.

Ecological features: The dam supports little emergent aquatic vegetation except for a small stand of Phragmites at the mouth of the river. The adjacent plains are under cultivation (primarily wheat); nearby rolling hills support Artemisia steppe.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Water supply for irrigation. There is some waterfowl hunting in autumn and winter. The principal land-use activity throughout the region is wheat cultivation. Livestock (mainly sheep and goats) graze on fallow land and the adjacent steppic hills.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There are high levels of disturbance from farming activities on the surrounding plains.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The dam is an important feeding area for Pelecanus onocrotalus (maximum 830) and Platalea leucorodia (maximum 64) from the breeding colonies at Lake Uromiyeh, and there is a small breeding colony of Nycticorax nycticorax (20 pairs). Flocks of Anser albifrons (maximum 156) and A. anser (maximum 415) frequent the area in winter, and small numbers of ducks occur on the dam when ice-free (e.g. up to 310 Aythya ferina, 55 Mergellus albellus and 5 Mergus merganser). Much larger numbers of waterfowl are present during the spring and autumn migration seasons. Peak counts have included 100 Phalacrocorax carbo, 35 Ardeola ralloides, 25 Ardea cinerea, 150 Plegadis falcinellus, 650 Tadorna ferruginea, 1,880 Anas crecca, 1,060 A. platyrhynchos, 5,000 A. querquedula, 1,790 Fulica atra, 46 Haematopus ostralegus, 50 Himantopus himantopus, 50 Recurvirostra avosetta, 300 Calidris minuta, 250 Philomachus pugnax, 50 Tringa stagnatilis and 200 Chlidonias leucopterus. Haliaeetus albicilla and Falco cherrug have been recorded in winter. The surrounding plains are reported to have been an important breeding area for Great Bustards Otis tarda in the 1960s, and there were still several females nesting there in the 1970s. The plains are regularly visited by flocks of O. tarda in spring and autumn, with a maximum of 37 in November 1972.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1971, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 3c. Nowruzlu Dam is an important feeding area for flocks of Pelecanus onocrotalus from the large breeding colony at Lake Uromiyeh, regularly holding over 1% of the regional population. The wetland also occasionally supports over 1% of the regional wintering population of Anser albifrons.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

South Caspian Shore (10)

Location: From 3825'N, 4852'E at Astara in the west to 3721'N, 5357'E at the Turkmenistan border in the east; the southern limit lies at 3635'N. The shore and inshore waters of the Caspian Sea from Astara on the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan in the west to the border with the Republic of Turkmenistan, about 35 km north-northwest of Gomishan, in the east. In the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran.

Area: 650 km of shoreline.

Altitude: 26 m below sea level.

Overview: The sandy beaches and inshore waters of the Caspian Sea in Iran, from the border with Azerbaijan in the west to the border with Turkmenistan in the east; of outstanding importance for fisheries production and as a staging and wintering area for huge numbers of migratory waterfowl. Short sections of the beach are included within two Protected Areas in the southwest Caspian, and a 60 km stretch of beach is included in the Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge in the southeast

Physical features: The site comprises the entire shoreline (some 650 km) and inshore waters of the Caspian Sea in Iran. The present coastline of the South Caspian, produced as it was by shrinkage of the water surface, appears generally straight or only slightly curved, and without any prominent headlands or cliffs. It is characterized by a sequence of sand beaches, dunes, spits and bars, bordered by a series of low-lying brackish and freshwater lagoons and marshes. The shore itself is almost entirely a narrow, hard, sand beach, except in the extreme west where there are stretches of shingle, and at one point to the west of Alamdeh (central coast) where there is a small area of rocky shore. Along most of is length, the shore is backed by a line of sand dunes from 10-20 m high and at varying distances from the water's edge, but no more than about 600 m wide. The salinity of the Caspian Sea is about 12-13 p.p.t.

Between 1866 and 1933, the level of the Caspian Sea fluctuated between 25.2 and 26.0 metres below sea level. In the early 1930s, however, following the construction of several major dams on the Volga River in the former U.S.S.R., the level started to fall and this continued almost without break (other than seasonal fluctuations) until 1977/78, when the level had reached 28 metres below sea level. Then began a sudden and rapid rise, averaging over 10 cm per year. By the end of 1991, the water had risen by approximately 1.8 metres, bringing the level of the Caspian Sea almost back to its level in the 1930s. In the mid-1970s, when the Caspian Sea was at its lowest, the beach was generally 30-50 metres wide and in some areas up to 100 metres wide, but by 1992, most of the beach had been submerged and in many places the sea was invading the adjacent vegetated dunes. The changes in sea level prior to 1970 have been summarized by Ferguson (1972).

There remains considerable uncertainty as to the cause of this sudden rise in sea level. It has been argued that the rise has been deliberately engineered by the Government of the former U.S.S.R., in an effort to restore the sea to its original level. Two major engineering works could have contributed to the rise in sea level: the closing of Karabogaz Bay in the east Caspian in 1978 (thereby reducing the loss of water by evaporation), and the diversion of two Siberian rivers into the Ural River (thereby increasing the inflow of fresh water). According to some calculations, the closing of Karabogaz Bay could alone have been responsible for a rise in sea level of between 40 and 45 cm. However, there is also a strong body of opinion in favour of the view that the rise in sea level is a natural phenomenon and merely part of a long-term cycle.

The climate throughout the South Caspian lowlands is characterized by warm, humid summers and mild winters, with a relatively low annual range in temperature. The average annual rainfall is 1,950 mm, with rain falling throughout the year but mainly in winter. Relative humidity averages 80-85%, with highest readings during spring and autumn. The lowest temperatures occur in February (mean around 6C) and the highest in August (mean maximum nearly 25C); extremes are -11C and 30C. Hard frosts and snow are relatively infrequent, especially in the southeast Caspian.

Ecological features: Shallow inshore waters of the Caspian Sea, long sandy beaches, some stretches of shingle beach (mainly in the west), and a small area of rocky shoreline (in the centre). The lower beach is generally devoid of macrophytes. Characteristic vegetation of the non-mobile sands of the spray zone include Agriophyllum latifolium, Crepis foetida, Convolvulus persicus, Tournefortia arguzia, Daucus littoralis and Salsola kali.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: Short sections of Caspian beach are included within the Lavandavil Protected Area (see site 11) and Lisar Protected Area in Gilan, and about 60 km of beach are included within the Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge in Mazandaran (see site 20). The entire South Caspian shoreline has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing, both from large and small vessels in inshore waters, and from long seine nets operated from the beach. The long sandy beaches of the South Caspian are very popular for outdoor recreation during the warm summer months, especially in the vicinity of the larger towns such as Astara, Bandar Anzali, Ramsar, Chalus, Babolsar and Sari. Many private villas have been constructed in the coastal dunes, and there are a number of public parking areas and picnic grounds adjacent to the beach.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The falling level of the Caspian Sea in the 1960s and 1970s was becoming a cause of concern to fishing and shipping interests, as important fish spawning areas in coastal wetlands were drying out, and much of the very shallow northern Caspian was becoming too shallow for shipping. Thus the recent rapid rise in sea level has been welcomed. Significant changes have occurred at coastal wetlands in the South Caspian, including three Ramsar Sites (the Miankaleh/Gorgan Bay complex, the Anzali Mordab complex and the Bandar Kiashahr/Sefid Rud complex), but on the whole, the rise in sea level has probably had more positive than negative effects. There seems widespread agreement that the "optimum" level for the Caspian Sea is about 26 metres below sea level, i.e. a little higher than its present level. Fisheries departments and the shipping industry are undoubtedly benefitting from the higher level, and few of the towns, ports and coastal installations around the Caspian have been adversely affected, since most were established in the early part of the century when the sea level was still high. The major losses, in economic terms, have been in beach development and tourism, especially in Iran, where the rising sea level has almost obliterated the former extensive sandy beaches, and has caused considerable damage to beach houses, hotels and other recreation facilities.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The inshore waters of the Caspian Sea support a major fishery, while the beach is an important recreation area for Iranian holiday-makers during the summer months.

Noteworthy fauna: Important for a wide variety of migratory waterfowl, notably wintering grebes, cormorants, diving ducks and gulls, and passage terns. Pelecanus crispus occasionally feeds in inshore waters, especially off the Mazandaran coast in the east, where up to 83 have been recorded in January. The sea is used extensively as a day roost for wintering surface-feeding ducks which feed at night on freshwater marshes and rice fields on the coastal plain. Large numbers of shorebirds stop over briefly along the beach during the spring and autumn migration seasons, but rather few remain throughout the winter. Peak counts of some waterfowl during mid-winter and the migration seasons are given in Table 7. Other species occurring in much smaller numbers include Gavia arctica (maximum 2), G. stellata (maximum 2), Podiceps grisegena, Pelecanus onocrotalus (maximum 6), Cygnus cygnus (maximum 8), C. columbianus (maximum 2), Aythya nyroca (maximum 8), Mergus serrator (maximum 9) and M. merganser (maximum 3). There have also been records of single Marmaronetta angustirostris and Oxyura leucocephala. (The most important stretches of shoreline for waterfowl, i.e. along Miankaleh Peninsula and along the coast north of Gomishan, are described separately as parts of sites 20 and 21). Haliaeetus albicilla remains fairly common throughout the South Caspian Region, especially in winter, and frequently scavenges along the shore or fishes in inshore waters. Falco peregrinus is also a relatively common winter visitor and passage migrant, frequently hunting along the shoreline. Melanitta nigra and Clangula hyemalis have occurred as vagrants. Caspian Seals (Phoca caspica) are occasional offshore.

Noteworthy flora: None known.

Scientific research and facilities: A Joint Committee was formed in the late 1980s by the governments of Iran and the former U.S.S.R. to discuss the problems caused by the sudden rise in level of the Caspian Sea. The focal point for this committee in Iran is the Ministry of Power (formerly Ministry of Water and Electricity), although several other ministries and the Department of the Environment are involved. The rise in sea level is being carefully monitored by researchers in Iran and the four republics of the former U.S.S.R. bordering on the Caspian Sea, and considerable attention is being given to the obvious economic aspects of the sea level rise. A considerable amount of limnological and fisheries research has been carried out by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot). Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1967. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Ferguson (1972); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 3a & 3c. The shoreline and inshore waters of the Caspian Sea in Iran constitute a significant portion of a unique wetland ecosystem (the world's largest lake), shared between Iran and several of the new republics of the C.I.S. As such, they are of outstanding limnological, biological and ecological importance. The Iranian sector provides habitat for Pelecanus crispus, a globally threatened species, and regularly holds well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl in winter and during the migration seasons. At least 12 species of waterfowl occur in internationally significant numbers in winter, and two others (Calidris alba and Sterna albifrons) do so during the migration seasons.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lavandavil Marsh (11)

Location: 3820'N, 4850'E; on the shore of the Caspian Sea about 10 km south of Astara, Gilan.

Area: Area of wetland unknown; within a Protected Area of 949 ha.

Altitude: 24 m below sea level.

Overview: A small area of swampy woodland and freshwater marsh adjacent to the shore of the southwest Caspian, of considerable botanical interest and of some importance for passage and wintering waterfowl including Phalacrocorax pygmaeus. The wetland is included in the Lavandavil Protected Area.

Physical features: Lavandavil Marsh is a small area of swampy woodland and freshwater marsh adjacent to the Caspian beach, about 10 km south of Astara. The narrow coastal plain in this region consists of a series of old beach ridges, with alder woodland and scrub growing on the high ground and permanent pools with emergent marsh vegetation in the depressions. The site is bordered to the east by the Caspian Sea and to the west by the main coast road from Astara to Bandar Anzali.

Ecological features: Swampy woodland dominated by Alnus, freshwater marshes with extensive stands of Juncus, and typical strand vegetation along the Caspian beach.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The wetland is included within the Lavandavil Protected Area (949 ha), originally designated as the Astara Wildlife Refuge in about 1975. The entire Protected Area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: None, other than nature protection.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Some changes have occurred to the wetlands as a result of the rise in Caspian sea level, but details are lacking.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetland supports small numbers of waterfowl in winter, including up to 70 Cygnus olor, 14 C. cygnus, 360 Anas strepera, 445 A. clypeata, 30 Larus ichthyaetus and 50 L. minutus, while the adjacent beach occasionally holds substantial numbers of shorebirds for short periods during the migration seasons, e.g. 180 Calidris alba and 100 C. minuta. Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor; there are generally 15-50 birds in the area, but a maximum of 146 has been recorded. Situated on the west coast of the Caspian, at a point where the coastal plain is almost at its narrowest, the site lies in a bird migration "corridor", and is thus an excellent locality for observing bird migration. Large numbers of herons and egrets have been observed migrating south over the site and adjacent Caspian Sea in autumn (including 360 Ardeola ralloides, 170 Egretta garzetta, 340 Ardea cinerea and 520 Ardea purpurea in a single day in September 1973). Other migrants have included up to 200 Phalacrocorax carbo, 63 Plegadis falcinellus, 4 Porzana porzana and 8 Chlidonias niger. A pair of Haliaeetus albicilla bred in the area in the 1970s, and may still do so. Aquila heliaca, Falco peregrinus and Asio flammeus are regular winter visitors in small numbers, and Panurus biarmicus has occurred (a party of 6 in October 1970). At least 167 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Noteworthy flora: The reserve contains excellent stands of Alnus woodland which has become rare in the South Caspian lowlands outside Protected Areas.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since about 1975, and the area has been surveyed by ornithologists during the breeding and migration seasons.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d, 2a & 2b. Lavandavil Marsh is a good example of a natural wetland ecosystem (swampy Alnus woodland and freshwater marsh) characteristic of the South Caspian lowlands, but now becoming rare outside protected areas. The wetland provides wintering habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (a globally threatened species), and plays an important role in maintaining faunal and floral diversity in the region.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Abbas-abad Dam (12)

Location: 3823'N, 4850'E; on the coastal plain of the Caspian Sea, about 7 km south of Astara, Gilan.

Area: 45 ha.

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: A small reservoir with adjacent seasonally flooded woodland in the southwest Caspian lowlands, important primarily for its large breeding colonies of Phalacrocorax carbo and Ardeidae. Unprotected.

Physical features: Abbas-abad Dam is a small water storage reservoir used for irrigation purposes in an area of deciduous woodland on the narrow coastal plain of the Caspian Sea, about 7 km south of Astara. The dam lies at the foot of the forested coastal ranges, to the west of the main highway from Astara to Bandar Anzali. At maximum flooding in late winter and spring, parts of the surrounding woodland are flooded, while at low water level in late summer, some mudflats are exposed.

Ecological features: A small artificial lake with some emergent marsh vegetation and an adjacent area of swampy woodland. There are many tall dead trees in the lake.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The dam has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The dam is used as a source of water for irrigation during the dry summer months, and there is some waterfowl hunting in autumn and winter.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Much of the surrounding forest has been cleared for pastureland and cultivation (mainly fruit and vegetables).

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The swampy woodland and dead trees in the lake support a large breeding colony of Phalacrocorax carbo (1,200-1,500 pairs), along with about 70 pairs of Nycticorax nycticorax, 50 pairs of Ardeola ralloides, 10 pairs of Bubulcus ibis and 40 pairs of Egretta garzetta. Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor in very small numbers (maximum 3), and there are usually a few duck present (e.g. up to 20 Netta rufina). Scolopax rusticola is a common winter visitor in the surrounding swampy woodland, and up to 100 Chlidonias hybridus occur on passage in autumn. A pair of Haliaeetus albicilla breeds in the area, and Falco cherrug and F. peregrinus have been recorded in winter.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1969, and the area has been surveyed by ornithologists on a number of occasions during the breeding and migration seasons. Some ringing of cormorants, herons and egrets was carried out in the late 1970s.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1978a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 2c & 3c. Abbas-abad Dam provides wintering habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (a globally threatened species); in summer, it supports important breeding colonies of cormorants, herons and egrets, including over 1% of the regional breeding population of Phalacrocorax carbo.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Nur Gol (13)

Location: 3800'N, 4833'E; in the northwestern Alborz Mountains about 50 km south of Astara, Azarbayjan.

Area: 200 ha.

Altitude: 2,300 m.

Overview: A small freshwater lake set high in the western Alborz, of considerable limnological and botanical interest, and of some importance for breeding waterfowl. The lake and its watershed are protected within the Lisar Protected Area.

Physical features: Nur Gol (or Neur Gol) is a small freshwater lake with extensive sedge marshes in a depression at 2,300 m on the relatively dry western slope of the Alborz Mountains, west of the Caspian Sea. The lake drains north into a tributary of the Aras River. The wetland provides some breeding habitat for waterbirds, but is completely frozen over for about six months of the year.

Ecological features: The lake supports extensive freshwater marshes and is rich in submergent vegetation. Surrounding hillsides support montane steppe. Nearby rocky peaks rise to summits at almost 3,200 m.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: Nur Gol and its entire catchment are included within the Lisar Protected Area, established in 1970 with an area of 31,250 ha and subsequently enlarged to its present size of 33,050 ha. The Protected Area incorporates the entire watershed of the Lisar River from its source near the crest of the Alborz in the west to the Caspian shore in the east (about 30 km), and also part of the much drier western slope of the Alborz around Nur Gol. The entire Protected Area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Trout were introduced into the lake in the early 1970s, in an effort to promote sport-fishing within the Protected Area. There are many small settlements and farming areas at low elevations in the reserve, but the upper regions of the reserve around Nur Gol remain sparsely populated and relatively undisturbed.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known at the wetland. Large areas of forest at low elevations have been cleared for cultivation and pastureland, and much of the remaining forest has been degraded by cutting for fuelwood and grazing by domestic livestock. There has been some illegal logging in the reserve.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetland supports small numbers of breeding waterfowl, including Tadorna ferruginea (maximum of 90 birds), Anas platyrhynchos, Tringa totanus and T. hypoleucos. Ciconia nigra has been recorded at the lake in summer and may breed. As many as 50 Tringa ochropus have been recorded during autumn migration.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: The Fisheries Unit at the Department of the Environment has investigated the lake with a view to the development of sport fishing, and several breeding season surveys have been carried out by the Department's Ornithology Unit.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Scott (1976b).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d. Nur Gol is the only significant, relatively undisturbed lake at high altitude in the Alburz Mountains, and is thus of considerable limnological and botanical interest.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

 [Bottom

_______

Anzali Mordab Complex (14)

Location: 3725'N, 4928'E; in the western part of the broad deltaic plains around the city of Rasht in the southwest Caspian Region, Gilan. The town of Bandar Anzali is situated at the mouth of the main Mordab lagoon.

Area: Approximately 15,000 ha.

Altitude: 23 m below sea level.

Overview: A large complex of freshwater lagoons with extensive reed-beds, shallow impoundments ("ab-bandans") and seasonally flooded meadows in the southwest Caspian lowlands, extremely important as spawning and nursery grounds for fishes, and as breeding, staging and wintering areas for a wide variety of waterfowl. Parts of the wetland are protected in the Siahkesheem Protected Area and Selke Wildlife Refuge; the entire wetland has been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: The Anzali Mordab comprises a complex of large, shallow, eutrophic, freshwater lagoons, marshes and seasonally flooded grasslands, separated from the Caspian Sea by a sandy barrier, about one km wide, with open grassland, pomegranate scrub and sand dune vegetation. The main Mordab covers about 11,000 ha, and comprises an open lagoon, 26 km long and 2.0-3.5 km wide, surrounded by reed-beds which extend its eastern limits a further seven km. Siahkesheem Marsh (6,700 ha; 3724'N, 4922'E) lies in the partially enclosed basin of the Rud-e-Esfand in the southwest. This lagoon was probably once a part of the main lagoon, and is about 12 km long by 4.5 km wide. Several perennial streams emanating in the nearby Talesh Mountains feed into the Mordab complex, chief of which are the Bohambar, Chakoor, Esfand and Siahdarveshan. Inflow is usually at its greatest in autumn, when the level of the Mordab may rise by a metre or more. The entire marsh and lagoon complex drains into the deep-water harbour of Bandar Anzali through several short channels at the northeast end of the main lagoon. The 1.8 metre rise in the level of the Caspian Sea since 1978 has resulted in a one metre rise in the water level in the main Mordab and increased salt water intrusion during the summer months (when the level of the Caspian is at its highest and inflow of freshwater is at its lowest).

Much of the central and eastern portions of the main Mordab support vast stands of tall reeds, while the western portion is mainly open water. Siahkesheem Marsh is almost entirely overgrown with dense reed-beds. The permanent wetland area is surrounded by a broad belt of flood meadows and ab-bandans (shallow impoundments constructed to retain water for irrigation purposes during the dry summer months). These largely seasonal wetlands cover about 1,000 ha and flood to a maximum depth of about 50 cm; they border on arable land to the west, south and east. Selke Ab-bandan (360 ha; 3724'N, 4929'E) is situated on the southern edge of the main Mordab, and comprises 360 ha of shallow freshwater marshes and flood meadows with tall reed-beds to the north and arable land to the south. The wetland is surrounded by a low embankment and was originally created as a water storage pond and duck-hunting area. Other similar shallow marshes along the southern edge of the Mordab and around its eastern end remain in private hands and continue to be maintained as duck-hunting reserves.

The soils are fine-textured alluvials and continually or intermittently wet hydromorphic soils. They range from silt loam to silty-clay loam, clay loam and even clay at the surface. The hydromorphic soils are a variety of low-humic, humic gley and half-bog, pseudo-gley and gley, generally formed from sedimentation in the Caspian. Gradual lowering of the ground water and removal of salts makes these soils very fertile. They are, however, poorly drained.

The climate is characterized by warm, humid summers and mild winters, with a relatively low annual range in temperature. The average annual rainfall is 1,950 mm, with rain falling throughout the year but mainly in winter. Relative humidity averages 80-85%, with highest readings during spring and autumn. The lowest temperatures occur in February (mean around 6C) and the highest in August (mean maximum nearly 25C); extremes are -11C and 30C. Snow is relatively rare due to the warming effects of the Caspian Sea, but exceptional storms, as occurred in January/February 1969 and January/February 1972, may deposit several metres of snow within a few days.

Ecological features: The dominant vegetation throughout much of the Mordab consists of vast beds of Phragmites australis which in places grows to six metres in height. A rapid expansion in the extent of the Phragmites reed-beds began in the late 1960s, and by the early 1980s, almost the entire eastern and central portions of the main Mordab were covered in reeds. This rapid spread of Phragmites has been attributed to falling water levels in the Mordab, as a result of the then continuing fall in the level of the Caspian Sea, and accelerated eutrophication as a result of increased inflow of domestic sewage, fertilizers and other organic material. The situation had become so serious by the end of the 1970s that the Department of the Environment was investigating possible methods of control. It seems likely, however, that the recent rapid rise in water level in the Mordab, coupled with increased salt water intrusion during the summer months, will eventually check the expansion of Phragmites. The open-water areas of the Mordab support extensive beds of the water lily Nelumbium (caspicum) maciferum and a very rich growth of other floating and submerged vegetation including Nymphoides indica, Nymphaea alba, Utricularia vulgaris, Salvinia natans, Hydrocharis morsus-ranae, Hydrocotyle vulgaris, Lemna minor, L. trisulca, L. polyrhiza, Trapa natans, Lymnanthemum nymphoides, Polygonum spp., Spirodella polyrhiza, Riccia sp., Myriophyllum verticillatum, M. spicatum, Ceratophyllum sudmercum, C. demersum, Hydrilla verticillata, Potamogeton pectinatus, P. crispus, Elodea nutalli and Ranunculus divaricatus. The marshes and flood meadows support a wide variety of emergents including Sparganium neglectum, Typha latifolia, Echinochloa crus-galli, Glyceria luitans, Scirpus palustris, Cyperus longus, Juncus spp., Sium angustifolium, Nasturtium amphibium, Sagittaria sagittaefolia, Alisma plantigo-aquatica, Butomus umbellatus and Equisetum sp. Patches of woodland with alders Alnus glutinosus and willows Salix sp. occur on higher ground and along river levees. The flora of Siahkesheem Marsh has been described in some detail by Riazi (undated). The wetlands are bordered to the north by sand dunes with grassland and scrubby vegetation, and to the south by cultivated land (mainly rice) and patches of woodland.

Land tenure: Mainly public (Government); some of the ab-bandans along the south side of the Mordab are privately owned.

Conservation measures taken: Two reserves have been established in the Anzali Mordab complex. The central portion of Siahkesheem Marsh (3,515 ha) was first established as a Protected Region in August 1967. The reserve was enlarged to 6,701 ha and upgraded to Wildlife Refuge in 1971, but reduced to its present size of 4,500 ha and downgraded to Protected Area in the 1980s. Selke Ab-bandan (360 ha) has been protected as a Wildlife Refuge since September 1970. In an effort to increase the level of protection afforded to waterfowl in the Anzali Mordab, the Department of the Environment has recently taken steps to establish a non-hunting area at Sorkhan Kol in the central Mordab.

The Anzali Mordab complex (15,000 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. This encompasses the whole of the Anzali Mordab, Siahkesheem Marsh, Selke Ab-bandan and several other ab-bandans bordering the marshes. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Fotoohi (1974) and Howell (1976) have made a number of recommendations for the management of Selke Wildlife Refuge. A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to the wetlands in January 1992 recommended that the Department of the Environment should investigate a variety of possibilities for conserving waterfowl populations in the Mordab while at the same time maintaining hunting opportunities for the general public. These might include the following:

- imposing stricter controls on the number of hunters, number of days when hunting is permitted, bag limits, hunting techniques etc.;

- giving greater encouragement to duck hunting communities using traditional hunting techniques to manage and patrol their hunting areas (e.g. as occurs at Gasghiasheh Ab-bandans in the eastern Mordab);

- encouraging sport hunters (using shot-guns) to form their own hunting clubs or societies to manage their activities more wisely;

- improving the protection of Siahkesheem Protected Area;

- creating a buffer zone around Selke Wildlife Refuge to reduce poaching around the edge of this extremely important reserve;

- establishing additional non-hunting areas in other parts of the Anzali Mordab (e.g. at Sorkhan Kol).

Land use: Anzali Mordab supports a major local fishery. The Mordab and deeper rivers flowing into it are used for transportation of farm goods as well as people and other materials to the various villages around the wetland and to Bandar Anzali. This busy fishing port and market town straddles the channels which connect the Mordab with the Caspian Sea. Parts of the Phragmites marsh and the open wetlands bordering the south side of the Mordab are heavily utilized by domestic livestock for grazing. Several villages cut and use the reeds for mat-weaving, fencing and building materials. Duck-hunting is an extremely important activity in winter, including both sport hunting and market hunting for sale in local markets and export to Tehran. Many of the ab-bandans surrounding the Mordab are managed as duck-hunting areas throughout the winter months. At these sites, the duck hunters employ a traditional dazzling and hand-netting technique (the "net, gong and flare" method) to catch ducks and coots from a boat at night. Elsewhere in the Mordab, hunting is mostly by shot-gun. The ab-bandans also provide a source of water for irrigation during the dry summer months. Surrounding areas are used mainly for the production of rice and vegetable crops, although there is also some tea grown.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The Anzali Mordab seems to have been relatively undisturbed until the late 1950s. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, a number of development projects in Gilan greatly affected the wetland ecosystem. New roads were constructed into areas formerly served only by foot trail or by boat, particularly on the south side of the Mordab. The harbour facilities at Bandar Anzali were expanded, and an industrial site was developed on the south side of the Mordab. In the late 1960s, a drainage canal, two km long and 20 m wide, was constructed from the northeast corner of the Mordab to the Caspian Sea to facilitate the reclamation of 5,000 ha of reed marsh for agriculture. In recent years, there has been a massive spread of the water fern Azolla, which was introduced into the Caspian wetlands by rice-farmers in the 1970s. This aquatic weed now covers much of the water surface within the reed-beds and in most of the quieter backwaters. The ecological consequences of this invasion by Azolla have yet to be fully documented. However, it is believed that the greatly reduced abundance of Nelumbium maciferum and Trapa natans (both valuable waterfowl food plants) can in part be attributed to the spread of Azolla.

Waterfowl populations are subjected to very high levels of disturbance from fishing activities, boat traffic and hunting. Hunting pressure on waterfowl populations in the Anzali Mordab has increased greatly since the 1970s. The number of licensed hunters in Gilan Province has increased from about 6,000 in the 1970s to about 20,000 at the present time. Traditional hunting (using the "net, gong and flare" method) continues at a high level, and is thought to account for at least 100,000 waterfowl per season. Hunting with shot-guns has increased considerably, and there are now about 1,000 hunters hunting in this way at Anzali Mordab. These are thought to account for another 100,000 waterfowl per season. A considerable amount of illegal flight-netting occurs, and Siakesheem Marsh is now dotted with shacks used by the duck-netters. Unless some measures are introduced to curb hunting pressure and its associated disturbance, there is a high likelihood that within a few years, the once vast flocks of migratory waterfowl will have disappeared completely from all those areas of the Anzali Mordab open to hunting for the general public. Only those areas protected as refuges by the Department of the Environment or jealously guarded by private land-owners for their own hunting activities will remain as havens for waterfowl. Poaching is reported to have been a very serious problem in the reserves in the first few years after the revolution, but the situation has improved considerably in recent years, especially at Selke Wildlife Refuge where there is a new Game Guard Station and protection is excellent.

Hydrological and biophysical values: The Mordab is a very important spawning and nursery area for economically important species in the Caspian Sea fishery.

Social and cultural values: Throughout the winter months, a large proportion of the local human population are involved either directly or indirectly in waterfowl hunting, and this is of considerable importance in the local economy.

Noteworthy fauna: The Anzali Mordab and its satellite wetlands such as Siahkesheem Marsh and Selke Ab-bandan are extremely important for a wide variety of breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The wetlands support a very large breeding colony of Chlidonias hybridus (2,000-4,000 pairs), small colonies of six species of Ardeidae, and (at least formerly) a large resident population of Porphyrio porphyrio. The wetlands also support huge wintering concentrations of ducks, geese, swans and coots. The Anzali Mordab is the most important wintering area in Iran for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, regularly holding more than 500 in mid-winter (maximum 650 in November 1972). Pelecanus onocrotalus, P. crispus, Botaurus stellaris and Anser erythropus are occasional winter visitors in small numbers, while Oxyura leucocephala, Charadrius asiaticus, Vanellus gregarius and Gallinago media have been recorded on passage. Scolopax rusticola is a very common winter visitor to the surrounding damp woodlands and scrub, while Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus are very common breeding birds in the reed-beds. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 8.

The number of waterfowl wintering in Anzali Mordab in recent years has been much lower than in the 1970s, when the total count of ducks and Fulica atra usually exceeded 200,000. The great majority of waterfowl are now confined to the well protected Selke Wildlife Refuge, Siahkesheem Marsh and a chain of a duck-netting marshes along the south side of the Mordab protected from disturbance by the local people. The recent scarcity of ducks and coots on the open waters of the main Mordab (open to duck shooting) is clearly a result of the great hunting pressure in the area. This continues a trend first recorded in the early 1970s, when numbers of Fulica atra in Gilan fell from over 100,000 in 1972/73 to only 34,000 by 1974/75. This decline was attributed to the extremely heavy hunting pressure in Gilan and the almost continuous disturbance from hunters in unprotected wetlands, especially Anzali Mordab. Selke Wildlife Refuge continues to support large numbers of birds, but there is evidence of a change in species composition, with more diving ducks and Fulica atra and fewer dabbling ducks and geese than in the 1970s. This change is undoubtedly a result of the higher water levels in the Refuge caused by the rise in level of the Caspian Sea.

There has been a dramatic decline in the population of Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) at Anzali Mordab in recent years. The reasons for this decline are unknown, as the extent of suitable habitat appears to have increased enormously during the last decade, but may be related to the great increase in water depth and/or spread of Azolla. Numbers of wintering Pygmy Cormorants (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) have, however, remained relatively stable over the past 20 years. At least 237 were recorded in January 1992, a figure that compares well with single-day counts of the early 1970s (which ranged from 210 to 325).

The Mordab is a very important wintering area for birds of prey, holding up to 20 Haliaeetus albicilla, six Aquila heliaca, 24 A. clanga and six Falco peregrinus, along with smaller numbers of Falco cherrug, F. columbarius and Asio flammeus. Circus aeruginosus is common throughout the year, with some 15-25 breeding pairs, up to 85 individuals in winter, and up to 130 during autumn passage. At least 144 species of birds have been recorded in Siahkesheem Protected Area and at least 157 species in Selke Wildlife Refuge.

Mammals include the Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Common Otter (Lutra lutra) Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), White-toothed Shrew (Crocidura leucodon) and Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica). A pack of wolves (Canis lupus) appeared in the marshes during the extremely severe weather of early 1972.

The Mordab is one of the principal breeding grounds of "mahi sefid" or White Fish Rutilus frisii, commercially one of the most important fish in the South Caspian after sturgeon. It is also an important breeding ground for the local sander Lucioperca lucioperca, while the pike Essox lucius is abundant. Other fishes include Perca fluviatilis, Silurus glanis, Rutilus rutilus, Aspius aspius, Tinca tinca, Barbus brachycephalus, Chalcalburnus chalcoides, Abramis brama, Vimba vimba and Cyprius carpio. Four species of frogs have been recorded: Rana caucasia, R. ridibunda, R. esculenta and the tree frog Hyla arborea. Reptiles include the lizards Agama agilis, Lacerta chlorogaster, L. strigata, Ophisaurus apodus and Anguis fragilis, the snakes Natrix natrix, Oligodon taeniolatus, Coluber fugularis and C. najadum, and two freshwater turtles Emys orbicularis and Clemmys caspica. Riazi (undated) lists the common zooplankton and invertebrates of Siahkesheem Marsh.

Noteworthy flora: The Anzali Mordab contains much the most extensive stands of tall Phragmites reed-beds in the country.

Scientific research and facilities: Numerous limnological and hydrological studies have been conducted by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot). Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1967. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and a duck-ringing programme was initiated by the Ornithology Unit in January 1967. The Department of the Environment has also carried out investigations on duck-hunting in the Mordab, and the spread of Phragmites. The Department is currently undertaking a major programme of research, which has involved the establishment of 35 monitoring stations throughout the Mordab, to measure a variety of parameters including changes in water level, water quality and physico-chemical characteristics. The Department has recently published a book on the ecology and wildlife of Siahkesheem Marsh in Farsi (Riazi, undated). Excellent research facilities are available in the nearby town of Bandar Anzali, and the Department of the Environment maintains a guest house for visiting researchers on the north edge of the marshes near Bandar Anzali.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by a local Council under the supervision of the Department of the Environment; this department is also responsible for the management of Siahkesheem Protected Area and Selke Wildlife Refuge.

References: Carnie (1973); Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Ferguson (1972); Firouz (1968); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Firouz et al. (1970); Fotoohi (1974); Howell (1976); IUCN (1992); Mansoori (1984); Nielsen (1969); Nielsen & Speyer (1967); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Riazi (undated); Savage (1963); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1978a, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. The Anzali Mordab is an outstanding example of a natural freshwater lagoon system characteristic of the South Caspian lowlands. It plays a substantial hydrological and ecological role in the functioning of the deltaic and coastal systems of the southwest Caspian, and supports an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora. It is an important breeding and nursery grounds for various fish species, and supports large breeding colonies of several species of waterfowl. It also provides important habitat for at least three globally threatened species of birds: Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca. The wetland regularly holds well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl; it supports over 1% of the regional breeding population of Chlidonias hybridus, and in winter supports over 1% of the regional populations of Podiceps nigricollis, Phalacrocorax carbo, 12 species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Limosa limosa and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Bandar Kiashar Lagoon and mouth of Sefid Rud (15)

Location: 3720'N, 4955'E; about 40 km east of Bandar Anzali, Gilan. Bandar Kiashar Lagoon lies immediately to the east of the mouth of the Sefid Rud (River).

Area: 500 ha.

Altitude: 25 m below sea level.

Overview: A shallow sea bay (formerly brackish lagoon), associated freshwater marshes and the nearby riverine marshes at the mouth of the Sefid Rud in the southwest Caspian, important as spawning and nursery grounds for fishes, and as breeding, staging and wintering areas for a wide variety of waterfowl. The wetlands have been designated as a Ramsar Site but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: The wetland complex comprises a shallow sea bay (formerly an enclosed lagoon), the nearby mouth of the main channel of the Sefid Rud, and the associated fresh to brackish marshes. The Sefid Rud is the second largest river in Iran; it has a catchment area of over 54,000 sq.km in the western Alborz Mountains, and a natural flood discharge of 3,400 to 4,200 cubic metres per second. This diminishes to a minimum flow of less than 20 cubic metres per second during late summer. The river divides into several distributary channels on the plains of Gilan, the main channel entering the Caspian at Bandar Kiashar. Bandar Kiashahr Lagoon (formerly Bandar Farahnaz Lagoon) is situated in an area of coastal sand dunes and grassland about 1.5 km east of the mouth of the Sefid Rud. In the 1960s and 1970s, this wetland was a shallow, brackish coastal lagoon, 3.75 km long by 1.5 km wide, with fringing Juncus marshes and about 140 ha of Phragmites and Typha reed-beds at its west end. The lagoon was fed by two streams from the Sefid Rud and local run-off, and drained northeast through a narrow channel into the Caspian Sea. The bottom was a mixture of sand and mud, and the waters were predominantly oligotrophic, except towards the marshy western extremity. The lagoon had been formed as recently as 1960 as a result of the falling level of the Caspian Sea and development of coastal sand spits. The 1.8 m rise in the level of the Caspian Sea since 1978 has obliterated the sand barrier between the lagoon and the sea, with the result that the wetland now constitutes a sea bay with broad entrance to the sea (similar to the situation in the 1950s). The marshy grassland and sand dune areas at the mouth of the Sefid Rud have, however, remained more or less unchanged, while new wetland habitats have been created to the west of the river mouth.

Ecological features: The lagoon supports relatively little vegetation other than algae. Freshwater marshes at the extreme west end of the lagoon support some reed-beds (Phragmites and Typha), while the southern and eastern shores are dominated by Juncus sp. and grasses. Sandy areas to the west and northwest are covered in scrub and grassland which give way to sand dune vegetation near the Caspian shore. Grassland along the banks of the Sefid Rud is subject to seasonal flooding. Land to the south of the wetland is mostly under cultivation, although there are some relict patches of Alnus woodland near the wetland.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. Bandar Kiashahr Lagoon and the mouth of Sefid Rud were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The Ramsar Site (500 ha) includes the whole of the lagoon area, its associated marshes and the marshes and sand flats at the mouth of the Sefid Rud to the west. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Further investigations are required to assess the ecological changes which have occurred at the wetland, and to identify ways of reducing the disturbance to waterfowl from fishing activities.

Land use: Fishing in the lagoon and adjacent coastal waters; grazing by domestic livestock, reed-cutting and wildfowl hunting in the marshes. There is a fish-processing warehouse on the south side of the lagoon.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There is heavy hunting pressure on waterfowl throughout the winter months, and the lagoon is subjected to high levels of disturbance from fishing activities and the passage of boats to and from the fish-processing warehouse on the south side. There is also considerable disturbance from recreation activities at weekends and holidays. The disappearance of the wintering flock of Pelecanus crispus in the late 1970s and great decrease in the numbers of other wintering waterfowl during the last decade have been attributed to the increasing disturbance from fishing activities and heavy hunting pressure.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The lagoon is an important centre for commercial fishing.

Noteworthy fauna: An important staging and wintering area for a wide variety of migratory waterfowl, notably grebes, Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (up to 300), ducks, shorebirds, gulls and terns. A flock of Pelecanus crispus (usually 30-40 birds) wintered at the mouth of the Sefid Rud in the 1970s but apparently disappeared by about 1980, probably because of increased disturbance. Anser erythropus was also an occasional winter visitor to the area in the 1970s, with a maximum of 10 in January 1973, but none has been seen in recent years. The open grassy areas and dunes near the river mouth provide breeding habitat for 20-30 pairs of Glareola pratincola and a few pairs of Sterna hirundo, while a small patch of woodland to the south of the lagoon supports a large breeding colony of Phalacrocorax carbo (1,000 pairs), Nycticorax nycticorax (200 pairs) and other Ardeidae. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 9. Scarce winter visitors and vagrants have included Botaurus stellaris, Branta ruficollis (one in January 1973), Oxyura leucocephala (three in February 1972), Phalaropus fulicarius and Rissa tridactyla. Haliaeetus albicilla is present year-round and breeds locally (up to five have been observed at one time), while Circus aeruginosus (maximum 20) and Falco peregrinus (maximum 4) are regular winter visitors. Aquila heliaca, Buteo lagopus, Falco cherrug, F. columbarius and Asio flammeus have also been recorded.

The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) is common in the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: A considerable amount of fisheries research has been carried out by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot). Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Ferguson (1972); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1978a); Scott & Smart (1992); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2c & 3c. Bandar Kiashar Lagoon and the mouth of the Sefid Rud are good representative examples of natural wetlands characteristic of the South Caspian lowlands. The lagoon is an important breeding and nursery grounds for various fish species, and supports large breeding colonies of several species of waterfowl. The wetlands also provide important wintering habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (a globally threatened species), and, formerly, supported a wintering flock of Pelecanus crispus. The wetlands regularly support over 1% of the regional breeding population of Phalacrocorax carbo, and over 1% of the regional wintering populations of Podiceps nigricollis, Anas platyrhynchos and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Amirkelayeh Lake (16)

Location: 3718'N, 5010'E; on the coastal plain of the Caspian Sea, about 12 km north of Langarud, Gilan.

Area: 1,230 ha.

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: A permanent freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds in the southwest Caspian lowlands, important for passage and wintering waterfowl, notably Phalacrocorax pygmaeus and Netta rufina. The lake is protected as a Wildlife Refuge, and has been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: Amirkelayeh Lake is a permanent, eutrophic, freshwater lake with rich growth of floating and submergent vegetation, extensive fringing reed-beds of Typha and Phragmites and some willow thickets. The lake is about 4.5 km long by up to 1.7 km wide; the water is extremely clear, with an average depth of about 3-4 m and maximum depth of 6 m. It is fed by springs and local run-off and, at high water levels, drains from the northwest through a small stream into a channel of the Sefid Rud some 1.5 km away. The lake is sufficiently high above the level of the Caspian Sea to have been unaffected by the recent rise in sea level.

Ecological features: The open-water areas of the lake support abundant submerged and floating vegetation including species of Nelumbium, Lemna, Potamogeton, Hydrilla, Myriophyllum and Ceratophyllum. The surrounding emergent marshes are dominated by Phragmites with some Typha and Salix. The surrounding area comprises rice paddies with patches of woodland of Salix caprea, S. micans and Pterocarya fraxinifolia, and there are remnants of former coastal forest.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The lake and marshes were designated as a Protected Region in 1970 and upgraded to Wildlife Refuge (1,230 ha) in 1971. This Wildlife Refuge of 1,230 ha was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. Following the revolution in the late 1970s, the Department of the Environment experienced some difficulty in managing the Wildlife Refuge properly. A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to Gilan in January 1992 recommended that the Department of the Environment should seek to re-establish its authority at the site (Scott & Smart, 1992). Considerable progress has been made since then; the Department of the Environment was able to re-establish control of the area in 1994, and duck-hunting has now been stopped. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Formerly duck-hunting for local consumption and export. The hunters used a traditional clap-netting technique, with the clap-nets set on poles in deep water and operated from hides (blinds) in the nearby reed-beds. The lake provides a source of water for irrigation during the dry summer months. There are several small villages in the area, and an all-weather road passes close to the eastern side of the lake.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There are no major threats to the habitat, and the ecological character of the site has remained unchanged since the establishment of the Wildlife Refuge in 1971. Prior to its designation as a Wildlife Refuge, the lake had been an important waterfowl hunting area for local villagers, who employed a traditional clap-netting technique to trap ducks and coots for the market. During the revolution, local villagers burned down the Department of the Environment's Game Guard Station and Watch Tower, and re-assumed control of the lake. Duck-trapping re-commenced, and by 1992 there were some 60 teams of duck-netters operating at the lake. However, the Department re-established control of the area in 1994, and hunting has again been prohibited.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: Formerly an important duck hunting area.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important wintering area for diving ducks, notably Netta rufina (maximum 2,500) and Aythya ferina (maximum 4,200), and Fulica atra (maximum 45,000), and a wintering area for up to 100 Phalacrocorax pygmaeus. Other wintering waterfowl have included up to five Podiceps auritus, 100 Tachybaptus ruficollis, 200 Cygnus olor, 25 C. cygnus, 16 C. columbianus, 1,300 Anas strepera, 4,560 A. crecca, 1,220 A. platyrhynchos, 910 Aythya fuligula, five A. nyroca, small numbers of Rallus aquaticus and 200 Larus minutus. Some 700 swans Cygnus spp. were present on neighbouring ab-bandans in November 1993. Passage migrants in spring and autumn have included up to 140 Egretta alba, 20 Ardea purpurea, 300 Anas querquedula, three Porzana parva and 30 Gallinago gallinago. A single Marmaronetta angustirostris was observed in November 1969. Several pairs of Porphyrio porphyrio breed in the reed-beds, along with large numbers of Gallinula chloropus, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus, and Panurus biarmicus has been recorded (a party of five in October 1970). Pandion haliaetus is regular on passage, and a pair of Haliaeetus albicilla nested in a tree close to the lake in the 1970s. Circus aeruginosus is a common winter visitor (maximum 20), and Falco peregrinus is an occasional winter visitor. At least 101 species of birds have been recorded in the Wildlife Refuge.

Mammals known to occur in the refuge include Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and a duck-ringing programme was initiated by the Ornithology Unit in 1968. The Department of the Environment has also carried out some investigations on duck-hunting techniques and harvesting levels at the lake.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment. The Ramsar Site is administered by a local Council under the supervision of the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1970b); Evans (1994); Ferguson (1972); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 3a & 3c. Amirkelayeh Lake is a good representative example of a natural wetland characteristic of the South Caspian lowlands. It provides important wintering habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (a globally threatened species), and regularly holds over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Netta rufina, Aythya ferina and Fulica atra.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Fereidoonkenar Marshes (17)

Location: 3635'N, 5231'E; on the coastal plain of the South Caspian, 5 km south of the village of Fereidoonkenar (Fereydun Kenar) and 13 km southwest of Babolsar, Mazandaran.

Area: 1,000 ha.

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: A complex of shallow freshwater impoundments developed for irrigation purposes and as a duck-hunting area and surrounded by rice paddies, in the southeast Caspian lowlands; of outstanding importance as the winter quarters of the entire western population of the Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus), but also extremely important as a wintering area for many other species of waterfowl, notably dabbling ducks (Anas spp.) and geese (Anser spp.). A small part of the area is under protection as a Protected Area.

Physical features: Fereidoonkenar (Fereydun Kenar) "damgah" is an artificial wetland, created and maintained primarily as a duck-hunting area, but also utilized as a supply of water for irrigation during the summer months. The core of the damgah comprises a series of shallow, freshwater impoundments with a rich growth of submerged and floating aquatic vegetation. The impoundments are almost entirely surrounded by an embankment and narrow belt of tall trees in which there are about 100 duck-trapping stations. The wetland is situated in the middle of a large expanse of rice paddies which provide excellent feeding habitat for ducks, geese, shorebirds and the Siberian Cranes.

Ecological features: The shallow impoundments support abundant floating and submerged aquatic vegetation and some fringing reed-beds of Phragmites australis and Typha sp. Cyperus rotundus (the principal food of the wintering cranes) is common. The surrounding plains are under rice cultivation.

Land tenure: Private.

Conservation measures taken: Part of the area is under protection as the Fereidoonkenar Protected Area (148 ha). This was originally established in the late 1970s as a Wildlife Refuge, but has since been downgraded in status. To ensure that the waterfowl are not disturbed, the duck trappers enforce a very strict ban not only on shooting activities in the area, but also on all other unnecessary human activity. As a result, the damgah wetland and surrounding paddies constitute one of the best protected and least disturbed wetlands in the South Caspian lowlands. Few birds other than Anas platyrhynchos and A. crecca are trapped, and thus for the many thousands of other ducks, geese and shorebirds and for the cranes, conditions are ideal. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Duck-hunting for local consumption and export. The duck-hunting was originally developed as market hunting and provided many local people with a livelihood throughout the winter months, but in recent years, the primary interest of many hunters has been for the sport. The hunters operate from trapping stations set on the embankment surrounding the main ab-bandan, and use live decoy Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) to lure other ducks (principally Mallard, but also occasionally Teal A. crecca) into flight nets. The duck-netting is carried out under licence from the Department of the Environment, each of the 100 or so trapping stations (each manned by two men) being permitted to capture up to five birds a day throughout the hunting season. The ab-bandans also provide a supply of water for irrigation during the dry summer months.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The restrictions imposed on access by the local land-owners extend even to personnel of the Department of the Environment, and the Department therefore has no control over hunting activities. Towards the end of each season, when duck-netting becomes unprofitable, the area is opened up to hunting with guns in a massive "shoot-out". Large numbers of waterfowl of many species are shot at this time, and there is a danger that Siberian Cranes could be accidentally killed.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: A very important duck-hunting area.

Noteworthy fauna: The artificially-maintained shallow impoundments and extensive rice fields at Fereidoonkenar provide excellent feeding and roosting habitat for large numbers of wintering waterfowl, notably Phalacrocorax carbo (maximum 1,560), dabbling ducks (maximum 200,000), Anser albifrons (maximum 1,700), A. anser (maximum 6,000), Vanellus vanellus (maximum 16,000) and Limosa limosa (maximum 5,000). Peak counts of dabbling ducks have included 14,500 Anas penelope, 20,000 A. strepera, 80,000 A. crecca, 80,000 A. platyrhynchos, 60,000 A. acuta and 12,000 A. clypeata. A small flock of 11 Anser erythropus was present in January 1992. Other wintering waterfowl have included up to 500 Aythya ferina, 330 A. fuligula, 900 Fulica atra, 15 Pluvialis apricaria and 40 Gallinago gallinago. These large concentrations of waterbirds attract a variety of wintering raptors including Haliaeetus albicilla (maximum 4), Aquila heliaca, A. clanga and Falco peregrinus. Large concentrations of Philomachus pugnax (maximum 2,800) have been recorded on spring migration. The wetland gained international fame in 1978 when ornithologists from the Department of the Environment discovered a tiny wintering population of the endangered Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus) at the site. The local duck-hunters were very familiar with the cranes, and reported that they had been coming to this area for many years. The cranes arrive in October and depart in mid-March. Since the discovery of the cranes in mid-January 1978, their numbers have fluctuated between 7 and 14. At least 11 cranes were present in January 1992, including two juveniles. Thus the alarming rumours in early 1991 that four or fives cranes had been shot or captured for zoos were clearly erroneous, as nine of the ten birds present in the winter of 1990/1991 could still be accounted for. Eleven cranes were present in the winter of 1992/93, and nine in the winter of 1993/94. The rediscovery of Grus leucogeranus in the South Caspian, after an absence of records for 60 years, has been described by Ashtiani (1987).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1974. The small wintering population of Grus leucogeranus has been monitored closely since its discovery in 1978, and the Department of the Environment has now established a long-term research and conservation project on the cranes, in consultation with the International Crane Foundation. A proposal by the International Crane Foundation to use radio-telemetry and satellite-tracking in an attempt to follow the cranes to their breeding areas in Russia is currently under consideration.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Department of the Environment is responsible for the management of the small protected area.

References: Archibald & Landfried (1993); Ashtiani (1987); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Scott (1976a, 1980); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 3a & 3c. Fereidoonkenar Marshes are critically important as the wintering grounds of the entire western population of Grus leucogeranus (7-14 birds). They regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Phalacrocorax carbo, eight species of Anatidae, Vanellus vanellus and Limosa limosa.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Seyed Mohalli, Zarin Kola and Larim Sara (18)

Location: 3645'N, 5300'E (Seyed Mohalli and Zarin Kola 3644'N, 5300'E; Larim Sara 3645'N, 5303'E); on the coastal plain of the South Caspian, about 20 km north of Sari and 10 km from the Caspian shore, Mazandaran.

Area: 1,600 ha (Seyed Mohalli and Zarin Kola 600 ha; Larim Sara 1,000 ha).

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: A complex of shallow freshwater impoundments ("ab-bandans"), developed for irrigation purposes and managed throughout the winter as duck-hunting areas, and an adjacent area of marshy plains and rice paddies, in the southeast Caspian lowlands; important both as a breeding area and a wintering area for many species of waterfowl, notably herons and egrets (Ardeidae) and ducks and geese (Anatidae). Unprotected.

Physical features: The Seyed Mohalli (Saidmahaleh) and Zarin Kola ab-bandans comprise a large complex of shallow, freshwater irrigation ponds surrounded by rice fields on the coastal plains of the South Caspian, to the east of the Rud-e Tajan (river) and about 10 km from its mouth. The ab-bandans are maintained throughout the winter months as private duck-hunting reserves. The nearby Larim Sara plains formerly consisted of an open grassy plain with a low-lying central area of Salicornia flats subject to winter flooding. Much of this area has now been converted to agricultural land.

Ecological features: Shallow freshwater impoundments with rich submerged, floating and emergent aquatic vegetation, including extensive stands of Typha and Phragmites; willow thickets (Salix sp.); rice fields; and seasonally flooded grassland and Salicornia flats.

Land tenure: Private.

Conservation measures taken: None. The duck hunters protect the waterfowl from disturbance by day, and prohibit all shooting in the area during the main duck-hunting season. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The ab-bandans are used as a source of water for irrigation in summer, and as duck-hunting reserves in winter. The duck hunters use the same "net, gong and flare" technique that is used at Anzali Mordab. As many as 40 teams of hunters were operating at the ab-bandans in the 1970s, and reportedly were able to catch as many as a thousand ducks in a single night. The surrounding region is a very important rice-growing area.

Possible changes in land use: With the construction of a large dam on the Rud-e Tajan and development of a network of irrigation canals, the importance of the ab-bandans as a source of water for irrigation will diminish, and there is the danger that some of them will fall into disrepair and/or be converted in agricultural land.

Disturbances and threats: Much of the Larim Sara plains has been converted to agricultural land and there may be little, if any, natural wetland vegetation remaining in this area. Huge numbers of ducks were trapped each year at the Seyed Mohalli and Zarin Kola ab-bandans in the 1970s.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: An important duck-hunting area.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important wintering area for a wide variety of waterfowl, especially dabbling ducks (regularly over 100,000 in the 1970s), swans, Fulica atra (up to 34,000) and some shorebirds, and a breeding area for five species of Ardeidae (including about 250 pairs of Ardeola ralloides) and Chlidonias hybridus (150-200 pairs). Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor (generally 10-30 but occasionally as many as 100); Aythya nyroca occurs in substantial numbers on passage (maximum 185 in November), and Oxyura leucocephala has been recorded in winter (maximum 27). Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 10. In the 1970s, the Larim Sara plains were an important wintering area for Phoenicopterus ruber (up to 965), Anser erythropus (maximum of 359 in February 1972) and A. anser (up to 630), and also supported a small breeding colony of Glareola pratincola (30-40 pairs), but much of the area has since been reclaimed for agriculture and most of these birds have disappeared. Huge flocks of Anser erythropus are reported to have wintered in this area in the 1950s and early 1960s, along with much smaller numbers of Branta ruficollis. A pair of Haliaeetus albicilla nested near Seyed Mohalli in the 1970s. Circus aeruginosus is a very common winter visitor (maximum 60), and Aquila heliaca, A. clanga, Falco cherrug, F. peregrinus, F. columbarius and Asio flammeus are regular winter visitors in small numbers. Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus are abundant breeding birds, and Remiz pendulinus probably breeds. Motacilla citreola is a regular winter visitor in small numbers, and Panurus biarmicus has been recorded (a party of five in January 1971). During the exceptionally severe winter of 1971/72, over 1,000 Melanocorypha leucoptera and several hundred M. yeltoniensis were present on Larim Sara plains.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and the Department of the Environment has also carried out some investigations on duck-hunting techniques and harvesting levels at the ab-bandans.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1978a); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 2c, 3a & 3c. The Seyed Mohalli, Zarin Kola and Larim Sara wetlands provide important habitat for three threatened species of birds: Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca, and have held appreciable numbers of two other threatened species in the recent past, Anser erythropus and Oxyura leucocephala. The wetlands support important breeding colonies of Ardeidae and Chlidonias hybridus, and regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of eight species of Anatidae and Fulica atra.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans (19)

Location: 3650'N, 5317'E; near the Caspian shore, 5-10 km west of Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge and about 25 km northwest of Behshahr, Mazandaran.

Area: 950 ha.

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: Two shallow freshwater lagoons with extensive reed-beds, adjacent to the Caspian beach in the southeast Caspian lowlands; important primarily as a wintering area for ducks (Anatidae) and Fulica atra. The wetlands are included within a large Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: The Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans are two long narrow freshwater lagoons with fringing reed-beds on the landward side of the coastal dunes bordering the Caspian Sea. The lagoons are situated about 10 km west of the extreme west end of the Gorgan Bay marshes. They are fed by irrigation ditches and local run-off, and drain east into the Gorgan Bay marshes. The water level fluctuates considerably, and extensive mudflats are exposed at low water levels. The ab-bandans do not appear to have been affected by the recent rise in level of the Caspian Sea.

Ecological features: Open-water areas of the ab-bandans support a rich growth of submerged and floating aquatic vegetation. The fringing marshes are dominated by Phragmites reed-beds with some Typha, but there are scrubby areas of Salix, Ribes, Rubus and Punica (pomegranate). The wetlands are bounded to the north by dune vegetation and to the south by arable land (cotton and wheat).

Land tenure: Privately owned by inhabitants of the nearby village of Zargmarz.

Conservation measures taken: The Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans have no legal protection, but are protected and managed as a private waterfowl hunting area by inhabitants of the nearby village of Zargmarz. These villagers pay a warden to patrol the area throughout the hunting season and prevent poaching. The ab-bandans are included within the Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay Ramsar Site (100,000 ha), designated on 23 June 1975. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The ab-bandans are used for waterfowl hunting in winter and as a source of water for irrigation during the summer months. Under an agreement with the Department of the Environment, the owners are permitted to hunt at the ab-bandans on a maximum of three days per month throughout the hunting season. In recent years, however, the owners have hunted at the site on only three or four occasions per season. There is also some reed-cutting in the marshes, and a little fishing.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: A traditional duck-hunting area.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetland is used by a wide variety of waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, but few species occur in large numbers except Anas strepera (maximum 1,500) and Fulica atra (maximum 18,600). Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 15), and Botaurus stellaris has been recorded in winter. During periods of low water level in late summer and autumn, the wetland occasionally attracts large numbers of migrant shorebirds, e.g. up to 300 Philomachus pugnax and 175 Tringa stagnatilis, and Porzana parva has been recorded. There is a large breeding colony of Chlidonias hybridus (100-150 pairs). Other breeding species include Podiceps cristatus (10-15 pairs), Tachybaptus ruficollis (20 pairs) and Gallinula chloropus (at least 50 pairs). Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus are common breeding birds in the reed-beds. A small flock of Oxyura leucocephala (maximum of 28 in January 1972) wintered in the area in the 1970s, feeding by night on the ab-bandans and roosting by day on the adjacent Caspian Sea. No O. leucocephala have been recorded since 1978, but it may be that the birds have simply moved a few kilometres east to Gorgan Bay, where the increased water depth has created more favourable conditions for the species. The numbers of other Anatidae using the site have increased in recent years, presumably because of the better protection from disturbance now being afforded to the wetland by the local duck hunters. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 11. Up to three Haliaeetus albicilla have been recorded in winter, and the species breeds locally. Falco peregrinus and F. columbarius are regular winter visitors in small numbers.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. The Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans provide important habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, a globally threatened species, and were an important wintering area for another threatened species, Oxyura leucocephala, in the recent past. The ab-bandans also regularly support over 1% of the regional wintering population of Anas strepera.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay (20)

Location: 3650'N, 5345'E; at the extreme southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, north and east of the town of Behshahr, Mazandaran.

Area: 97,200 ha.

Altitude: 18-25 m below sea level.

Overview: A large, shallow, brackish bay at the extreme southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, cut off from the open sea except at its eastern end by a long sandy peninsula, and with extensive freshwater marshes at its western end and along the south side; of great importance as spawning and nursery grounds for fishes, and of outstanding importance for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl of a very wide variety of species. The greater part of the wetland is protected in the Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge; the entire wetland has been designated as a Ramsar Site along with the nearby Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans.

Physical features: Gorgan Bay is a large shallow inlet at the extreme southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, almost totally cut off from the open sea by the 60 km long Miankaleh Peninsula - a low sandy peninsula with coastal dunes, pomegranate scrub and grassland. The peninsula, which covers 24,200 ha, averages about two km in width, with the narrowest point being about one km wide and the widest about 4 km. A chain of 50 metre-wide sand dunes parallels the Caspian Sea coast. The dunes, which rise to about 4 m above the sea level, form the highest points in the area. Gorgan Bay (23,800 ha) has a muddy bottom, and is oligotrophic, with a salinity of 10-12 p.p.t. It receives freshwater inflow from a number of small rivers and streams rising on the humid north slope of the Alborz Mountains to the south. There are extensive freshwater marshes at the west end of the bay and along its south shore, where freshwater inflow is greatest. These are flooded in autumn and winter, and are eutrophic due to the inflow of numerous streams, agricultural run-off and irrigation channels. There are also extensive tracts of seasonally flooded Tamarix woodland at the west end of the bay.

The rise in level of the Caspian Sea during the last decade has resulted in a marked increase in the level of Gorgan Bay and re-flooding of all those bare flats at the west end of the bay which had been exposed by falling sea levels during the previous decades. On the seaward side of the peninsula, the sandy beach has virtually disappeared, and no longer provides easy vehicular access to the fishing village of Ashuradeh at the extreme eastern tip of the peninsula.

The climate is characterized by warm, humid summers and mild winters, with a relatively low annual range in temperature. The annual rainfall varies from as little as 200 mm to over 1,000 mm, with rain falling throughout the year but mainly in winter. Temperatures range from -6C to +34C. Frosts and snowfalls are rare due to the warming effects of the Caspian Sea.

Ecological features: Most of the peninsula is covered with a carpet of herbaceous plants and grasses, such as Agropyron, Bromus, Dactylis, Cynodon and Festuca. The western half also supports scrubby woodland with scattered Wild Pomegranate (Punica granatum), hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), rhamnus (Rhamnus sp.) and blackberry (Rubus sp.). There are a few large willow trees (Salix sp.) planted around some of the shepherds' houses. Much of the shoreline of the bay is fringed with a broad belt of Juncus sp. and there are some large areas of Salicornia flats. The extensive seasonally flooded marshes at the west end of the bay are dominated by sedges (Carex spp.), with small patches of Phragmites, clumps of Juncus and a large stand of Tamarix. This tamarisk forest increased greatly in size as water levels fell during the early 1970s, but has since started to die back as the Caspian level has risen again. Cultivation bordering the bay in the south is predominantly wheat and cotton.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The entire area (97,200 ha) was designated as a Protected Region in May 1970. Cultivated land along the southern edge of the bay was subsequently excised from the reserve, reducing the area to 68,800 ha, and the reserve was upgraded to Wildlife Refuge. This refuge includes Miankaleh Peninsula, the open waters of Gorgan Bay and the marshes at the west end of the bay. Miankaleh Peninsula, Gorgan Bay and the nearby Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans were designated as a Ramsar Site of 100,000 ha on 23 June 1975. The entire Wildlife Refuge (68,800 ha) was designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in June 1976. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Various recommendations for management have been made by Harrington and Scott (1972), Matthews (1973) and van Beuningen et al. (1975). A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to the site in January 1992 concluded that the construction of a proposed paved highway along the peninsula would have a detrimental effect on the reserve and should not proceed (Scott & Smart, 1992).

Land use: Fishing in Gorgan Bay and in the inshore waters of the adjacent Caspian Sea. There is a fishing village with about 300 inhabitants (1970) and fish processing factory at the eastern end of the peninsula (Ashuradeh), and there are about ten small fishing stations scattered along the Caspian shore of the peninsula. Much of the peninsula is heavily grazed by flocks of sheep, goats and water buffalo, and there are several small farms within the reserve. In 1975, it was estimated that there were about 8,700 sheep, 3,090 water buffalo, 2,900 cows and 200 horses on the peninsula. Land to the south and west of the bay is under cultivation, mainly for wheat and cotton. There are several small villages along the southern edge of the bay linked by road and rail, and a large power station is situated on the Caspian shore about 10 km west of the reserve.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Some poaching occurred in the 1970s along the southwestern boundary of the reserve, but this was not thought to be a serious problem. However, poaching has increased considerably in recent years, and now occurs throughout the reserve. Much of the peninsula is open to livestock grazing, and in the western portion of the reserve this has been excessive. The number of cattle has increased in recent years; shacks have been built, and the cattle herders appear to be settling in. Irrigation schemes on agricultural land to the south and west reduce the flow of freshwater into the marshes and bay, especially in summer. The major threat to the area is the construction of an asphalt highway down the centre of the peninsula to provide easy access to the fishery stations along the beach and at Ashuradeh. A highway was constructed up to the western boundary of the reserve in the late 1980s, but work was halted following intervention by the Department of the Environment. Recent reports indicate that work on the road has resumed. While the road itself might not have any significant impact on the wetland ecosystems, the greatly increased access to the reserve will inevitably lead to increased pressure for settlement, increased farming activities and increased poaching.

Hydrological and biophysical values: Gorgan Bay is a very important spawning and nursery area for economically important species in the Caspian Sea fishery.

Social and cultural values: The bay and adjacent inshore waters of the Caspian Sea support an important commercial fishery.

Noteworthy fauna: Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge is undoubtedly one of the finest waterfowl reserves in the Western Palearctic Region. Some 126 species of waterfowl have been recorded, of which about 40 have occurred in internationally significant numbers. The reserve is extremely important throughout the year, supporting perhaps as many as 250,000 waterfowl throughout the winter months and large breeding colonies of herons, egrets, pratincoles and terns in summer. It also serves as a major staging area for waterbirds and land-birds during the spring and autumn migration seasons, and is the most important staging area for many species of shorebirds in the South Caspian region. The reserve is especially noted for its large wintering populations of grebes, Pelecanus crispus (up to 690), Phalacrocorax carbo (up to 15,000), herons, Phoenicopterus ruber (up to 25,000), swans, geese, surface-feeding ducks, diving ducks, shorebirds and gulls, and its breeding colonies of herons and egrets, Glareola pratincola (over 500 pairs) and Sterna albifrons (300-400 pairs). Botaurus stellaris is an occasional winter visitor; it was heard booming in the western marshes in April 1973 and may have bred. Peak counts of the commoner species are given in Table 12. Rare visitors and vagrants have included Gavia stellata, Anser fabalis, Aythya marila, Mergus merganser, Porzana parva, Grus virgo, Glareola lactea, Charadrius mongolus, Eudromias morinellus, Phalaropus fulicarius, Stercorarius pomarinus and Larus melanocephalus.

The 1.8 m rise in the level of the Caspian Sea since 1978 has had a profound influence on waterfowl populations in the marshes at the west end of Gorgan Bay, which are now permanently flooded. These marshes formerly held between 3,000 and 10,000 Anser anser, 4,000-5,000 A. erythropus and huge numbers of surface-feeding ducks. Large numbers of waterfowl continue to winter in the marshes, but the great majority of these are now Fulica atra, a species which was relatively uncommon in the 1970s (usually between 500 and 2,500). Only small numbers of Anser anser have been observed in recent years, and no A. erythopus have been recorded since 1989. These changes in bird populations are clearly related to the increased depth of water in the western marshes.

Nine globally threatened species of waterfowl have been recorded in the reserve. Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor in small numbers to the western marshes between October and March (maximum 28). Pelecanus crispus is a common winter visitor to Gorgan Bay and the adjacent Caspian Sea between October and March. Up to 350 were recorded during the 1970s, but as many as 690 were observed in the 1980s; at least 355 were present in January 1992. Anser erythropus was a regular winter visitor in the 1970s, with the flocks arriving in October and departing in April. Numbers in mid-winter built up rapidly from 1,350 in 1970/71 to peaks of 4,900 in 1974/75 and 4,400 in 1975/76. Numbers then fell rapidly again in the late 1970s, and the flocks disappeared in the early 1980s, presumably because the rise in the Caspian Sea had flooded their main feeding area. A small flock of 19 Branta ruficollis was present with the A. erythropus flock in the winter of 1975/76. Marmaronetta angustirostris is an occasional passage migrant; 29 were recorded in late February 1972 and three in October 1978. Aythya nyroca occurs in very small numbers on passage and in winter (maximum 9 in August). Oxyura leucocephala is a regular winter visitor in small numbers to Gorgan Bay and the channel at Ashuradeh. There are usually less than 20 birds, but at least 453 were present in the severe winter of 1971/72. Vanellus gregarius and Numenius tenuirostris have both occurred as scarce passage migrants, the former in October/November 1971, and the latter in August 1963.

The reserve is also very important for its large populations of raptors. Twenty-eight species have been recorded. Breeding species include Pandion haliaetus (several pairs, with up to 14 birds on passage), Circaetus gallicus (several pairs) and Haliaeetus albicilla (at least two pairs bred on the peninsula in the 1970s). The latter is also very common in winter, with between 50 and 100 individuals present in the reserve (maximum count on one day 47). Other wintering raptors include Circus cyaneus (maximum 21), C. macrourus (maximum 4 in winter but up to 20 on passage), C. aeruginosus (maximum 30), Buteo lagopus (maximum 2), Aquila heliaca (maximum 6), A. clanga (maximum 4), Falco cherrug (maximum 4), F. peregrinus (maximum 9) and F. columbarius (maximum 16). Circus pygargus occurs as a scarce passage migrant in spring and autumn, and Haliaeetus leucoryphus has been recorded (an immature in August 1975).

Francolinus francolinus and Phasianus colchicus are common in the scrubby areas of the peninsula. The Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax was a common winter visitor to the peninsula in the early 1970s (October to March) in flocks of over 100 birds (maximum count of 602 in January 1972). A few pairs were present throughout the summer and presumably bred. Numbers fell rapidly in the late 1970s and early 1980s; small flocks were reported until the late 1980s, but none has been seen in recent years. Chlamydotis undulata and Otis tarda have also been recorded on passage. A wide variety of land-birds occur during the migration seasons, and large numbers of larks, thrushes, finches and buntings remain throughout the winter. Common breeding passerines associated with the wetlands include Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. agricola; wintering birds include Remiz pendulinus and Emberiza schoeniclus. Other notable species recorded in the reserve include Bubo bubo, Asio flammeus, Caprimulgus aegyptius, Melanocorypha leucoptera, M. yeltoniensis, Phylloscopus nitidus and Sturnus roseus. At least 288 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) are abundant in the reserve, and the Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) also occurs. Caspian Seals (Phoca caspica) occasionally haul out on the Caspian beach.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Some bird ringing was carried out in the 1970s, particularly of migratory shorebirds. A considerable amount of limnological and fisheries research has been conducted by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot), and there is a large Fisheries Station at Ashuradeh, at the eastern end of the peninsula. Feeny et al. (1968) investigated bird migration in autumn, Harrington and Scott (1972) and Matthews (1973) considered management options for the reserve, and van Beuningen et al. (1975) investigated land-use problems. Accommodation facilities are available for visiting researchers at two Game Guard Stations on the peninsula.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); van Beuningen et al. (1975); Carnie (1973); Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Feeny et al. (1968); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Green (1993); Gretton (1991); Harrington & Scott (1972); Mansoori (1984); Matthews (1973); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1978a, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. The wetlands of Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay are an outstanding example of a natural sand spit/coastal lagoon system characteristic of the South Caspian. They play a substantial hydrological and ecological role in the functioning of the coastal systems of the southeast Caspian, and support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora. Gorgan Bay is an important breeding and nursery grounds for various fish species, while the peninsula and marshes support large breeding colonies of Ardeidae, Laridae and several species of shorebirds. The wetlands provide important wintering habitat for four threatened species of birds: Pelecanus crispus, Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca, and were formerly of great importance for wintering Anser erythropus. Five other threatened species of waterfowl have occurred as occasional visitors in small numbers. The wetlands regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl; they support over 1% of the regional breeding populations of Glareola pratincola and Sterna albifrons, and during the migration seasons and in winter, support over 1% of the regional populations of at least 32 other species of waterfowl.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Gomishan Marshes and Turkoman Steppes (21)

Location: 3715'N, 5355'E; on the east coast of the Caspian Sea from the region of Gomishan north and northwest for about 35 km to the border with the Republic of Turkmenistan, Mazandaran.

Area: c.20,000 ha including 4,850 ha of lagoons.

Altitude: 23 m below sea level.

Overview: A large area of shallow brackish lagoons and seasonally flooded steppe on the plains to the east of the Caspian Sea; of great importance for breeding and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species. Part of the wetland has been designated as a No-hunting Area.

Physical features: In the 1970s, the Gomishan wetlands consisted of a chain of narrow, brackish lagoons behind the Caspian Sea beach, stretching from two km north of the town of Gomishan north to the Turkmenistan border (and beyond). In the east, the wetland bordered on a vast area of low-lying plains with halophytic vegetation. The recent 1.8 m rise in the level of the Caspian Sea has resulted in extensive flooding of these plains, with the result that the Gomishan Marshes now comprise a large area of shallow, brackish lagoons and marshes covering at least 5,000 ha. The wetland lies at the western edge of the Turkoman Steppes, a vast region of grass-covered plains and rolling hills extending for over 100 km to the east in Iran and even further to the north in the Republic of Turkmenistan. Much of the natural grasslands in the southwest, near Gomishan Marshes, has been converted to arable land.

Ecological features: The main wetland area comprises shallow, brackish lagoons with salt marsh vegetation and seasonally-inundated flats with species of Salicornia, Halostachys and Halocnemum. In the west, the site is bounded by low coastal dunes with typical sand-dune vegetation and the Caspian beach. In the east, the site extends onto the short-grass plains of the Turkoman Steppes, large areas of which are under cultivation for wheat and cotton.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: Part of the wetland has recently been designated as a No-Hunting Area, and there are plans to upgrade this to Protected Area within five years. The entire area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: It has been proposed that Gomishan Marshes be designated as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Livestock grazing (mainly sheep and goats) and waterfowl hunting. Cultivation of wheat and cotton in the east.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: In recent years, the wetland has been subjected to very intensive hunting pressure (shooting) during the winter months. Large areas of natural grassland in the east have been converted to agricultural land.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: In the 1970s, when the permanent wetland area was restricted to a chain of narrow, brackish lagoons behind the Caspian beach, the area was important in summer for breeding Himantopus himantopus (250 pairs), Larus genei (50 pairs), Gelochelidon nilotica (20 pairs), Sterna hirundo (100-150 pairs), S. albifrons (200-300 pairs) and Chlidonias hybridus (100 pairs). In winter, the vast plains to the east attracted large numbers of geese (including up to 1,770 Anser erythropus), Vanellus vanellus (up to 5,000) and Pterocles alchata (up to 50,000). About 160 Syrrhaptes paradoxus were found amongst the large flocks of P. alchata in December 1970, and the species may be a regular winter visitor to this area. Other birds recorded in winter included Pluvialis apricaria (up to 5), Nyctea scandiaca (one in December 1974), Bubo bubo and Melanocorypha leucoptera. Charadrius leschenaultii was a regular passage migrant, with up to 60 occurring in July. In recent years, the rise in level of the Caspian Sea has flooded large areas of former Salicornia flats, creating large lagoons which have rapidly become of great importance for wintering waterfowl of many species, notably Pelecanus crispus (maximum 334), Phoenicopterus ruber (maximum 55,000), Anser anser (maximum 3,200), dabbling ducks (regularly over 50,000), Fulica atra (maximum 65,000) and Himantopus himantopus (maximum 1,700). Peak counts of wintering waterfowl in recent years are given in Table 13. Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila heliaca are regular winter visitors (maxima of 4 and 3 respectively), and there is a breeding colony of Falco naumanni (20 pairs) in the town of Bandar-e Shah at the southern edge of the site.

The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) is common in the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1969, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 3a & 3c. The Gomishan Marshes and Turkoman Steppes are a good representative example of a natural coastal wetland of the eastern Caspian region. The wetlands provide important wintering habitat for two globally threatened species of birds: Pelecanus crispus and Aquila heliaca, and were formerly of great importance for wintering Anser erythropus. The wetlands regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl; they support over 1% of the regional breeding populations of Himantopus himantopus and Sterna albifrons, and in winter, support over 1% of the regional populations of Phalacrocorax carbo, Egretta alba, Ardea cinerea, Phoenicopterus ruber, nine species of Anatidae and Fulica atra.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Alagol, Lake Ulmagol and Lake Ajigol (22)

Location: Lake Alagol 3721'N, 5435'E; Lake Ulmagol 3725'N, 5438'E; Lake Ajigol 3724'N, 5440'E; on the Turkoman Steppes near the border with Turkmenistan, about 60 km north-northeast of Gorgan, Mazandaran.

Area: 1,540 ha (Alagol 900 ha; Ulmagol 280 ha; Ajigol 360 ha); Ramsar Site 1,400 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A group of three small brackish and freshwater lakes with associated marshes on the rolling grassy steppes to the east of the Caspian Sea, of importance for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The lakes have been designated as a Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Lakes Alagol, Ulmagol and Ajigol are three small, rather isolated lakes in a region of gently undulating grassy plains on the Turkoman Steppes east of the Caspian Sea. Lake Alagol lies about 6 km to the southwest of Ulmagol and Ajigol; it is a slightly saline lake fed by seepage, springs and local run-off, flooding in winter and drying out completely in dry summers. When full, it overflows westwards. The lake bottom consists of mud and sand, and the water is oligotrophic, supporting little aquatic vegetation. Lake Ulmagol and Lake Ajigol are eutrophic freshwater lakes fed by local rainfall in autumn and winter. Both are subject to wide fluctuations in water level, and occasionally dry out completely during periods of drought. The lakes rarely, if ever, freeze over in winter.

Ecological features: Lake Alagol supports little aquatic vegetation except for some Juncus, Carex and grasses, mainly in the northeast, and a few small patches of Phragmites. Ulmagol and Ajigol support a more varied vegetation of Juncus, Lemna, Phragmites, Alhagi and algae. Much of Ajigol is overgrown with Phragmites reeds, and there are some stands of Tamarix by this lake. The lakes are situated on the Turkoman Steppes, a vast region of gently undulating grasslands with low sandy hills. There are several small human settlements in the vicinity of the lake complex.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. Lakes Alagol, Ulmagol and Ajigol were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975, with the area given as 1,400 ha. The lakes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Reed-cutting, grazing, wildfowl hunting and some fishing. In recent years, local farmers have begun to take water from Lake Alagol for irrigation purposes and for a fish hatchery. There are several small settlements in the general area.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The extraction of water from Lake Alagol for irrigation purposes and a fish hatchery has resulted in lower water levels in the lake, especially in summer. Ulmagol and Ajigol have long been subjected to high levels of disturbance from wildfowl hunters, and Alagol (the least accessible of the three) is also now being affected by disturbance from hunters.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The lakes are utilized by a wide variety of waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, and are especially important for Phoenicopterus ruber (up to 1,125), Anser anser (up to 750), dabbling ducks, Netta rufina (up to 1,700), Mergellus albellus (up to 250) and Fulica atra (up to 50,000). Breeding species include Podiceps cristatus (10-15 pairs), Ixobrychus minutus, Himantopus himantopus (60 pairs), Glareola pratincola (5 pairs), Charadrius alexandrinus (100 pairs), Vanellus leucurus (one pair) and Larus genei (300-350 pairs). Up to 10 Ciconia nigra have been recorded in summer, and may breed in the area. Small flocks of Anser erythropus (150) and Oxyura leucocephala (19) have been recorded at the lakes in winter, and single Gavia arctica and Pelecanus crispus have been recorded. Peak counts of wintering waterfowl are given in Table 14. Birds of prey are common in winter, with up to 9 Haliaeetus albicilla, 6 Circus cyaneus, 5 Aquila heliaca, 3 Falco columbarius, 3 Asio otus and 2 A. flammeus, and the occasional Aegypius monachus, Buteo lagopus and Falco cherrug. Francolinus francolinus, Remiz pendulinus and Passer hispaniolensis breed in the tamarisk thickets, and Acrocephalus arundinaceus is a common summer visitor to the reed-beds. Luscinia svecica is a winter visitor, and Panurus biarmicus has occurred (20 in December 1970).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1969, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. Two M.Sc. students from Tehran University are currently conducting research on the avifauna and physico-chemical characteristics of the lakes, respectively.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 3a & 3c. Lakes Alagol, Ulmagol and Ajigol are good representative examples of natural brackish and freshwater lakes characteristic of the vast plains to the east of the Caspian Sea. They provide wintering habitat for four threatened species of birds (Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca), and regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Anas strepera, Aythya fuligula and Fulica atra.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Incheh Borun Lake (23)

Location: 3713'N, 5430'E; on the Turkoman Steppes about 40 km north of Gorgan, Mazandaran.

Area: 50 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A small, isolated, freshwater lake with associated marshes on the rolling plains of the Turkoman Steppes, important for wintering waterfowl and birds of prey. Unprotected.

Physical features: No information.

Ecological features: Freshwater lake and marshes; grassy steppe and arable land in surrounding areas.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A wintering area for a wide variety of waterfowl including up to 135 Egretta alba, 123 Ardea cinerea, 225 Phoenicopterus ruber, 185 Cygnus olor, 44 Anser anser, 150 Tadorna tadorna, 360 Anas platyrhynchos, 60 Netta rufina, 250 Mergellus albellus, 10 Mergus merganser and 220 Fulica atra. Small flocks of Anser erythropus (36) and Oxyura leucocephala (4) have been recorded in winter, and Branta ruficollis has occurred (one in February 1973). Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila heliaca are regular winter visitors, and Aegypius monachus occurs in the area. About 10 pairs of Himantopus himantopus breed at the lake. The surrounding plains are probably an important staging area for Charadrius asiaticus; up to 110 have been recorded at the site in July.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a. Incheh Borun lake and marshes are a regular wintering area for Aquila heliaca, a globally threatened species. Two other threatened species, Anser erythropus and Oxyura leucocephala, are occasional winter visitors in small numbers.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Voshmigir Dam (24)

Location: 3712'N, 5445'E; on the Gorgan Rud (River), about 50 km north-northeast of Gorgan and 35 km west of Gonbad-e Qaboos, Mazandaran.

Area: 500 ha.

Altitude: 10 m.

Overview: A small reservoir at the southern edge of the Turkoman Steppes, important for wintering waterfowl, notably Mergellus albellus. Unprotected.

Physical features: A small water storage reservoir on the Gorgan River, in a region of steppic plains and arable land. The water level fluctuates widely, and extensive bare mudflats are exposed at low water levels. In most places, the banks are steeply shelving, and there is little emergent marsh vegetation.

Ecological features: The reservoir supports little aquatic vegetation. The surrounding plains are almost entirely under cultivation.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None.

Land use: A water storage reservoir, used for irrigation.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for grebes and ducks, and a staging area for shorebirds. Wintering birds include up to 63 Podiceps cristatus, 40 Egretta alba, 550 Anas crecca, 1,660 A. platyrhynchos, 340 Netta rufina, 770 Aythya ferina, 250 A. fuligula, 15 A. nyroca, 11 Bucephala clangula, 340 Mergellus albellus, 430 Recurvirostra avosetta and 200 Larus ridibundus. A few Pelecanus crispus have also been recorded. Peak counts of shorebirds during autumn migration have included 53 Charadrius dubius, 350 C. alexandrinus, 110 Calidris minuta, 420 C. ferruginea, 200 Philomachus pugnax and 20 Tringa ochropus. About 15 pairs of Chlidonias hybridus and 40 pairs of Sterna albifrons breed around the dam. Buteo lagopus and Falco columbarius are occasional winter visitors.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1972, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Voshmigir Dam supports small numbers of Aythya nyroca, a globally threatened species, and regularly supports over 1% of the regional wintering populations of Mergellus albellus and Recurvirostra avosetta.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Bibishervan and Lake Eymar (25)

Location: Lake Bibishervan 3709'N, 5452'E; Lake Eymar 3708'N, 5452'E; on the southern edge of the Turkoman Steppes, 30 km west-southwest of Gonbad-e Qaboos, Mazandaran.

Area: 550 ha (Bibishervan 300 ha; Eymar 250 ha).

Altitude: 25 m.

Overview: Two small, rather isolated, freshwater lakes and marshes at the southern edge of the Turkoman Steppes, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Two shallow freshwater lakes, Lake Bibishervan (Byby Shirvan) and Lake Eymar, with fringing reed-beds and sedge marshes. The lakes are surrounded by cultivated plains of the Turkoman Steppes.

Ecological features: Freshwater lakes and marshes with some Phragmites reed-beds; in a region of cultivated plains.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The lakes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for a wide variety of waterfowl including up to 52 Cygnus olor, 400 Anas crecca, 2,000 A. platyrhynchos, 200 A. acuta, 740 Netta rufina, 900 Aythya ferina, 210 A. fuligula, 1,845 Fulica atra, 3,000 Vanellus vanellus, 70 Larus minutus and 150 L. canus. Cygnus cygnus (maximum 8), Mergellus albellus (maximum 11), Oxyura leucocephala (maximum 6) and Calidris temminckii (maximum 8) have also occurred in winter. Breeding birds include a few pairs of Ixobrychus minutus, 10 pairs of Himantopus himantopus, about 75 pairs of Glareola pratincola, at least one pair of Vanellus leucurus, 150 pairs of Chlidonias hybridus, and many Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus. Tetrax tetrax was probably a regular winter visitor to the area in the 1970s, with a flock of 430 on the plains by the lakes in February 1972. Buteo lagopus, Falco columbarius and Panurus biarmicus have been recorded in winter, and up to 10 Aquila clanga have been observed on autumn migration. Passer hispaniolensis is a very common resident, with concentrations of over 1,000 recorded during the winter months.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1969, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1976c).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a (possibly also 2a). Lakes Bibishervan and Eymar are good representative examples of natural freshwater lakes characteristic of the vast plains to the east of the Caspian Sea. One threatened species of waterfowl, Oxyura leucocephala, has occurred in small numbers.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Zaribar (26)

Location: 3532'N, 4607'E; in the foothills of the western Zagros Mountains near the Iraq border, 3 km west of the town of Marivan and 85 km west-northwest of Sanandaj, Kurdistan.

Area: 1,550 ha.

Altitude: 1,285 m.

Overview: A relatively deep, freshwater lake with extensive fringing marshes in the western Zagros Mountains, very important as a breeding area for waterfowl, notably Oxyura leucocephala, and also important as a wintering area for a wide variety of Anatidae including Mergus merganser. Unprotected.

Physical features: Lake Zaribar is a relatively deep, permanent freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds and sedge marshes at its northern and southern ends, set in a broad valley in the Western Zagros. The water is very clear, with an average depth of about 3.5 m and maximum depth of 6 m. The lake receives most of its water from springs, especially a large spring at the northeast corner, and there are only a few small streams entering the lake. The annual fluctuation in water level is about 1.5 m; at high levels, the lake overflows into a small river at its south end. It is often frozen over during mid-winter. Soils are lomy clay and silt. The plains to the north and south of the lake are intensively cultivated, while the steep hillsides to the east and west are covered in oak woodland and scrub.

The climate is characterized by hot dry summers and cold winters, with an average annual rainfall of 78 mm and a mean annual temperature of 13C.

Ecological features: The extensive marshes at the north and south ends of the lake are dominated by Phragmites australis, Typha sp., Juncus spp. and Cyperus sp., with scattered clumps of Salix sp. and Populus sp. Other common aquatic plants include Nymphaea alba, Hippuris vulgaris, Ranunculus lingua, Utricularia vulgaris, Alisma lanceolatum, Botumis umbellatus, Lemna sp. and Veronica sp. Wet meadows adjoin the marshes, while the surrounding plains are mainly arable land (principally wheat), with orchards and poplar groves. Nearby stony hillsides support heavily grazed oak scrub on the lower slopes and taller, less disturbed oak forest on the upper slopes.

Land tenure: Public (Government); surrounding areas are in private ownership.

Conservation measures taken: None. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing and waterfowl hunting at the lake; agriculture and livestock grazing in surrounding areas. Some reeds are harvested for construction purposes and fuel. There is a small resort area at the southeast corner of the lake.

Possible changes in land use: Increasing development for tourism and outdoor recreation.

Disturbances and threats: Some of the peripheral marshes have been drained for agriculture, and drainage channels have been constructed near the lake. A government organization has recently introduced three exotic fish species into the lake. The exotic fish Pseudorasbora parva has also recently colonized the lake and become extremely abundant, possibly to the detriment of native species. The lake was badly affected during the prolonged Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s because of hits by missiles and rockets. Some of the reed-beds were destroyed, and parts of the lake became deeper while other parts dried out. The lake is also reported to have been damaged by chemical warfare during this war (Ashtiani-Zarandi, 1990). Oak forest on the lower slopes around the lake has been badly degraded by overgrazing and cutting for fuelwood.

Hydrological and biophysical values: Flood control and maintenance of water quality.

Social and cultural values: Outdoor recreation in summer.

Noteworthy fauna: The extensive marshes around the lake are important for breeding waterfowl, including 50-100 pairs of Podiceps cristatus, at least 25 pairs of Tachybaptus ruficollis, many Ixobrychus minutus, at least ten pairs of Ardea purpurea, several pairs of Anser anser, 20-50 pairs of Aythya nyroca, several pairs of Oxyura leucocephala, many Rallus aquaticus and 50 pairs of Vanellus vanellus, along with five pairs of Circus aeruginosus and many Acrocephalus melanopogon, A. arundinaceus and Remiz pendulinus. At least eight adult O. leucocephala and six chicks were present in July 1974, along with a total of 250 A. nyroca. There is an exceptionally large breeding colony of Ciconia ciconia (about 120 pairs) in a patch of forest to the north of the lake, and the marshes provide important feeding habitat for the birds from this colony. The lake is also of some importance for wintering waterfowl, especially diving ducks, and is the most important wintering site for Mergus merganser in Iran (maximum 35). The wintering waterfowl include up to 20 Anser albifrons, 110 A. anser, 360 Anas strepera, 455 A. crecca, 2,060 A. platyrhynchos, 30 Netta rufina, 3,000 Aythya ferina, 4,000 A. fuligula, 150 Mergellus albellus, 16,000 Fulica atra, 450 Vanellus vanellus and 50 Gallinago gallinago. Three Marmaronetta angustirostris were present in January 1975, and Phoenicopterus ruber has occurred (9 in February 1994). Passage migrants have included up to 13 Plegadis falcinellus and 35 Tringa glareola.

Ten species of fish have been recorded in the lake, although only three of these are indigenous: Capoeta buhsei and Leuciscus cephalus (Cyprinidae) and Mastacembelus mastacembelus (Mastacembelidae). The introduced species are Ctenopharyngodon idella, Cyprinus carpio (two varieties), Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, H. nobilis, Pseudorasbora parva, Alburnus charusni and Gambusia affinis.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1970, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. Investigations have also been carried out on the fish fauna. Little work was possible in the area in the 1980s because of the conflict with Iraq.

Recreation and tourism: A resort hotel is being constructed beside the lake, and efforts are being made to promote tourism and outdoor recreation in the area.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Scott (1976a, 1976c).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d, 2a, 2b & 3c. Lake Zaribar is a good example of a relatively deep freshwater lake at medium elevation in the uplands of western Iran, and one of the few such lakes in this part of the Middle East. It supports a rich and varied wetland fauna and flora, and thus plays a significant role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The lake is an important breeding area for two globally threatened species of waterfowl: Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala. In winter, it regularly supports over 1% of the regional population of Aythya fuligula.

Source: Mohammad Nosrati and Derek A. Scott.

_______

Hashelan Marsh (27)

Location: 3433'N, 4655'E; in a broad intermontane basin in the western Zagros Mountains about 20-30 km northwest of Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province.

Area: 400 ha.

Altitude: c.1,500 m.

Overview: A complex of permanent spring-fed pools and marshes in an area of cultivated plains in the uplands of western Iran, important both for breeding and wintering waterfowl, notably Aythya nyroca. Unprotected.

Physical features: Hashelan Marsh is a small area of permanent freshwater pools and marshes fed by a group of large springs, at the northern end of a very flat cultivated plain which extends to the region of Doh Tappeh about 10 km to the south. The wetland is bordered to the north, east and west by hill ranges. There are several small villages in the area.

Ecological features: Freshwater pools with abundant submerged and floating aquatic vegetation, and extensive emergent marshes dominated by sedges and rushes. The adjacent plains support heavily-grazed pastureland and cultivation (mainly cereals); adjacent rocky hillsides support semi-arid steppic vegetation.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The marshes, along with a large area of the surrounding plains, have has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The establishment of a reserve encompassing the wetlands and an area of plains to the south was proposed in the 1970s, but this was never implemented.

Land use: Agriculture, livestock grazing and some wildfowl hunting.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There is a considerable amount of duck-hunting at the marsh. The plains are densely populated and disturbance levels are high. However, recent reports indicate that the wetland remains in reasonably good condition.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Hashelan Marsh supports breeding populations of Tachybaptus ruficollis (at least 20 pairs), Ardea purpurea (several pairs), Aythya nyroca (several pairs), Rallus aquaticus, Vanellus vanellus (at least 25 pairs) and Acrocephalus melanopogon. Ciconia ciconia is a common summer visitor, with about 15-20 pairs breeding in the area. The marsh is also of some importance for wintering waterfowl, with up to 100 Tachybaptus ruficollis, 50 Egretta alba, 800 Anas platyrhynchos, 130 Aythya nyroca, 620 Fulica atra and 20 Gallinago gallinago. Waterfowl recorded on passage include up to 20 Ardeola ralloides, 250 Anas querquedula, 12 Tringa ochropus and 80 Chlidonias leucopterus. Circus aeruginosus is a regular winter visitor to the marsh (maximum 6), and Neophron percnopterus is a regular summer visitor to the area. The Great Bustard Otis tarda was a summer visitor to the plains near Doh Tappeh, about 10 km south of the wetland, in the 1970s. Between five and 10 females were thought to nest in the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1970, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. The wetland is currently being investigated by the Department of the Environment.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b & 3c. Hashelan Marsh is a good representative example of natural spring-fed wetland characteristic of the uplands of western Iran. It supports a rich and varied fauna and flora, and thus plays a significant role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. In winter, it regularly supports over 1% of the regional population of Aythya nyroca, a globally threatened species.

Source: Derek A. Scott.


A Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East



 [Appendix


Islamic Republic of Iran (part 3)

____________________________________________________________________________

Dez Dam (28)

Location: 32°38'N, 48°28'E; on the Dez River in the southwestern foothills of the Zagros Mountains, about 15 km northeast of the city of Dezful, Khuzestan.

Area: 1,500 ha.

Altitude: c.230 m.

Overview: A large water storage reservoir on the Dez River in the arid foothills of the southwestern Zagros Mountains, northeast of the town of Dezful; important for wintering waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: No information.

Ecological features: No information.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Water storage for domestic and industrial supply and irrigation.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important site for wintering waterfowl, notably Egretta alba (maximum 300), E. garzetta (maximum 300), Ardea cinerea (maximum 190), Anser anser (maximum 4,500) and Grus grus (maximum 1,125). Up to 70 Marmaronetta angustirostris have been recorded at the site in mid-winter.

Noteworthy flora: None known.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since the late 1970s.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Dez Dam provides wintering habitat for Marmaronetta angustirostris (a threatened species), and regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser and Grus grus in winter.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Karkheh River Marshes (29)

Location: 31°45'N, 48°25'E; along the Karkheh River on the plains of Khuzestan, about 35-90 km north-northwest of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: c.15,000 ha (3,500 ha of permanent wetlands).

Altitude: c.30-90 m.

Overview: Riverine marshes and riparian woodland along the Karkheh River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for wintering waterfowl and breeding Marmaronetta angustirostris. The greater part of the site is protected in a Wildlife Refuge and Protected Area.

Physical features: The site comprises a 55 km stretch of the Karkheh River north of the city of Ahwaz, and the adjacent marshy plains. Dense riparian forest up to several hundred metres in width lines the river banks. The river flows in a deep channel with steep earthen banks. The adjacent plains, which are largely under cultivation, are dotted with shallow marshy depressions and meandering creeks which flood in winter.

Ecological features: Dense riverine forest of Tamarix spp. and Populus euphraticus, cultivated plains (mainly wheat), and marshy depressions subject to winter flooding.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: A Protected Region of 18,125 ha was established in November 1960 to protect the dwindling habitat of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica). The reserve was reduced in size to 13,027 ha in the early 1970s, and re-notified partly as a Wildlife Refuge (3,600 ha) and partly as a Protected Area (9,427 ha). The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock and illegal cutting of firewood in the reserve; agriculture on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Much of the riparian forest has been degraded as a result of grazing by domestic livestock and the cutting of fuelwood. The cultivated plains are subject to high levels of disturbance from farming activities and hunters.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The river and adjacent floodplain are of some importance for wintering Pelecanus crispus, ducks and coots. Peak counts have included 62 P. crispus, 300 Anas strepera, 2,050 A. crecca, 605 A. platyrhynchos, 650 A. clypeata, 150 Aythya ferina and 2,500 Fulica atra. A few pairs of Marmaronetta angustirostris probably breed in the reserve, and up to 250 have been recorded in winter. Other wintering waterfowl have included up to 40 Egretta alba, 13 Ciconia ciconia, 10 Anas querquedula and three Aythya nyroca. Ardeola ralloides is common on passage (maximum 60). The riverine forest supports a typical Mesopotamian bird fauna including large breeding populations of Hypocolius ampelinus and Passer moabiticus. Other breeding species include Francolinus francolinus, Ceryle rudis, Halcyon smyrnensis, Acrocephalus melanopogon, A. stentoreus, Sylvia mystacea, Passer hispaniolensis and Petronia xanthocollis.

A tiny population of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) still survived in the riparian forests along the Karkheh River until the early 1970s, but this population apparently became extinct in the mid- or late 1970s, leaving the population along the Dez River to the east as the only known extant population in the wild. Other mammals which still occur in the area include Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Jackal (Canis aureus), Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica).

Noteworthy flora: The reserve contains one of the few remaining relatively undisturbed stands of native Populus euphraticus riverine forest, once widespread in southwestern Iran and neighbouring southern Iraq.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz et al. (1970); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1980).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d & 2a. The Karkheh River marshes contain significant stands of native riparian woodland, a habitat type which was once widespread in the lowlands of southwestern Iran and neighbouring Iraq, but is now extremely rare outside protected areas. As recently as the late 1970s, this woodland was one of only two remaining localities with wild populations of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer Dama dama mesopotamica. The marshes support a significant breeding population of Marmaronetta angustirostris and a wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (both threatened species).

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Dez River Marshes and Plains (30)

Location: 31°50'N, 48°38'E; along the Dez River on the plains of Khuzestan, about 35-90 km north of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: c.20,000 ha (8,000 ha of permanent wetlands).

Altitude: 30-90 m.

Overview: Riverine marshes, riparian woodland and marshy plains along the Dez River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica), wintering waterfowl and breeding Marmaronetta angustirostris. The greater part of the site is protected in a Wildlife Refuge and Protected Area.

Physical features: The site comprises a 55 km stretch of the Dez River, several associated oxbow lakes, and the adjacent marshy plains of Deh Noh and Ahu Dasht, north of the city of Ahwaz. Dense riparian forest up to several hundred metres in width lines the river banks and surrounds the oxbow lakes. The river flows in a deep channel with steep earthen banks. The adjacent plains, which are largely under cultivation for wheat and other crops, are dotted with shallow marshy depressions and meandering creeks which flood in winter.

Ecological features: Dense riparian forest of Tamarix spp. and Populus euphraticus; cultivated plains (mainly wheat), and marshy depressions subject to winter flooding. There are some stands of Phragmites reed-beds around the oxbow lakes.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: A Protected Region of 18,812 ha was established in November 1960 to protect the dwindling habitat of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica). Some 3,837 ha of this reserve were re-notified as a Wildlife Park in January 1970. The reserve was reduced in size to 15,873 ha in the early 1970s, and re-notified partly as a Wildlife Refuge (5,240 ha) and partly as a Protected Area (10,633 ha). Since then, the status has remained unchanged. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock and illegal cutting of firewood in the reserve; agriculture on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Parts of the riparian forest have been degraded as a result of grazing by domestic livestock and the cutting of fuelwood. The cultivated plains are subject to high levels of disturbance from farming activities and hunters, and the wetlands are reported to have become very polluted in recent years.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetlands are very important for wintering cormorants, herons, egrets, geese (including up to 190 Anser erythropus), surface-feeding ducks and some shorebirds (see Table 15). Pelecanus crispus is a regular winter visitor, usually with about 30 present but occasionally as many as 160. The marshy plain is one of the best areas in Iran for Threskiornis aethiopicus; the species is a regular winter visitor to the area, with peak counts of 26 in January 1972, 23 in January 1973, 25 in January 1974 and 41 in January 1975. Aythya nyroca is a regular winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 11), and some 10-20 pairs of Marmaronetta angustirostris breed around the oxbow lakes. Other breeding species include Vanellus indicus and V. leucurus. The stretch of river is the only known haunt of Anhinga rufa in Iran. This species was a very scarce winter visitor in the 1970s, presumably from breeding areas in the Mesopotamian Marshes of neighbouring southern Iraq; three individuals were observed in January 1973, one in November 1973, and one in December 1974 and January 1975. Other scarce winter visitors have included Botaurus stellaris, Branta ruficollis (one in February 1971), Tetrax tetrax and Chlamydotis undulata. The reed-beds around the oxbow lakes are one of the very few sites in Iran where Turdoides altirostris is known to occur. Wintering raptors include Circus aeruginosus (maximum 10), Aquila heliaca (maximum 3) and A. clanga (maximum 2). Eudromias morinellus has been recorded on passage in autumn (maximum 8). The riverine thickets support a typical Mesopotamian bird fauna, with large breeding populations of Streptopelia turtur (over 1,000 birds in June 1974), Hypocolius ampelinus and Passer moabiticus, but also several species, such as Columba palumbus, Turdus merula and Parus major, which are more typical of Zagros oak forest. Other breeding species include Francolinus francolinus, Tyto alba, Ceryle rudis, Halcyon smyrnensis, Acrocephalus melanopogon, A. stentoreus, Sylvia mystacea, Passer hispaniolensis and Petronia xanthocollis. Luscinia svecica is a fairly common winter visitor. At least 133 species of birds have been recorded in the area.

A tiny population of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) still survives in the riparian forests along the Dez River. This population, which numbers a few tens of individuals, is the only known truly wild population. Other mammals include Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Jackal (Canis aureus), Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica).

Noteworthy flora: The reserve contains one of the few remaining relatively undisturbed stands of native Populus euphraticus riverine forest, once widespread in southwestern Iran and neighbouring southern Iraq.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz et al. (1970); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1980); Scott & Carp (1972).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d, 2a, 2b & 3c. The Dez River marshes contain significant stands of native riparian woodland, a habitat type which was once widespread in the lowlands of southwestern Iran and neighbouring Iraq, but is now extremely rare outside protected areas. The woodland supports the only population of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer Dama dama mesopotamica still surviving in the wild, as well as a number of bird species with very restricted distributions in the Middle East. The wetland thus plays a significant role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The marshes support a significant breeding population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and regular wintering populations of Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca (all threatened species). Wintering waterfowl include over 1% of the regional populations of Threskiornis aethiopicus, Anser albifrons and Anas platyrhynchos.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Karun River Marshes (31)

Location: 31°45'N, 48°54'E; near the Karun River on the plains of Khuzestan, about 30 km south of Shushtar and 55 km north-northeast of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 2,500 ha.

Altitude: c.90 m.

Overview: Seasonally flooded arable land with small areas of permanent marsh along the Karun River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for wintering waterfowl, especially geese (Anser spp.) and Grus grus. Unprotected.

Physical features: The Karun River Marshes comprise an area of about 25 sq.km of seasonally flooded arable land on the east bank of the Karun River, with scattered ponds and permanent marshy areas. Most of the area dries out completely in summer, but a few of the deeper pools and meandering watercourses remain wet and provide some breeding habitat for waterfowl.

Ecological features: Seasonally flooded arable land (mainly wheat), small freshwater ponds and freshwater marshes.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Agriculture.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The area is subject to high levels of disturbance from farming activities and hunters.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important wintering area for geese, Tadorna ferruginea, surface-feeding ducks, Grus grus and several shorebirds. Peak counts have included 1,730 Anser albifrons, 590 A. erythropus, 10,050 A. anser, 400 T. ferruginea, 15,000 A. crecca, 3,000 A. clypeata, 1,350 G. grus, 150 Vanellus leucurus and 2,000 Limosa limosa (see Table 15). Up to 3,500 A. albifrons and 1,500 T. ferruginea have been recorded in November. Small numbers of Pelecanus crispus (maximum 6), Threskiornis aethiopicus (maximum 12), Marmaronetta angustirostris (maximum 12) and Aythya nyroca (maximum 4) occur in winter, and Botaurus stellaris and Branta ruficollis have been recorded, the latter in February 1971 (two). M. angustirostris probably also breeds in the area, as up to 34 have been observed in summer. Other breeding birds include Francolinus francolinus, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis and Passer hispaniolensis. Passage migrants have included up to 42 Ardeola ralloides and 32 Eudromias morinellus. Wintering raptors include small numbers of Aquila heliaca, Falco cherrug and Falco columbarius. Huge flocks of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata appear in winter (maximum 11,000), while wintering passerines include Motacilla citreola and Luscinia svecica.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1980); Scott & Carp (1972).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 3a & 3c. The Karun River marshes support wintering populations of five threatened species: Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca. The marshes regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Threskiornis aethiopicus, Anser albifrons, A. anser, Anas crecca, Grus grus and Limosa limosa.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Horeh Bamdej (Sadi Shavour Marshes) (32)

Location: 31°45'N, 48°36'E; on the plains of Khuzestan between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers, 45 km north-northwest of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 12,000 ha.

Altitude: c.45 m.

Overview: A permanent, freshwater marsh with extensive reed-beds in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, very important for breeding and wintering waterfowl, especially Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: Horeh Bamdej (or Sadi Shavour Marshes) is a large permanent freshwater marsh with extensive reed-beds and relatively little open water, in an inter-fluvial depression between the Dez and Karkheh Rivers. Surrounding agricultural land is subject to seasonal flooding.

Ecological features: Permanent freshwater marshes dominated by Phragmites and Typha, with a surrounding belt of seasonally inundated sedge marshes and arable land. Open water areas support an abundant growth of floating and submerged aquatic vegetation.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Some grazing by domestic livestock; agriculture in surrounding areas.

Possible changes in land use: Conversion of wetland to agricultural land.

Disturbances and threats: Parts of the wetland are currently being drained for agriculture.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Horeh Bamdej and the Sadeh Shavour Marshes are an important breeding area for a wide variety of waterfowl including Ixobrychus minutus, Nycticorax nycticorax (30 pairs), Ardeola ralloides (60 pairs), Bubulcus ibis (40 pairs), Egretta garzetta (50 pairs), Ardea purpurea (60 pairs), Marmaronetta angustirostris (at least 20 pairs), Circus aeruginosus (10+ pairs), Porphyrio porphyrio, Himantopus himantopus (100-150 pairs), Glareola pratincola (150-200 pairs), Vanellus leucurus (at least 100 pairs) and Sterna albifrons (15 pairs). Other common breeding birds include Francolinus francolinus, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. The site is also very important for wintering Pelecanus crispus (up to 51), herons and egrets, Platalea leucorodia (up to 120), Anser anser (up to 2,500), surface-feeding ducks (regularly over 20,000 including up to 1,000 M. angustirostris), Grus grus (up to 3,000), Fulica atra (up to 23,000), Himantopus himantopus (up to 620), Vanellus leucurus (up to 390) and Limosa limosa (up to 980). As many as 50 Threskiornis aethiopicus have occurred in winter, and small numbers (apparently non-breeders) have been observed in summer, along with up to 230 Ciconia ciconia. Other notable species recorded at the site include Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (one in January 1975), Aythya nyroca (maximum 7), Haliaeetus albicilla, Falco cherrug and Pterocles alchata (up to 600 in winter). Peak counts of wintering waterfowl are given in Table 15.

Noteworthy flora: The wetland supports the most extensive permanent freshwater marshes with tall reed-beds (Phragmites and Typha) in Khuzestan.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1978a); Scott & Carp (1972).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. The Horeh Bamdej Marshes are a good representative example of a permanent freshwater reed marsh characteristic of the lowlands of southwestern Iran and neighbouring Iraq. They support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play a significant role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. They support a substantial breeding and wintering population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and wintering populations of two other threatened species of waterfowl: Pelecanus crispus and Aythya nyroca. The marshes regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Threskiornis aethiopicus, Anser anser, five species of ducks, Fulica atra and Grus grus. The marshes are also important breeding habitat for Himantopus himantopus, supporting over 1% of the regional population.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Hamidieh Plains (33)

Location: 31°20'N, 48°20'E; on the plains of Khuzestan about 30 km west-northwest of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 20,000 ha.

Altitude: c.15 m.

Overview: Seasonally flooded semi-desertic plains and arable land along the Karkheh River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for wintering waterfowl and breeding Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: The Hamidieh (or Omidiyeh) Plains comprise an area of about 200 sq.km of semi-desertic plains and arable land subject to winter flooding on the floodplain of the Karkheh River northwest of Ahwaz. At peak winter flooding, the maximum depth of water is about 30 cm. The site includes Hamidieh Lake - an old oxbow lake of the Karkheh River about 3 ha in area and with extensive reed-beds.

Ecological features: Seasonally inundated plains with semi-desertic steppe vegetation and irrigated agricultural land; also a small permanent freshwater lake with extensive fringing reed-beds of Phragmites and Typha.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock and agriculture.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The floodplain wetlands are an important wintering area for Anser anser (maximum 9,700), Tadorna tadorna (maximum 1,320) and surface-feeding ducks, notably Anas penelope (maximum 3,835), A. strepera (maximum 6,440) and A. clypeata (maximum 4,900). Other common winter visitors include Egretta alba (up to 110), Ardea cinerea (up to 110), Fulica atra (up to 500), Grus grus (up to 100), Himantopus himantopus (up to 650) and Recurvirostra avosetta (up to 290). About 15-20 pairs of Marmaronetta angustirostris breed at Hamidieh Lake, and small numbers have been recorded on the floodplain wetlands in winter (maximum 20). Several pairs of Turdoides altirostris are resident in the reed-beds; Hypocolius ampelinus is a fairly common summer visitor to the scrub around the lake, and Passer moabiticus is probably resident in the area. Other breeding species include Ixobrychus minutus, Vanellus leucurus, Sterna albifrons, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis and Acrocephalus stentoreus. Porzana porzana and Glareola pratincola have been recorded in summer and may breed. Up to 50 Ardeola ralloides have been recorded during migration. Aquila heliaca has been recorded in winter.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Hamidieh Plains support a significant breeding and wintering population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, as well as wintering Aquila heliaca (both threatened species). In winter, the wetlands regularly support over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser, Tadorna tadorna, Anas penelope, A. strepera, A. clypeata, Himantopus himantopus and Recurvirostra avosetta.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Susangerd Marshes (34)

Location: 31°45'N, 47°55'E; near the border with Iraq, at the extreme eastern edge of the Hoor Al Azim marshes, 60-90 km west-northwest of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: c.30,000 ha.

Altitude: c.15 m.

Overview: Permanent and seasonal marshes and seasonally flooded arable land on the floodplain of the Karkheh River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: The Susangerd Marshes (or Horeh Sosangerd) comprise a complex of permanent and seasonal, freshwater to brackish marshes and seasonally flooded arable land on the floodplain of the Karkheh River near the Iraqi border. These wetlands constitute the northeastern extremity of the vast Hoor Al Azim marshes, the great bulk of which lies over the border in Iraq.

Ecological features: Permanent and seasonal fresh to brackish marshes and seasonally inundated arable land adjacent to semi-desertic plains with sparse steppic vegetation.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing, reed-cutting and grazing by domestic livestock; irrigated agriculture on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Parts of the wetland are reported to have been damaged during the Iran/Iraq war.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for geese, surface-feeding ducks and shorebirds. Peak counts have included 1,995 Anser anser, 1,755 Anas strepera, 8,500 A. crecca, 140 Himantopus himantopus, 50 Recurvirostra avosetta, 72 Vanellus indicus and 52 V. leucurus. Breeding birds include Francolinus francolinus, Halcyon smyrnensis and Ceryle rudis. Up to 20 Calidris temminckii and 250 Limosa limosa have been recorded on passage, and 60 Marmaronetta angustirostris were present in November 1973. Other notable species have included Botaurus stellaris (two records in winter), Haliaeetus albicilla (one record in winter) and Hypocolius ampelinus.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 3a & 3c (possibly also 2a). Susangerd Marshes are a good representative example of permanent and seasonal wetlands characteristic of the lowlands of southwestern Iran and neighbouring Iraq. Marmaronetta angustirostris (a globally threatened species) has occurred in the area, and is probably regular. The marshes regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser and Anas strepera.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Shadegan Marshes and Tidal Mudflats of Khor-al Amaya

and Khor Musa (35)

Location: Shadegan Marshes 30°20'N, 48°20'E; Khor-al Amaya 30°00'N, 48°40'E; Khor Musa 30°10'N, 49°00'E; at the head of the Persian Gulf near Abadan, 50-150 km south of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 425,140 ha (Shadegan Marshes 282,500 ha; Khor-al Amaya 19,200 ha; Khor Musa 123,440 ha). Ramsar Site 400,000 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to 15 m.

Overview: The largely seasonal floodplain wetlands of the Dez and Karun Rivers and the adjacent tidal mudflats at the head of the Persian Gulf in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran; extremely important for wintering waterfowl, especially Marmaronetta angustirostris, and also for breeding and passage waterfowl of a wide variety of species. The greater part of the site is protected in a Wildlife Refuge and has been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: The wetland comprises the southern portion of the extensive floodplain and delta system of the Karun, Dez and several other major rivers which rise in the northwest Zagros Mountains of western Iran. The better-drained areas in the north support fresh to brackish sedge marshes which give way to halophytic vegetation in the central floodplain and bare, dry mudflats in the south. Shoreline relief is typically a narrow or indistinct beach with vast silt or sandy tidal flats, up to 10 km wide in places. Numerous small islands exist, and additional islands are forming as a result of deposition from the Karun River and Shatt Al Arab. Autumn and winter rains in the high Zagros cause extensive flooding throughout the delta, creating a vast complex of shallow lagoons with extensive sedge marshes. These dry out gradually through the long, hot summer, and the entire area may be completely dry by the end of the summer. The main highway from Ahwaz to Abadan passes along the west side of the site, while the main highway from Abadan to the port of Bandar Shahpur runs from west to east across the southern edge of the marshes.

The region is characterized by its extremely high temperatures, with mean July temperatures in excess of 45°C and mean January temperatures in excess of 7°C. Frosts are rare. The average annual rainfall is 146 mm, 92% of which falls as winter precipitation, with an abrupt onset in November and a more gradual termination in April or May. Run-off is at its maximum in late winter, when discharge from the Karun River may increase tenfold over late summer levels.

Ecological features: The extensive seasonal freshwater marshes in the north are dominated by Schoenoplectus sp., and there are only small areas of Phragmites australis and Typha sp. The brackish and saline areas further south are dominated by Salicornia sp. and other salt marsh species, with patches of tamarisk scrub (Tamarix sp.) on higher ground. The wetland is bordered by barren flats to the north, east and northwest, but there is a large area of rice fields, date gardens and human settlement to the northeast.

Land tenure: Mainly public (Government), with about 1,000 ha of privately-owned rice paddies in the north (Vahedi, 1982).

Conservation measures taken: A Wildlife Refuge of 296,000 ha, encompassing all the main wetland areas and the coastal mudflats in the south, was established in 1972 and has remained unchanged since then. The central and southern portions of Shadegan Marshes and the mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa (a total of 400,000 ha) were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Harrington (1976b) proposed that several of the islands between the Arvand River and Cape Bahrgan in the southeast should be appended to the Shadegan Wildlife Refuge. Most important among these are Bune and Dara Islands.

Land use: Reeds are harvested on a large scale in mid-summer to provide materials for thatching and weaving. There is also some grazing by domestic livestock and fishing. Part of the wetland is cultivated in privately owned rice paddies. A major oil terminal is located at Bandar Shahpur in the southeast, and there is a considerable amount of shipping traffic in the south, to and from the ports of Khorramshahr, Bandar Mashur and Bandar Shahpur. Large areas of mudflat in the south are extremely difficult of access and not used.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Shadegan Marshes are situated in a currently sensitive military zone close to the border with Iraq. The Iranian national reports to the Regina Conference in 1987 and Montreux Conference in 1990 indicated that wetlands in the border areas had been severely polluted by bombardment with chemical weapons during the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s. It was estimated that about 10% of Shadegan Marshes had been destroyed in this way (Ashtiani-Zarandi, 1990). The marshes may also have suffered some damage as a result of "acid rainfall" during the Gulf War in 1991. The principal long-term threat to the marshes is diminished water supply as a result of diversion of water for irrigation schemes further north. An irrigation scheme along the Karun River to the north has already reduced the inflow of freshwater into the marshes, and some of the area has been degraded to sterile silt flats by soil deterioration resulting from poorly managed irrigation schemes in the past. Some oil pollution has been reported on the beaches around Bandar Shahpur in the southeast. Illegal hunting occurs throughout the area, and there is little control by Department of the Environment personnel.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The harvest of reeds is of considerable importance in the local economy.

Noteworthy fauna: An extremely important wintering area for a wide variety of waterfowl, especially dabbling ducks, and also a very important breeding and staging area. Shadegan Marshes are the most important site in the world for Marmaronetta angustirostris, regularly supporting 10,000-20,000 in winter (30-60% of the world population). Peak counts have included 12,600 in January 1971, 10,000 in January 1972, 20,000 in January 1973 and 15,100 in January 1992. A few pairs probably breed (e.g. 10 birds in June 1974). Other noteworthy concentrations of wintering waterfowl have included 1,340 Ciconia ciconia, 2,080 Anser anser, in excess of 500,000 dabbling ducks (mainly Anas crecca and A. acuta) and over 15,000 gulls (mainly Larus ridibundus and L. genei). The wetland is also an important wintering area for Pelecanus crispus, with up to 75 birds present, and at least one pair bred near Bandar Shapur in 1975. Threskiornis aethiopicus is an occasional visitor in winter and spring, with a maximum of 8 in May 1972. The mudflats at the head of the Gulf hold many thousands of shorebirds in winter, including large numbers of Haematopus ostralegus, Limosa lapponica, Numenius arquata and Tringa totanus. Breeding waterfowl include various herons and egrets, a few pairs of Aythya nyroca, various shorebirds, 400-800 pairs of Larus genei and colonies of five species of terns. Botaurus stellaris presumably breeds, as at least six were booming in the marshes in May and June 1972. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 16. The vast sedge marshes are the stronghold of Cisticola juncidis in Iran. Raptors are abundant in winter, and have included up to 370 Milvus migrans, 70 Circus aeruginosus, 4 Haliaeetus albicilla, 19 Aquila heliaca and 9 A. clanga, as well as single Falco cherrug, F. peregrinus and F. columbarius. Pandion haliaetus is a regular passage migrant, with up to five present at one time. Circus aeruginosus is a common breeding bird, with some 25-50 pairs. Other breeding birds include Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis (maximum count of 550), Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. A variety of landbirds typical of the Gulf coastal plain occur in the surrounding scrub and date gardens, including Hypocolius ampelinus. At least 149 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) are common in the reserve.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Carp (1972, 1980); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Harrington (1976b); IUCN (1992); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1972b, 1975b, 1976a, 1976c, 1978a, 1993); Scott & Carp (1972); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. Shadegan Marshes and the tidal mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa are outstanding examples of floodplain wetlands and coastal mudflat ecosystems characteristic of the Persian Gulf, and play a significant hydrological and ecological role in the natural functioning of the northern Gulf. They support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The seasonal marshes and mudflats are important breeding and nursery grounds for various fish species, and support large breeding colonies of several species of birds. The marshes provide wintering habitat for some 30-60% of the world population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and appreciable numbers of three other threatened species: Pelecanus crispus, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca. The wetlands regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl. During the breeding season, they support over 1% of the regional populations of Larus genei, Gelochelidon nilotica and Sterna albifrons; during the migration seasons, over 1% of the regional population of Anas querquedula; and in winter, over 1% of the regional populations of Ciconia ciconia, Phoenicopterus ruber, nine species of Anatidae, Haematopus ostralegus, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Izeh and Shiekho Lakes (36)

Location: 31°52'N, 49°54'E; in the southwestern foothills of the Zagros Mountains, 125 km east-northeast of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 1,400 ha.

Altitude: c.90 m.

Overview: Two freshwater lakes with extensive marshes in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in southwestern Iran, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Lake Izeh and Lake Shiekho are small freshwater lakes situated in a broad valley in the foothills of the southwestern Zagros Mountains near the small town of Izeh. Shiekho, the larger of the two lakes, lies to the northwest of the town; it is a shallow freshwater lake almost entirely overgrown with emergent vegetation except around the edges where heavy grazing and trampling by cattle maintain some areas of open water. Izeh Lake, to the east of the town, is somewhat deeper, with much more open water. Both lakes are fed by local run-off and large springs at the base of the nearby hills. The plains around the lakes and to the south are under cultivation, mainly for wheat, and there are several small villages and seasonal nomad encampments in the general vicinity.

Ecological features: Shallow freshwater lakes with extensive sedge marshes, surrounded by cultivated plains (mainly wheat). Sparsely vegetated stony hillsides rise abruptly to the north.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The lakes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock in the marshes, and some fishing; wheat cultivation in surrounding areas. The lakes provide a source of water for irrigation during the dry summer months.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The emergent marsh vegetation is heavily grazed by cattle and sheep.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for herons, egrets, Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, surface-feeding ducks, diving ducks, Fulica atra and Grus grus. Several species of waterfowl breed in small numbers, including Podiceps cristatus, and about 40-50 pairs of Ciconia ciconia nest in the general area (including over 20 pairs on telegraph poles in Izeh town). Acrocephalus stentoreus is a common summer visitor to the reed-beds. Mid-winter waterfowl counts in the 1970s seldom exceeded 5,000, but numbers have been much higher in recent years, with up to 3,500 Anser anser, 750 Tadorna ferruginea, 400 Anas penelope, 4,150 A. strepera, 13,150 A. crecca, 6,200 A. platyrhynchos, 12,100 A. acuta, 5,860 A. clypeata, 9,360 Aythya ferina, 6,400 A. fuligula and 86,550 Fulica atra. The numbers of Grus grus appear to have remained stable at around 400. Other wintering waterfowl include very large numbers of Tachybaptus ruficollis and up to 330 Egretta alba, 400 E. garzetta, 260 Ardea cinerea, 400 Recurvirostra avosetta and 3,000 Vanellus vanellus.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1975, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1980).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 3a & 3c. The Izeh and Shiekho lakes are good examples of permanent freshwater lakes characteristic of southwestern Iran. They regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of six species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Grus grus and Recurvirostra avosetta.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Choghakor Marsh (37)

Location: 31°55'N, 50°54'E; in the upper drainage of the Karun River in the Zagros Mountains, about 95 km west of Shahreza, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari.

Area: 1,600 ha.

Altitude: c.2,100 .

Overview: A permanent freshwater marsh in the northern Zagros Mountains, important for passage and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Choghakor Marsh is a permanent freshwater marsh on a broad grassy plain in the highlands of the northern Zagros Mountains southwest of Esfahan. The marsh floods in winter and spring to a maximum depth of about 2 metres, but by late summer much of the wetland is dry and the remainder is almost entirely overgrown with emergent marsh vegetation. Large portions of the plains around the wetland are under cultivation for wheat.

Ecological features: Freshwater marshes with a central area of Phragmites and Typha reed-beds surrounded by sedge marshes. Grassy plains and wheat fields in surrounding areas.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: There is no formal protection, but the wetland is patrolled by Department of the Environment personnel. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The site has been proposed for Protected Area status, and has been recommended for designation as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known; recent reports indicate that the wetland remains in good condition.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Egretta alba (maximum 100), Anas platyrhynchos (maximum 6,700) and Aythya nyroca (maximum 103), and a feeding area for Ciconia ciconia during the summer months (maximum 62). Oxyura leucocephala has been recorded in recent years, and 57 Marmaronetta angustirostris were present in January 1992.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a & 3c. Choghakor Marsh is a good representative example of a freshwater marsh characteristic of the western uplands of Iran. The wetland regularly supports over 1% of the regional population of Aythya nyroca (a globally threatened species) in winter, and two other threatened species, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Oxyura leucocephala, have occurred.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Gandoman Marsh (38)

Location: 31°50'N, 51°07'E; in the upper drainage of the Karun River in the Zagros Mountains, about 25 km southwest of Borujen and 75 km west-southwest of Shahreza, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari.

Area: 1,500 ha.

Altitude: 2,250 m.

Overview: A largely seasonal freshwater marsh in the northern Zagros Mountains, important for passage and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Gandoman Marsh is a largely seasonal freshwater marsh on a vast grassy plain in the highlands of the northern Zagros Mountains southwest of Isfahan. The wetland floods in winter and spring, but by late summer it is almost completely dry. There is some rice cultivation along the main stream through the centre of the wetland, and some wheat cultivation on the surrounding plains.

Ecological features: Freshwater marshes dominated by sedges with some areas of rice cultivation; grassy plains and wheat fields in surrounding areas.

Land tenure: A mixture of public (Government) and private.

Conservation measures taken: There is no formal protection, but the wetland is patrolled by Department of the Environment personnel. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The site has been proposed for Protected Area status, and has been recommended for designation as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known; recent reports indicate that the wetland remains in good condition.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Egretta alba (up to 70), Ardea cinerea (up to 70), Tadorna ferruginea (up to 750), Anas platyrhynchos (up to 5,000) and Aythya nyroca (up to 140). Other wintering waterfowl have included up to 30 Anser anser, 300 Anas crecca and 1,660 Fulica atra. Up to 600 Grus grus have been observed during the spring migration. Ciconia ciconia is a common breeding summer visitor in the area, and C. nigra has been recorded. Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila clanga have been recorded in winter.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1970, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a & 3c. Gandoman Marsh is a good representative example of a freshwater marsh characteristic of the western uplands of Iran. The wetland regularly supports over 1% of the regional population of Aythya nyroca (a globally threatened species) in winter, and over 1% of the regional population of Grus grus during the migration seasons.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Gavekhoni Lake and marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud (39)

Location: Gavekhoni Lake 32°20'N, 52°47'E; at the western edge of the Central Plateau, about 40-100 km east-southeast of the city of Isfahan, Isfahan Province.

Area: 63,300 ha (Gavekhoni Lake 13,000 ha, including about 1,000 ha of marsh). Ramsar Site 43,000 ha.

Altitude: 1,470 m.

Overview: A large salt lake with associated fresh to brackish marshes, and a chain of freshwater marshes and floodplain wetlands along the main river entering the lake, on the western edge of Iran's Central Plateau; important for wintering waterfowl. The wetlands have been designated as a Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Gavekhoni (Gavkhouni) Lake is a large, shallow, saline lake in an enclosed drainage basin on the western edge of the deserts of Iran's Central Plateau. The lake is fed almost entirely by the Zaindeh Rud, a large river rising in the northern Zagros Mountains and passing through the city of Isfahan about 100 km upstream of the lake. Flooding occurs in winter and early spring, but the extent of flooding varies widely from year to year and the lake is often almost completely dry by the end of the summer. There are about 1,000 ha of "delta" marshes at the mouth of the river, but otherwise the lake is largely devoid of vegetation other than algae. The substrate is rich alluvial soil, silt and mud.

The marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud comprise a chain of freshwater marshes and floodplain wetlands stretching for about 60 km along both banks of the river and ending at the delta marshes at Gavekhoni Lake. These wetlands are fed both by flooding from the river itself and several irrigation canals. The flooded areas often freeze over in winter, and in most years, the marshes are almost completely dry by late spring or early summer. Very little natural marsh vegetation remains, the main flooding now occurring on degraded steppe and land cultivated for wheat and rice.

Ecological features: The marshes at the mouth of the Zaindeh Rud are dominated by Phragmites with some Tamarix scrub. Elsewhere around the lake, the vegetation is very sparse and confined to halophytic species. The remnants of natural marsh vegetation along the Zaindeh Rud are dominated by Phragmites and Typha. The adjacent land consists of degraded steppe and irrigated cultivation (rice and wheat).

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. Gavekhoni Lake and a large portion of the marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud (43,000 ha in total) were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Parts of the floodplain are used for agriculture, grazing of livestock and wildfowl hunting. The salt lake is relatively inaccessible and undisturbed, although there is some grazing, hunting and cutting of brushwood for fuel in the marshes at the mouth of the river.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The principal threats are water-borne pollution from the city of Isfahan and other urban centres upstream along the Zaindeh Rud, and diversion of river water for irrigation purposes and domestic and industrial supply. There is almost no control of the area by Department of the Environment personnel.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for a variety of waterfowl, notably Phoenicopterus ruber, Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, surface-feeding ducks and some shorebirds. Mid-winter waterfowl counts in the 1970s seldom exceeded 10,000 birds in total, but numbers have been much higher in recent years, with peak counts of Anatidae including 1,740 Anser anser, 3,280 T. ferruginea, 11,300 T. tadorna, 4,560 Anas penelope, 6,600 A. strepera, 41,500 A. crecca, 7,960 A. platyrhynchos, 13,250 A. acuta, 8,370 A. clypeata and 225 Aythya ferina. Other wintering waterfowl have included up to 35 Phalacrocorax carbo, 25 Egretta alba, 21 Ardea cinerea, 69 Platalea leucorodia, 1,720 Phoenicopterus ruber, 1,700 Fulica atra, 51 Grus grus, 286 Himantopus himantopus, 146 Recurvirostra avosetta, 115 Vanellus vanellus and 30 Gallinago gallinago. Ciconia nigra, Cygnus olor (maximum 6) and Ceryle rudis have occurred as scarce winter visitors. Most of the marshes dry out in summer and are of negligible importance for breeding waterfowl. Wintering raptors have included Haliaeetus albicilla (up to 5), Circus aeruginosus (up to 5), Aquila heliaca and Falco cherrug. Aegypius monachus regularly occurs in the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1969 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975).

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1980); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 3a & 3c. Gavekhoni Lake and the marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud are good representative examples of a shallow saline lake and seasonal riverine marshes characteristic of Iran's Central Plateau. The wetlands regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna and five species of dabbling ducks (Anas spp.).

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Dorudsan Dam (40)

Location: 30°15'N, 52°20'E; on the Kur River about 70 km north-northwest of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: Unknown.

Altitude: c.1,800 m.

Overview: A reservoir in the central Zagros Mountains, important for wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Dorudsan (Dorodzan) Dam is a large water storage reservoir on the Kur River in the Zagros Mountains north of Shiraz. The reservoir is situated in a broad valley, and is surrounded by arable land.

Ecological features: No information.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Water supply for domestic, industrial and irrigation purposes.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for grebes, ducks and coots, with up to 1,200 Podiceps cristatus, 7,400 Anas platyrhynchos, 10,000 Anas acuta, 600 Aythya ferina, 1,820 A. fuligula and 670 Fulica atra.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1972.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994).

Reasons for inclusion: 3c. Dorudsan Dam regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Podiceps cristatus and Anas acuta in winter.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Kaftar Lake (41)

Location: 30°34'N, 52°47'E; on the north slope of the Zagros Mountains, about 105 km north-northeast of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: 4,700 ha.

Altitude: c.2,300 m.

Overview: A semi-permanent freshwater lake in the central Zagros Mountains, important primarily as a staging area for migratory waterfowl during spring and autumn. Unprotected.

Physical features: Kaftar Lake is a shallow, freshwater lake at high altitude in the Zagros Mountains north of Shiraz. The lake is generally frozen over during the winter months, and can dry out completely during dry summers. It is situated in a region of high rolling steppic plains.

Ecological features: Marshy areas on the eastern side of the lake are dominated by Butomus umbellatus and Sparganium sp.; grasses are predominant on the western side of the lake. The natural vegetation of the surrounding plains is Artemisia steppe, but large areas have now been converted to wheat cultivation.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Kaftar Lake has been proposed for designation as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: A proposal by the Ministry of Jihad to utilize the waters of the lake for irrigation purposes was blocked by the Department of the Environment, because of the importance of the site as a staging area for migratory waterfowl. However, there is now a new proposal to build an earthen dam which would result in a loss of half the surface area of the lake. In recent years, large-scale die-offs of waterfowl have been reported during the breeding and migration seasons. In some years, the mortality may be as high as 10,000. The reason for the die-offs is unknown, but disease (perhaps botulism) has been suspected.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important staging area for geese, ducks and Grus grus, and occasionally also a very important wintering area, but usually frozen over during mid-winter. In mild winters e.g. 1975/76, large numbers of birds remain throughout the winter; peak counts have then included 1,000 Anas strepera, 10,000 A. crecca, 8,000 A. platyrhynchos, 15,000 A. acuta, 30,000 A. clypeata, 6,000 Aythya fuligula and 1,200 Grus grus. Haliaeetus albicilla has occurred in winter. During the spring and autumn migration seasons, the lake can hold as many as 120,000 migratory waterfowl, including up to 12,000 Phoenicopterus ruber (in August) and 2,000-3,000 Grus grus, as well as smaller numbers of Pelecanus onocrotalus. The lake occasionally dries out in summer and appears to be of relatively little importance for breeding waterbirds.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1975, and several ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 3a & 3c. Kaftar Lake is a good representative example of a freshwater lake characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. The lake regularly holds over 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Phoenicopterus ruber, Anas acuta, A. clypeata, Aythya fuligula and Grus grus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Haft Barm (42)

Location: 29°40'N, 52°10'E; in the rolling uplands of the high Zagros Mountains about 65 km west-northwest of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: 70 ha.

Altitude: 2,200 m.

Overview: A group of small freshwater lakes set in rolling uplands in the southern Zagros Mountains, of some importance for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: The Haft Barm (Seven Lakes) are a group of seven small, slightly saline lakes some 2-3 metres deep, lying in hollows in broken undulating country to the east of Kuh-i Anar. The lakes are fed by local run-off, principally in the form of snow-melt in spring, and are generally frozen over for some weeks in mid-winter. The southern five lakes generally dry out completely during the summer months.

Ecological features: The two largest lakes (in the north) are surrounded by belts of Phragmites reeds with patches of the flowering rush Butomus sp.; the other smaller lakes are almost barren of vegetation except for green algae and some small patches of Butomus. The surrounding rolling uplands support tragacanthic steppe communities and some dry wheat farming.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The lakes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The lakes are used by the local nomadic tribes for watering their flocks, washing and reed-cutting.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There is a considerable amount of human disturbance at the lakes.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Up to 200 Marmaronetta angustirostris have been recorded in summer (in 1971), and the species has probably bred at the lakes. Oxyura leucocephala has been recorded in winter (36 in January 1986). Up to 630 Tadorna ferruginea and 5,000 Fulica atra have been recorded on passage in autumn. The lakes are usually frozen over in winter and are of little importance for wintering birds. Peak counts in mild winters have included over 34,000 Anas crecca, 400 A. platyrhynchos, 150 A. clypeata, 50 Netta rufina, 500 Aythya fuligula and 850 Fulica atra. Tachybaptus ruficollis, Anas platyrhynchos and Tringa totanus probably breed at the lakes. Haliaeetus albicilla has occurred in winter.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, on a number of occasions since 1975, and several ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Anstey (1989); Cornwallis (1968b); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a & 2a (possibly also 3a). The Haft Barm (Seven Lakes) are good examples of small spring-fed lakes characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. Two threatened species of waterfowl occur at the lakes, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Oxyura leucocephala, and the former probably breeds. The lakes occasionally hold over 20,000 waterfowl in autumn and winter.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Dasht-e Arjan and Lake Parishan (43)

Location: Dasht-e Arjan 29°37'N, 51°59'E; Lake Parishan 29°31'N, 51°48 'E; in the Zagros Mountains, 40-80 km west of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: Dasht-e Arjan 2,200 ha; Lake Parishan 4,000 ha. Ramsar Site 6,600 ha (Dasht-e Arjan 2,400 ha; Lake Parishan 4,200 ha).

Altitude: Dasht-e Arjan 2,000 m; Lake Parishan 853 m.

Overview: A largely seasonal freshwater lake and marsh at 2,000 m elevation in the Zagros Mountains (Dasht-e Arjan), and a permanent brackish to saline lake at 853 m in the Zagros foothills (Lake Parishan); extremely important for breeding and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species, including Pelecanus crispus, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Oxyura leucocephala. Both lakes are protected within the Arjan Protected Area, and have been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: Dasht-e Arjan and Lake Parishan are two very different wetlands situated only about 15 km apart within the Arjan Protected Area in the Zagros Mountains west of Shiraz. Dasht-e Arjan is a shallow, eutrophic, freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds. The lake lies in an enclosed basin and is fed by two large springs on its western side and local run-off from winter rainfall and snow-melt. It is unusual in that it drains out through a group of swallow-holes at its southeast corner. The wetland varies widely in size from year to year depending on rainfall, reaching about 2,400 ha after wet winters and decreasing to only a few hundred ha in years of drought. Most of the basin dries out in summer, but two large springs on the west side maintain some permanent marsh throughout the year. Much of the wetland freezes over in winter, and deep snow cover is not unusual. Good rainfall in recent years has resulted in a considerable expansion in the area covered by tall reeds.

Lake Parishan is a shallow, oligotrophic, brackish to saline lake surrounded by eutrophic marshes with halophytic vegetation. It lies in an enclosed drainage basin of 29,000 ha in a broad valley between Zagros ranges, and is fed by a number of permanent springs and several seasonal watercourses. The salinity varies widely according to the size of the lake. At maximum extent, the lake covers about 4,200 ha and is then almost fresh. During the dry years of the early 1970s, water levels were low, the lake was brackish to saline, marsh vegetation was confined to the western and eastern ends of the lake, near freshwater inflow, and there were large areas of bare salt flats in the southwest bay. Throughout much of the 1980s and in the early 1990s, however, water levels have remained high; the water is now almost fresh and there are very extensive reed-beds of Phragmites and Typha in many parts of the lake.

The physiography of the region is of great interest. Oligo-miocene ("Asmari") limestones form spectacular escarpments, generally aligned as parallel ridges enclosing broad valleys with open oak woodland. The climate is characterized by hot dry summers and mild or distinctly cold winters, depending on altitude. The average annual rainfall is in the range 400-500 mm, falling mainly in winter and largely as snow on high ground. Temperatures at Lake Parishan range from 22 to 40°C in summer and 5 to 15°C in winter; at Dasht-e Arjan, from 15 to 35°C in summer and -10 to +15°C in winter.

Ecological features: The permanent marshes at Dasht-e Arjan comprise extensive reed-beds of Phragmites australis and Typha sp. with fringing areas of Juncus spp. and other aquatic plants. The surrounding flat lands are usually covered by terrestrial grasses or remain as bare baked mud, but in wet years sedges (Carex sp.) predominate. Lake Parishan also supports extensive reed-beds of Phragmites australis and Typha sp, as well as halophytic vegetation dominated by species of Salsola, Kochia, Camphorosma and Halocnemum. Large areas of the semi-arid steppe around Lake Parishan have been converted to wheat fields. Nearby mountain sides are still covered with forests of oak (Quercus brantii), while the lower slopes are partially covered with steppic forest of almonds, hawthorn, hackberry etc. In much of the area, the shrub-like "Arjan" tree (Amygdalus erioclada) is conspicuous. The Arjan Protected Area incorporates a wide spectrum of Zagros habitats from high peaks at over 3,200 m and rolling uplands down through the Zagros oak forest zone to the acacia woodlands and date gardens of Iran's southern coastal zone.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: A National Park of 65,750 ha was established in March 1972. The original plans to establish the reserve as an international park (under the control of an international committee) were never implemented, and following the revolution, the reserve was downgraded to Protected Area and reduced in size to 52,800 ha. Lake Parishan and Dasht-e Arjan were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The Ramsar Site is in two parts and comprises only the wetland areas: Lake Parishan (4,200 ha) and Dasht-e Arjan (2,400 ha). The area of the original National Park (65,750 ha) was designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in June 1976. The Arjan Protected Area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to the wetlands in January 1992 made the following recommendations (Scott & Smart, 1992):

(i) Both portions of the Ramsar Site (Lake Parishan and Dasht-e-Arjan) should be clearly demarcated on the ground, with some publicity given to the fact that they are Ramsar wetlands (e.g. by conspicuous sign-boards).

(ii) Both portions of the Ramsar Site and other appropriate sections of the Arjan Protected Area should be upgraded to the status of Wildlife Refuge.

(iii) Any further drainage of marshes at Lake Parishan should be strictly prohibited, and the possible negative impacts of the present drainage ditch from the northwest corner of the lake should be investigated.

(iv) Studies should be carried out on the changes which are taking place in the aquatic vegetation at Lake Parishan.

(v) The problem of increased disturbance from fishing activities at Lake Parishan should be investigated. A possible solution might be the establishment of one or more no-fishing zones.

(vi) The location of the Game Guard Station on a peninsula overlooking the western part of Lake Parishan would be an ideal site for a Visitor Centre for day visitors to the lake.

(vii) The possibility of re-routing the high-tension power lines across the Ramsar Site at Dasht-e-Arjan should be investigated, as these severely compromise the scenic beauty and "naturalness" of the area, and may cause considerably mortality to waterfowl.

Land use: There is some reed-cutting at both wetlands, and the marshy plain at Dasht-e Arjan is extensively grazed by domestic livestock. Some fish ponds have been established at the west end of Lake Parishan. The plains to the south and west of Lake Parishan are cultivated for wheat and other crops, and there are several small settlements with orchards and gardens in the general area.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Lake Parishan is under considerable threat from a variety of sources, while Dasht-e-Arjan remains in reasonably good condition. Some 20 hectares of marsh at the extreme northwest corner of Lake Parishan were drained for agriculture by the Ministry of Jihad shortly after the revolution. Elsewhere around this lake, wet meadows have been replaced by cultivated fields which in places extend to the water's edge. A small area of fish ponds was established on the plains to the west of the lake in the early 1980s, and it is reported that three species of carp have been introduced into the lake. There has been a considerable increase in fishing activities, and the widespread use of outboard motor boats (instead of traditional reed boats) has resulted in much more disturbance to waterfowl populations. Poaching remains a problem, and there are reports that significant numbers of waterfowl are accidentally killed in fishing nets. Eutrophication may become a problem in the future, especially if this is being accelerated by inflow of domestic sewage and fertilizers, and some control of the spread of Phragmites may become necessary.

Poaching also remains a problem at Dasht-e Arjan, despite the presence of a small Game Guard Station in the nearby village of Dasht-e Arjan. It is estimated that some 500-1,000 birds are poached annually. Two sets of high-tension power lines have been constructed across the basin, both crossing over the western side of the marshes. Apart from being an eye-sore in an otherwise region of great scenic beauty, the power lines present a considerable hazard to waterfowl flighting into and out of the marshes. One of the power lines (from a nuclear power station under construction in Bushire) was erected in the late 1970s and is still not in use. The other transports electricity to Shiraz from a conventional power station in Khuzestan.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The region is renowned for is spectacular scenery.

Noteworthy fauna: Both Lake Parishan and Dasht-e Arjan are extremely important for wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species, and are also of considerable importance for breeding waterfowl, notably Pelecanus crispus, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala, especially in wet years. P. crispus is present year-round; 5-10 pairs breed at Lake Parishan and the species has bred at Dasht-e Arjan. There are usually about 60 in winter, but peak counts of 100 were recorded in the 1970s and 185 in recent years. There is a large breeding population of M. angustirostris at Lake Parishan in years when conditions are suitable, e.g. in 1976 and 1977, when there were thought to be some 200-300 pairs. The species also breeds in small numbers at Dasht-e Arjan in wet years. Large numbers winter at the wetlands, with up to 2,000 at Lake Parishan and 40 at Dasht-e Arjan in the 1970s, and up to 5,500 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Aythya nyroca occurs in small numbers year-round, with a few pairs breeding at Dasht-e Arjan in wet years. Oxyura leucocephala is also present year-round; several pairs breed at Lake Parishan, and up to 93 wintered on this lake in the 1970s, but after a high count of 455 in 1988, numbers have been low (maximum 25). The numbers of most other ducks and Fulica atra at Lake Parishan in recent years have also been well below the numbers in the 1970s (an average of 25,000 ducks and 120,000 F. atra in the four winters 1972/73 to 1975/76). This decline may be a result of the greatly increased disturbance from fishermen in high-speed motor boats. However, improved agriculture to the south of the lake now provides better feeding habitat for Anser anser and Grus grus, and numbers of both of these species have been much higher in recent years than in the 1970s, e.g. numbers of G. grus have increased from a maximum of 350 in the 1970s to a maximum of 2,200 in recent years. The extensive reed-beds now support large breeding colonies of herons, egrets, Plegadis falcinellus and Platalea leucorodia, and the small population of Pelecanus crispus has shown a slight increase. Porphyrio porphyrio colonized the area in the 1980s (presumably from the wetlands of Khuzestan), and is now common in the reed-beds. Breeding birds in the marshes at Dasht-i Arjan include Rallus aquaticus and Porzana pusilla, and in wet years, up to 20 pairs of Podiceps nigricollis have bred at this site. Botaurus stellaris is a regular winter visitor in small numbers, and may breed at Dasht-e Arjan. Anser erythropus, Eudromias morinellus and Gallinago media have occurred as scarce passage migrants. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 17.

Haliaeetus albicilla is a regular winter visitor, mainly to Dasht-e Arjan, where up to four have been recorded. Other wintering raptors include Circus aeruginosus (maximum 40), Aquila heliaca (maxima of 3 at Dasht-e Arjan and 4 at Lake Parishan), A. clanga (maximum 5), Falco cherrug and F. pelegrinoides. There is a breeding colony of 10-15 pairs of Falco naumanni at Dasht-e Arjan. Other breeding birds include Francolinus francolinus, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. Wintering passerines include Motacilla citreola and Luscinia svecica. The great range of habitats within the Protected Area supports almost the full range of species typical of the montane steppe, pistachio-almond forest, oak forest and wetland systems of the central and southern Zagros mountains, as well as some species more typical of the Gulf coastal lowlands. At least 263 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Forty-four species of mammals have been recorded in the reserve including Wolf (Canis lupus), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), Caracal (Lynx caracal), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Persian Ibex (Capra hircus aegagrus) and Wild Sheep (Ovis ammon). The Persian Lion (Panthera leo persica) is known to have survived in the area until about 1940.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1967 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year. A large number of herons, egrets, ibises and spoonbills were ringed at the breeding colonies in the mid-1970s, along with smaller numbers of other waterfowl. Over 180 wintering Grus grus were marked with wing-tags at Dasht-e Arjan in the late 1970s, in a joint project between the Department of the Environment and International Crane Foundation. Accommodation for visiting researchers is available at a small guest house maintained by the Department of the Environment at the Game Guard Station on a hill overlooking the western end of Lake Parishan.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Argyle (1975b); Carp (1972, 1980); Cornwallis (1968b); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Farhadpour (1987); Firouz (1974); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Green (1993); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1973c, 1976a, 1976c, 1978a, 1980); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. Dasht-i Arjan and Lake Parishan are outstanding examples of freshwater and brackish to saline wetlands characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. They support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. Both wetlands support large breeding colonies of Ardeidae and Threskiornithidae, and regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter. Five threatened species of birds occur in appreciable numbers: Pelecanus crispus, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca. During the breeding season, the wetlands support over 1% of the regional populations of Plegadis falcinellus and Platalea leucorodia; during the migration seasons, over 1% of the regional population of Podiceps nigricollis; and in winter, over 1% of the regional populations of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Phoenicopterus ruber, 11 species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Grus grus and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Lake Maharlu (44)

Location: 29°30'N, 52°48'E; in an intermontane basin in the Zagros Mountains about 20 km southeast of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: 21,600 ha at maximum extent of flooding.

Altitude: 1,480 m.

Overview: A large salt lake with extensive spring-fed marshes in a broad valley in the southern Zagros Mountains, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: Lake Maharlu is a large, shallow, saline lake at the centre and lowest part of the Shiraz basin. The maximum depth is about 3 m. The lake is fed by run-off which enters the lake in numerous small ephemeral wadis, the Pul-i-Fasa stream which enters in the west, and numerous small springs around the shores of the lake. Much the largest perennial springs are at Barmishur at the northwest corner of the lake and at Ab-e Paravan on the north shore. Both of these springs create pools about 2 m deep which overflow into extensive permanent marshes. At maximum extent, the Barmishur marshes cover about 150 ha and those at Ab-e Paravan 250 ha. The level of the lake varies widely with the irregularities of the rainfall regime. During prolonged droughts, the entire lake dries out except for the small permanent spring-fed pools at Barmishur and Ab-e Paravan. The lake is bounded by limestone hills to the north and dry steppe to the east and south. Land to the west (towards Shiraz) is largely under irrigated cultivation for rice, wheat, barley, melons, cotton and sugar beet.

Ecological features: The shores of the lake support halophytic plant communities which include Tamarix, Suaeda and Salicornia as dominants. Freshwater and brackish marsh communities occur at points where fresh water enters the lake. The spring pools at Barmishur and Ab-e Paravan support reed-beds of Phragmites and Typha as well as open marsh communities dominated by sedges, rushes and Chara sp.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The lake is used for salt production and there are numerous large salt pans, particularly in the eastern portion of the lake. There is some livestock grazing and reed-cutting in the Barmishur and Ab-e Paravan marshes.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Lying close to the city of Shiraz, the Barmishur Marshes are subjected to relatively heavy hunting pressure at weekends and holidays. Water-borne pollution from Shiraz is also reported to be a problem.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The lake is very important for salt production.

Noteworthy fauna: Lake Maharlu is important for a wide variety of resident and migratory waterfowl, notably surface-feeding ducks, geese, flamingos, cranes and some shorebirds. Breeding species include about 10 pairs of Marmaronetta angustirostris, a few pairs of Rallus aquaticus and Porzana pusilla, 25 pairs of Himantopus himantopus, 25 pairs of Vanellus leucurus and 10 pairs of Sterna albifrons, as well as Ceryle rudis, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. Wintering waterfowl have included up to 70 Pelecanus onocrotalus, 400 Anser anser, 570 Tadorna ferruginea, 460 T. tadorna, 6,500 Anas crecca, 37 M. angustirostris, 230 Grus grus, 260 Himantopus himantopus, 220 Recurvirostra avosetta and 160 Vanellus leucurus. Peak counts during the migration seasons have included 1,500 Phoenicopterus ruber, 2,200 T. ferruginea and 16,500 A. crecca. Anser erythropus was a regular winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 102) in the 1970s, and Pelecanus crispus, Botaurus stellaris, Anser albifrons and Oxyura leucocephala have been recorded in small numbers in winter. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 18. Two or three Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila heliaca are usually present in winter, along with up to six A. clanga and the occasional Falco cherrug and F. pelegrinoides. There is a small breeding colony of Falco naumanni on the cliffs to the north of the lake (about 20 birds), and up to 100 have been observed in the marshes during spring passage. Wintering passerines include Motacilla citreola and Luscinia svecica.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Carp (1972); Cornwallis (1968b); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Green (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1976a, 1976c).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a & 3c. Lake Maharlu is a good representative example of a saline lake with associated spring-fed marshes, characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. Two globally threatened species of birds occur in appreciable numbers, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Aquila heliaca, and three others, Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus and Oxyura leucocephala, have occurred in small numbers. In winter, the lake regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, Anas strepera, Grus grus, Himantopus himantopus and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Lake Bakhtegan, Lake Tashk and Kamjan Marshes (45)

Location: 29°40'N, 53°30'E (Kamjan Marshes 29°40'N, 53°05'E); in a large intermontane basin in the eastern Zagros Mountains, 50-160 km east of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk 136,500 ha; Kamjan Marshes 5,250 ha. Ramsar Site 108,000 ha.

Altitude: Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk 1,525 m; Kamjan Marshes 1,540 m.

Overview: Two very large salt lakes in the southeastern Zagros Mountains, their extensive "delta" and spring-fed marshes, and a large area of permanent, freshwater marshes and seasonally flooded plains along the lower Kur River to the west (Kamjan Marshes); extremely important for breeding and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species, including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Both lakes are protected within the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge, but the Kamjan Marshes are unprotected; the lakes and Kamjan Marshes have been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: Lake Tashk and Lake Bakhtegan are highly astatic, salt lakes situated in an internal drainage basin (the Neiris, Niriz or Neyriz Basin) in the southeastern Zagros Mountains. The catchment area of 26,440 sq.km is formed where the folded ridges of the Zagros Mountains, which trend predominantly from northwest to southeast, impinge upon the buckled edge of the central plateau. Lake Tashk is fed by overflow from the Kamjan Marshes at the west end and a large permanent spring at Gumoon, in the northwest. Lake Bakhtegan receives the bulk of its water from the main channel of the Kur River, which enters at the west end. Only in winter and spring does any river water reach the lakes, since in summer this water is totally utilized for irrigation. Water levels in the lakes fluctuate widely according to rain and snow-fall in the Zagros. The two lakes are normally separated by narrow strips of land at their western and eastern extremities, but may become temporarily joined during very wet winters to form a single expanse of water over 70 km long and covering up to 181,000 ha. After a number of years of low rainfall, both lakes may dry out completely except in the vicinity of the main springs (Gumoon Spring at the northwest corner of Lake Tashk and Sahlabad Spring on the south shore of Lake Bakhtegan). This is known to have occurred in 1933/34 and again in 1971. The average depth of Lake Bakhtegan has been reported as 50 cm, and the maximum as 110 cm. In summer, water temperatures regularly exceed 30°C, and may reach 40°C in very shallow areas. Both lakes are noted for their extraordinary range of salinities, especially Lake Bakhtegan. In 1956, Cl- values in Lake Bakhtegan ranged from less than 10 gm/l in the west to over 70 gm/l in the east; in Lake Tashk, the extremes were 39 and 52 gm/l. At this time, Lake Bakhtegan was oligohaline at its western end and hypersaline in its eastern sector (Loffler, 1968). The lakes have comparatively low alkalinity values. The lake bottoms are covered by alluvial mud, sapropel, silt and some sand, deposited mainly by the river and flood waters.

Kamjan Marshes formerly comprised about 10,000 ha of permanent and seasonal, eutrophic, freshwater marshes, mainly reed-beds, along the lower Kur River. Drainage of wetlands for rice cultivation began as early as 1967, and much of this area has now been converted to agricultural land. However, although the marshes have been extensively modified by the drainage canals, much wetland habitat remains, including expanses of wet mudflats, stands of Phragmites and other emergent aquatic vegetation along canals and ditches, and large areas of rice fields. Furthermore, a large portion of the "reclaimed" land remains uncultivated, partly because of a shortage of water for irrigation, and partly because of the high salt content of the soils. Some of the irrigation canals are already becoming silted up, and parts of the drained land are reverting to marsh. In addition, new areas of marsh have developed at the mouths of the two main drainage canals where they enter the western end of Lake Tashk.

The climate is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild winters. The Neiris Basin lies to the east and in the rain shadow of the Zagros Mountains, and receives low winter rainfall which varies greatly from year to year, but is generally in the range 100-400 mm. The great bulk of the rain falls between December and February. Frosts are rare, and heavy snowfalls are exceptional.

Ecological features: The lakes are oligotrophic and support a dense submerged vegetation of Chara canescens, Lamprothamnium aragonensis, Ruppia maritima and Althenia filiformis, especially in areas with relatively low salinity. Amongst the abundant phytoplankton, diatoms are the most significant, with Nitzschia loffleri being the predominant species in hypersaline areas. The shoreline vegetation is dominated by species of Tamarix, Suaeda, Cressa and Salicornia. Kamjan Marshes support an emergent marsh vegetation dominated by sedges (Carex sp.), Phragmites reed-beds and species of Chenopodiaceae and grasses. This vegetation also occurs at the mouth of the Kur River in Lake Bakhtegan, and around Gumoon and Sahlabad springs. Parts of the Kamjan Marshes have been reclaimed for rice cultivation. On the adjacent plains of the lower Kur Valley, the land is either under cultivation for wheat, barley, cotton, sugar beet and fruit, or remains as heavily-grazed semi-desertic steppe. The area between the lakes consists of sparsely vegetated mountain ranges with some Pistacia-Amygdalus woodland and steppic plains dominated by Artemisia sp. and Astragalus sp.

Land tenure: Lakes Bakhtegan and Tashk are under public (Government) ownership; Kamjan Marshes are privately owned.

Conservation measures taken: Lake Bakhtegan, Lake Tashk and the intervening hill ranges were first protected as the Bakhtegan Protected Region (310,438 ha) established in December 1968. This reserve was given the status of Wildlife Refuge in the early 1970s, and increased in size to 327,820 ha. However, the reserve does not include either the Gumoon springs area or most of the marshes at the mouth of the Kur River. Kamjan Marshes are also unprotected. Both lakes and the Kamjan Marshes were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The Ramsar Site (108,000 ha) includes the regularly flooded portions of the two lakes, the Gumoon area, all the marshes at the delta of the Kur River and Kamjan Marshes, but excludes the terrestrial portion of Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge between the lakes. The Iranian national reports to the Regina Conference in 1987 and Montreux Conference in 1990 reported that the Kamjan Marshes had been deleted from the Ramsar List, but neither the Convention Depository (UNESCO) nor the Convention Bureau received official notification of deletion, and the Kamjan Marshes have therefore remained as part of a Listed Site (Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1993). The entire Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge and Kamjan Marshes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: A proposal to upgrade part of the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge to National Park has recently been approved by the relevant ministries, and is likely to be implemented in the near future. The National Park would include the greater portion of the two lakes and a range of hills to the north of Lake Bakhtegan.

A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission visited the wetlands in January 1992, and made the following recommendations (Scott & Smart, 1992):

(i) The boundaries of the Ramsar Site and Wildlife Refuge should be clearly demarcated on the ground, especially in the west where encroachment and poaching are most likely to cause a problem.

(ii) The proposal to construct an all-weather road through the Wildlife Refuge and Ramsar Site should be critically reviewed and alternative routings investigated, since the proposed road could affect the hydrology of the system and lead to increased encroachment and poaching in the reserve.

(iii) Studies should be carried out at Gumoon Marshes to determine to what extent these marshes have been destroyed by development, and whether or not any restoration might be possible. A decision should then be taken as to whether this small unprotected portion of the Ramsar Site should be maintained on the List and managed accordingly, or deleted.

(iv) The Kamjan Marshes should be retained on the Ramsar List, and restored and managed as a buffer zone for the Wildlife Refuge. The Department of the Environment should establish a presence in the marshes (e.g. by constructing a Game Guard Station on the isolated hill near the east end of the marshes), and should prepare a comprehensive management plan for the wetland in collaboration with local communities. While there might be no restrictions on sound agricultural development in the region, the use of fertilizers and pesticides should be carefully controlled, and all or part of the area closed to hunting. Parts of the marsh which prove unsuitable for agriculture, such as the large saline areas in the east, should as far as possible be restored to their former condition and might be given special protection, e.g. as part of an enlarged Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge. The Department of the Environment should negotiate with the Ministry of Power and local authorities to ensure that an adequate supply of water is available to maintain the most important areas of marsh during dry years.

Land use: Livestock grazing in Kamjan Marshes and around the margins of the lakes; rice-growing in Kamjan Marshes. The whole basin is used as grazing grounds by nomadic tribes, while the settled population lives in nucleated villages associated with agricultural areas.

Possible changes in land use: Conversion of wetland to agricultural land, especially in the Kamjan Marshes, and expansion of fish ponds at Lake Tashk. The construction of a paved road between Lake Tashk and Take Bakhtegan, as currently proposed, would be likely to accelerate agricultural development and settlement in the area.

Disturbances and threats: The construction of a large water storage reservoir on the Kur River (Dorudsan Dam) in the 1970s and various other irrigation projects in the upper reaches of the river have reduced the flow of water into the lakes. In 1981, the Ministry of Jihad embarked upon a major programme of drainage in the Kamjan Marshes and Kharameh Marshes (the marshy plain to the south of the Kur River) to provide land for agriculture, principally rice, wheat and cotton. Two large drainage canals were constructed through Kamjan Marshes, emptying into Lake Tashk, and one through Kharameh Marshes, emptying into Lake Bakhtegan. Both marshes are now criss-crossed with canals and ditches, and much of the permanent marsh vegetation has been destroyed. As much of the water entering Lake Tashk passes through Kamjan Marshes, agricultural activities in these marshes could have a profound effect on the quality of the water entering the lake. Most of the spring-fed marshes at Gumoon have also now been drained for agriculture or converted into aquaculture ponds.

There are plans to construct an all-weather road through the centre of the Wildlife Refuge linking villages to the east of Lake Tashk with the asphalt highway to Shiraz from the west end of Lake Bakhtegan. This would involve the construction of a causeway across the low-lying flats between the two lakes, and could have a significant effect upon the overall hydrology of the system. It would also greatly facilitate access to the central hilly portion of the Wildlife Refuge - an area which until now has remained remote and relatively undisturbed. Some poaching occurs at the west end of Lake Bakhtegan, and it is feared that with improved access to the interior of the Wildlife Refuge, this problem could become serious.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Lake Tashk and Lake Bakhtegan regularly hold huge numbers of waterfowl in winter (e.g. 120,000-140,000 surface feeding ducks and 50,000 Phoenicopterus ruber in January 1992). The large wintering population of flamingos apparently constitutes the bulk of the Lake Uromiyeh breeding population. Flamingos apparently bred in the early 1960s, but do not appear to have done so since then. Other waterfowl occurring in large numbers in winter include Ciconia ciconia, Plegadis falcinellus, Anser anser, Tadorna tadorna, Grus grus and some shorebirds. Pelecanus crispus was an occasional winter visitor in the 1970s (maximum 3), but has become more frequent in recent years, with up to 67 present. Anser erythropus was a regular winter visitor in small numbers in the early 1970s, with a maximum of 90, but there have been no records of this species in recent years. Marmaronetta angustirostris is present year-round; good numbers breed in wet years (e.g. at least 100 pairs in 1970), and up to 5,000 are present in mid-winter. A wide variety of waterfowl occur on migration, and several species including Porzana pusilla, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta and Vanellus leucurus breed. Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus are common summer visitors to the marshes. Podiceps cristatus has bred at Lake Tashk. Pelecanus onocrotalus occasionally appears in large flocks, and is known to have bred in the 1960s. Botaurus stellaris and Rallus aquaticus are regular winter visitors in small numbers, and Cygnus cygnus has been recorded (maximum 4). Gallinago media has been observed on both spring and autumn migration. One or two Ciconia nigra often frequent the marshes during the summer months. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 19. There is at least one resident pair of Falco pelegrinoides breeding in the area, and as many as 15 Haliaeetus albicilla occur in winter around the lakes, along with up to 6 Circus aeruginosus, 2 Aquila heliaca and 6 A. clanga. Chlamydotis undulata is a regular non-breeding visitor to the lake margins in late summer and autumn, with a maximum of 30 in July 1974.

Despite the changes which have occurred at Kamjan Marshes, the area continues to provide ideal feeding habitat for a variety of waterfowl, notably Ciconia ciconia, Plegadis falcinellus and Limosa limosa. These marshes also constitute an important feeding area for large numbers of ducks which spend the day roosting on Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk.

At least 220 species of birds have been recorded in the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge, the hills and plains within the refuge supporting a breeding bird fauna typical of the semi-arid eastern Zagros.

The mammalian fauna of the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge includes Wolf (Canis lupus), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), Caracal (Lynx caracal), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Persian Ibex (Capra hircus aegagrus) and Wild Sheep (Ovis ammon).

Only one species of fish, Aphanias sophiae, has been recorded in the lakes; this occurs throughout both lakes and in the lower sections of the inflows. The zooplankton and invertebrate fauna of the lakes have been described by Loffler (1968). Zooplankton recorded in Lake Tashk include the ciliat Fabrea salina and the foraminifera Streblus beccarii. Flagellata probably constitute most of the nannoplankton. Brachionus plicatilis and Hexartha fennica are the most typical rotifers in both lakes, although there are many other species present. Crustaceans and copepods are abundant, their distribution showing a distinct correlation to salinity, while ostracods and nematodes form the bulk of the benthic fauna. Dominant species include Artemia salina, Apocyclops dengizicus, Diaptomus salinus and Eucypris inflata.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: A limnological study of the lakes was carried out in the late 1950s as part of the International Biological Programme (Loffler, 1959). Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and numerous ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year. Cornwallis (1968a, 1968b) studied the avifauna of the lakes in the mid-1960s, and there was some ringing of waterfowl by the Biology Department at the University of Shiraz in the late 1960s. Accommodation is available for visiting researchers at the Game Guard Station in the centre of the Wildlife Refuge.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Cornwallis (1968a, 1968b); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Firouz et al. (1970); Green (1993); Loffler (1959, 1968); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1973a, 1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1980, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk are outstanding examples of saline lakes with associated fresh to brackish marshes, characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. The two lakes and the adjoining Kamjan Marshes support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The wetlands support substantial breeding and wintering populations of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and two other globally threatened species, Anser erythropus and Aquila heliaca, occur in winter. The lakes regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Plegadis falcinellus, Phoenicopterus ruber, at least nine species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Grus grus, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta, Calidris alpina, Limosa limosa and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Harm Lake (46)

Location: 28°10'N, 53°30'E; in an intermontane basin in the southern Zagros, about 35 km south-southeast of Jahrom, Fars.

Area: Unknown.

Altitude: c.900 m.

Overview: A small lake surrounded by cultivated plains in an intermontane basin in the southern Zagros Mountains, important for wintering waterfowl, especially Grus grus. Unprotected.

Physical features: No information.

Ecological features: No information.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Tadorna ferruginea (maximum 1,800), Oxyura leucocephala (maximum 230 in January 1987) and Grus grus (maximum 3,246).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Several mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since the late 1970s.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994).

Reasons for inclusion: 3c (possibly also 2a). Harm Lake regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Tadorna ferruginea and Grus grus in winter. Substantial numbers of Oxyura leucocephala (a threatened species) have been reported in recent years, and may be regular.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

 [Bottom

_______

 

Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand (47)

Location: Hamoun-i Sabari 31°20'N, 61°20'E; Hamoun-i Hirmand 30°10'N, 61°10'E; in the Sistan Basin, northwest, west and southwest of Zabol, Sistan/Baluchistan.

Area: c.170,000 ha (Hamoun-i Sabari 101,300 ha; Hamoun-i Hirmand 65,600 ha). Ramsar Site 50,000 ha.

Altitude: Hamoun-i Sabari 475 m; Hamoun-i Hirmand 470 m. The volcanic plug of Kuh Khvajeh rises to 609 m.

Overview: Two large, semi-permanent, fresh to brackish lakes with extensive marshes at the inland delta of the Hirmand (Helmand) River, in an internal drainage basin on the border between Iran and Afghanistan; extremely important for passage and wintering waterfowl, and also, in years of high water levels, for breeding waterfowl. Parts of the two lakes are protected in the Hamoun Protected Area, and have been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: The wetlands of the Sistan Basin, on the border between Iran and Afghanistan, comprise a complex of freshwater lakes with extensive reed-beds which at times of peak flooding can cover over 200,000 ha. These wetlands are unusual in that although the three main lakes, Hamoun-i Puzak (see site 48), Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand, lie within an internal drainage basin, they are predominantly freshwater. The system lies in an extremely arid region, and receives the great bulk of its water from the Hirmand River, Fara River and several smaller rivers rising in the highlands of central and northern Afghanistan. During long periods of drought, as occurred in the late 1960s and again in the mid-1980s, these rivers supply sufficient water to flood only the uppermost of the lakes, the Hamoun-i Puzak, which lies almost entirely within Afghanistan. However, during years of unusually heavy rainfall, as occurred in the late 1970s and again in 1989, 1990 and 1991, the floodwaters sweep through all three lakes and overflow into a vast salt waste to the southeast, flushing the salts out of the system in the process.

The Hamoun-i Sabari (about half of which lies in Iran) receives water from the Fara Rud, which enters in the northeast (in Afghanistan), and overflow from the Hamoun-i Puzak to the east. The Hamoun-i Hirmand receives water from the southern (Sistan) branch of the Hirmand River and overflow from the Hamoun-i Sabari to the north. During years of good rainfall, the lakes flood to an average depth of about 50 cm. Both lakes formerly supported extensive growths of Phragmites, Typha and various rushes and sedges during periods of flooding, but very little emergent vegetation has re-appeared since the prolonged drought of the early and mid-1980s. The water levels in the main wetlands of the Sistan Basin during the periods 1969/70 to 1977/78 and 1984/85 to 1991/92 are summarized in Table 20. Water levels have fallen again since 1992, and in the winter of 1994/95, most of the wetlands were dry.

The wetlands are bordered to the east and south by low-lying plains. Much of the land around the town of Zabol and its many satellite villages to the east of the Hamouns is under irrigated cultivation. The plains to the south consist of extensive bare salt flats and sparsely vegetated sandy plains with sand dunes areas and some tamarisk scrub. An isolated volcanic plug (Kuh Khvajeh) rises abruptly out of the marshes on the east side of Hamoun-i Hirmand, and has a very flat top about 140 m above the level of the surrounding plains. In the west, the Hamouns are bounded by a line of low earthen cliffs at the edge of a vast undulating desert plain which rises gradually away to the west.

The climate is hot and dry, with mean January temperatures of 15-20°C and mean July temperatures of 35-40°C. The average annual rainfall is about 100 mm, with most rain falling in winter.

Ecological features: Habitats include fresh to brackish lakes with extensive mudflats, reed-beds, sedge marshes and salt marshes, riverine Tamarix thickets, bare salt flats, and vast sparsely vegetated desertic plains. The marshes are predominantly eutrophic, with extensive reed-beds of Phragmites australis and Typha spp, and large areas of sedge marsh (Carex spp.) and tamarisk thicket (Tamarix spp.). In years of prolonged flooding, an abundant submerged aquatic vegetation develops on the floodplain. Halophytic vegetation fringes the wetland, and includes Halocnemum strobilaceum, Limonium carnosum, Salsola spp. and Atriplex verruciferum. Surrounding areas are desertic, with very few settlements and limited irrigated cultivation to the south and east.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The western half of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand and a large area of desert to the west were designated as a Protected Region (the Hamoun Protected Region) in August 1967. The boundaries were revised in August 1969, giving a total area of 201,062 ha. The reserve was reduced in size to 193,500 ha in the early 1970s, and upgraded to Wildlife Refuge. It has since been downgraded to Protected Area. This protected area includes only the main open water areas of the two lakes and their western shorelines, and excludes the important marshes in the east. The Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Sabari and the northern section of the Hamoun-i Hirmand were designated as a Ramsar Site of approximately 50,000 ha on 23 June 1975. Approximately 37,000 ha of the Ramsar Site lie within the Hamoun Protected Area. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: In the mid-1970s, a proposal was made to extend the boundaries of the Hamoun Wildlife Refuge eastwards to incorporate the whole of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand wetlands (including Kuh Khvajeh), as well as the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak. This would have enlarged the Wildlife Refuge to 329,000 ha. Considerable progress was made with this proposal, and indeed the proposed new boundaries have appeared on various Department of the Environment maps. However, these new boundaries have never been formally gazetted, and the Hamoun Protected Area remains in its original form (apart from a minor modification to the boundary in 1969).

The Action Programme for the Conservation of Wetlands in South and West Asia, drawn up in Karachi in 1991, includes a recommendation that "studies should be undertaken of the impact of dams on the Helmand River in Afghanistan on the flood regime in the wetlands of the Sistan Basin in Iran, with a view to resolving the long-standing dispute over the sharing of waters of this transboundary wetland and ensuring an adequate supply of water for the Ramsar Sites in Iran" (Anon, 1992).

A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to the wetlands in January 1992 made the following recommendations (Scott & Smart 1992):

(i) The Hamoun Protected Area should be extended to incorporate important wetland habitat along the eastern edge of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand, and in the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak, as proposed in the mid-1970s. The new boundaries should follow those indicated on the official map of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand Ramsar Site deposited at UNESCO.

(ii) The boundaries of the Protected Area and Ramsar Site should be clearly demarcated on the ground, e.g. with concrete pillars set at a maximum of one kilometre apart and with conspicuous sign-posts at all major entry points.

(iii) An integrated management plan should be developed for all wetland and water resources in the Sistan Basin. The development and implementation of such a plan would require the involvement of all government agencies concerned with water resources in the basin (e.g. Department of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Jihad, Ministry of Power, Department of Fisheries), and would ultimately involve close cooperation with the relevant authorities in Afghanistan. The management plan would endeavour to rationalize the use of water resources in the basin of the Hirmand River by taking into account the needs of the various users (domestic and industrial water supply, agriculture, fisheries and wildlife). A "set-aside" policy would be developed to ensure that adequate supplies of water are provided to maintain the ecological character of the important natural wetland ecosystems. Mechanisms would be developed to ensure that in the design of any future dams and other water control structures on the Hirmand and Fara Rivers, due attention would be given to all possible downstream effects. In particular, full consideration would be given to the potential impact of any such projects on the ecological character of the two Ramsar Sites. This would involve close consultation and cooperation between all interested parties in Afghanistan and Iran.

(iv) A basic requisite for the development of an integrated management plan for the region would be a comprehensive ecological and socio-economic study of the wetlands and water resources of the basin. This study would include inter alia the following:

- a comprehensive hydrological study of the Sistan Basin, including a review of the changes in water level that have occurred during the past twenty years using satellite imagery and meteorological records;

- a comprehensive limnological study of the wetlands of the Sistan Basin, including studies on the physico-chemical characteristics of the water bodies, water quality, sedimentation rates etc.

- studies on the ecological and economic impact of fish introductions, with special attention to the impact of introduced herbivorous fishes on the aquatic vegetation and its consequences for animal husbandry and wildlife;

- a study of the effects of increased disturbance from fishing activities on wildlife populations;

- a detailed study of waterfowl populations in both summer and winter, including aerial censuses of wintering waterfowl (to provide information comparable with that obtained in the 1970s);

- studies on the problem of over-grazing of aquatic vegetation by domestic livestock and excessive harvesting of vegetation for fodder;

- a study of the exploitation of aquatic vegetation for fuel, and an investigation of alternative sources of fuel (e.g. fuelwood plantations);

- an investigation of the environmental impacts of the new highway between the Hamoun-i Sabari and the Hamoun-i Hirmand, the canal between the south end of the Hamoun-i Puzak and the Hamoun-i Sabari, and Chahnimeh Dam and other water control structures in Iran which may have had a pronounced effect on the hydrology and ecology of the Hamoun wetlands;

- a review of irrigation and agricultural practices in the basin, with special reference to the problem of increasing soil salinity.

Land use: Livestock grazing, reed-cutting and fishing. In recent years, the lakes have been stocked with Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella.

Possible changes in land use: A major project, the "Seistan Drainage and Irrigation Completion and Rehabilitation Project", is currently being developed for possible financing from World Bank. In November 1993, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supported a study of the possible negative environmental impacts of this project, with a view to designing mitigation plans.

Disturbances and threats: Irrigation schemes on the Hirmand River in both Afghanistan and Iran have reduced the flow of water into the Hamouns. As a consequence, the wetlands are completely filled only in very wet years and are more prone to drying out in summer. Many of the problems of drought in the Sistan Basin have been attributed to dam construction and water diversion schemes on the Hirmand River in Afghanistan. The Kajaki Dam, built some 40 years ago, was increased in capacity about 20 years ago and undoubtedly caused a considerable reduction in the amount of water reaching the Hamouns, especially during dry years. In an international agreement between the Government of Afghanistan and former Government of Iran, the Government of Afghanistan guaranteed to provide an average flow of 26 cubic metres of water per second in the Hirmand River entering Iran. It is reported, however, that the Afghani authorities chose to provide the allocated volume as a "lump sum" during the winter months, rather than as a continuous flow during the dry summer months when the water was most needed. In any event, it now seems that this agreement is no longer being honoured. However, according to recent reports from FAO in Islamabad, the exceptional floods of early 1991 destroyed the Kajaki Dam and damaged other irrigation systems on the Hirmand River in Afghanistan. Thus, for the time being at least, there would appear to be no problems of water supply in the Hirmand River. However, there is apparently in existence a proposal to build a new dam on the Hirmand River in Afghanistan (the Kamal Khan Dam).

Despite high water levels and prolonged flooding in the Hamoun-i Sabari and much of the Hamoun-i Hirmand in each year since 1989, there was still an almost complete absence of emergent aquatic vegetation by early 1992. This situation contrasts markedly with the situation in the early 1970s, when the aquatic vegetation recovered almost immediately after the severe drought of 1970/71 (when all of the wetlands on the Iranian side of the border were completely dry). Within two months of flooding (in March and April 1972), there had been a spectacular emergence of aquatic vegetation, and by the following year, large portions of the Sabari and Hirmand were covered in reed-beds. The reasons for the present lack of vegetation are unclear. It has been argued that the great duration of the drought in the early 1980s (with some parts of the Hamoun-i Hirmand remaining dry for six years) is the principal cause, the vegetation being unable to withstand such long periods of desiccation. The digging up of tubers by the local people for use as fuel may also have contributed to the problem. However, another possible cause may have been the massive stocking of the lakes in recent years with herbivorous fishes. Chinese Carp were introduced into the lakes about 20 years ago, but presumably died out during the prolonged drought in the 1980s. However, the even more voracious Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella was introduced about five years ago, and now supports a major fishery. Introductions continue, with some two million fishes being released into the Hamoun-i Hirmand near Kuh Khvajeh in early January 1992. It seems likely that these fishes are retarding if not preventing any natural regeneration of the emergent aquatic vegetation.

The lack of emergent vegetation is a cause of considerable concern to local pastoralists, who depend on the marsh vegetation as a source of grazing for their herds of cattle and water buffalo. Very few livestock are now present around the Hamoun-i Hirmand and Hamoun-i Sabari, the great majority having been moved to the Hamoun-i Puzak marshes on the Afghan border, where the population of livestock is reported to have increased from about 10,000 to 26,000.

Increasing soil salinity is becoming a very serious problem in the agricultural land bordering the wetlands, and is a cause of considerable concern to the agricultural sector. Much of the former agricultural land around Zabol has had to be abandoned because of salinity problems, and in many other areas, the intensively irrigated fields are now producing extremely low yields. Already there have been some problems of wind-blown salt during the summer months, and it now seems quite possible that the area could suffer the same fate as the region around the Aral Sea. At the same time, there has been a great increase in the human population of the basin during the past decade, not only as a result of the high natural population increase (about 4% per annum), but also because of the large influx of refugees from Afghanistan. At the last census in 1989, the population of the Iranian portion of the Sistan Basin was 370,000.

An asphalt highway is currently being constructed across the low-lying flats between the north end of the Hamoun-i Hirmand and the south end of the Hamoun-i Sabari. The road, which was started about five years ago and is now nearing completion, passes through the middle of the Ramsar Site and the Hamoun Protected Area. Although the road passes over several bridges, free flow of water between the two Hamouns has been impeded to some extent, with as yet unknown effects on the hydrology and ecological character of the two Hamouns. A canal, which has recently been constructed between the south end of the Hamoun-i Puzak and the Hamoun-i Sabari to accelerate the flow of water into the Sabari, will also have a major effect on the hydrology of the system.

Other recent developments in the Iranian portion of the Sistan Basin include the construction of a number of major irrigation canals taking water directly from the Hirmand River and its distributaries, and the construction of a large reservoir (Chahnimeh) in the desert east of Zabol, supplied by a feeder canal from the Parian branch of the Hirmand River. These structures clearly reduce the amount of water entering the wetlands, and must have some impact on the ecology of the system as a whole.

A major die-off of fish, pelicans, flamingos and shorebirds occurred in November 1994. Samples were taken from the corpses and analyzed in Tehran, but the cause of death could not be determined.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: There is a ruined settlement of considerable archaeological interest on Kuh Khvajeh. The reed-beds play a significant role in the economy of the local inhabitants who live in villages along the shoreline. The reeds are used for a number of purposes: as forage for domestic animals, for constructing boats ("tutans" - often likened to the reed boats of Lake Titicaca in the Andes), for fabricating wind-breaks for houses and gardens, and as a source of fuel for cooking and heating. Although primarily dependent on livestock breeding, the local people are increasingly taking advantage of the rich fishery to supplement their incomes.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetlands are extremely important as a staging and wintering area for a wide variety of waterbirds, notably pelicans, herons, dabbling ducks and shorebirds, and in years of high water level, are also an important breeding area for many species (see Table 21). Comprehensive ground and aerial censuses between 1969/70 and 1975/76 indicated that the numbers of Anatidae wintering in the Iranian portion of the Sistan wetlands varied from almost nil in exceptionally dry years (e.g. 1970/71) to over 700,000 in wet years (e.g. 1972/73). It was found that aerial surveys were essential to obtain adequate coverage of the wetlands and reliable counts of the waterfowl. As no aerial censuses have been possible since 1976, it is difficult to compare the counts of the mid-1970s with those of recent years. However, regular ground counts by personnel of the Department of the Environment between 1979/80 and 1990/91 have revealed a dramatic decline in numbers of wintering waterfowl, from about 250,000-300,000 in 1980-83 to less than 20,000 in 1988-1991. This has been attributed to the prolonged drought of the early and mid-1980s and large-scale degradation of the aquatic vegetation.

Peak counts of wintering birds have included 1,300 Pelecanus onocrotalus, 88 P. crispus, 2,150 Egretta alba, 208 Ardea cinerea, 2,600 Anser anser, 666 Tadorna ferruginea, 1,600 T. tadorna, over 220,000 Anas crecca, 300,000 A. acuta, 4,110 Aythya ferina, 84 Grus grus and 2,860 Larus ridibundus. Breeding birds in years with high water levels and extensive reed-beds have included up to 20-30 pairs of Botaurus stellaris, many Ixobrychus minutus, 120 pairs of Platalea leucorodia, 5-10 pairs of Aythya nyroca, 15 pairs of Circus aeruginosus, 100 pairs of Himantopus himantopus, 150-200 pairs of Larus genei, several pairs of Sterna caspia, 300-400 pairs of Chlidonias hybridus, and large numbers of Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. Marmaronetta angustirostris is probably a scarce resident; one was seen in June 1973 and thought to be breeding, and small numbers (maximum 7) have been observed in winter. Scarce winter visitors have included Cygnus cygnus (maximum 4), Nettapus coromandelianus (a female shot in January or February 1973 - the first record for Iran) and Lymnocryptes minimus.

Raptors are common in winter, and have included up to 70 Milvus migrans, 13 Haliaeetus albicilla, 22 Circus aeruginosus, 10 Aegypius monachus, 5 Aquila heliaca, 5 A. clanga, 4 A. nipalensis, and single Falco cherrug, F. peregrinus and F. pelegrinoides. Chlamydotis undulata is a regular winter visitor in small numbers to the plains around the lakes (maximum 6). Francolinus francolinus, Passer hispaniolensis and P. moabiticus are resident in the tamarisk scrub around the lakes, and Hypocolius ampelinus is a fairly common summer visitor to nearby cultivated areas. A pair of Bubo bubo is resident on Kuh Khvajeh. The lush "oasis" vegetation around the wetlands provides a staging area for large numbers of migratory land-birds, while the surrounding deserts support a typical desert avifauna. At least 170 species have been recorded in the area.

Mammals known to occur in the area include Wolf (Canis lupus), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), Caracal (Lynx caracal), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) and Jebeer Gazelle (Gazella dorcas fuscifrons).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1970 (with aerial surveys from 1972 to 1976), and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. A major ecological study of the wetlands of the Sistan Basin was undertaken by a group of experts from Tehran University during the mid-1980s. More recently, the Department of the Environment has embarked upon a study of the wetlands, as a part of its nationwide inventory of wetlands. A Government Committee has been established, including representatives of the Department of the Environment, Department of Agriculture and Department of Water, to coordinate studies and centralize the collection of information. Accommodation is available for visiting researchers at the Department of the Environment's office in Zabol.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Department of the Environment is responsible for the management of the western half of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand, as well as a large area of desert to the west. This Department is also responsible for the administration of the Ramsar Site.

References: Anon (1992); Anstey (1989); Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Firouz et al. (1970); IUCN (1992); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1975a, 1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1978a, 1978b, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. The Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand are outstanding examples of semi-permanent and seasonal wetlands characteristic of the desert regions of Southwest Asia. Spanning the international border between Iran and Afghanistan, the wetlands play a substantial hydrological and ecological role in the natural functioning of a major river basin shared between two countries. They support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The wetlands are important for three or four globally threatened species of birds, supporting wintering populations of Pelecanus crispus and Aquila heliaca, a breeding population of Aythya nyroca, and probably also a small resident population of Marmaronetta angustirostris. The lakes regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Egretta alba, at least nine species of Anatidae, Fulica atra and Himantopus himantopus. When conditions are suitable for breeding, the wetlands can support over 1% of the regional population of Platalea leucorodia.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

South end of Hamoun-i Puzak (48)

Location: 31°20'N, 61°45'E; in the Sistan Basin, 40 km north-northeast of Zabol, on the Afghanistan border, Sistan/Baluchistan. (The main portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak lies to the north in Afghanistan).

Area: 14,900 ha. Ramsar Site 10,000 ha.

Altitude: 490 m.

Overview: The extensive permanent and seasonal freshwater lagoons and marshes comprising the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak, a large freshwater lake about two-thirds of which lies in Afghanistan; important for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The wetlands have been designated as a Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: The Hamoun-i Puzak is a large, perennial, freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds. Most of the lake, which covers about 35,000 ha, lies in Nimroz Province of southwestern Afghanistan, and is described elsewhere in this Directory, but about 14,900 ha in the southwest lie within Iranian territory. The entire lake is very shallow, with the maximum depth probably not exceeding four metres. The Iranian portion consists of a complex of open-water areas with rich submergent vegetation and extensive reed-beds, and includes the extensive marshes around Takht-e Edalat (formerly Takht-e Shah) and Mahmoodi. The Hamoun-i Puzak receives most of its water from the Khash Rud and the Parian branch of the Hirmand River, which enters the lake in two distributaries, one in the north and one in the east. The Puzak is the first of the three hamouns in the Sistan Basin to fill during periods of flooding, and probably never dries out completely, even during the severest droughts. In the early 1990s, following a series of wet years, the wetlands were in excellent condition, with clear water, rich submergent growth of aquatic vegetation, and extensive reed-beds. Water levels in the Hamoun-i Puzak and other wetlands of the Sistan Basin during the periods 1969/70 to 1977/78 and 1984/85 to 1991/92 are summarized in Table 20. Water levels have fallen again since 1992, and in the winter of 1994/95, most of the wetlands were dry.

The climate is hot and dry, with mean January temperatures of 15-20°C and mean July temperatures of 35-40°C. The average annual rainfall is about 100 mm, with most rain falling in winter.

Ecological features: Vast reed-beds of Phragmites australis cover much of the Hamoun-i Puzak, and there are only relatively small areas of open water. On the Iranian side of the border, Typha sp. now dominates, having replaced Phragmites since the 1970s, apparently as a result of heavy grazing by domestic livestock. Open-water areas support a very rich growth of submerged vegetation, principally Ceratophyllum demersum, while the margins of the wetland are fringed with Tamarix thickets. There are several small villages along the edge of the marsh, and the adjacent land is degraded steppe and irrigated cultivation.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The Hamoun-i Puzak marshes are not legally protected, although personnel of the Department of the Environment endeavour to maintain some control in the region, and have a small office at Gorgori near the wetland. The greater part of the wetland (10,000 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The wetland has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: In the mid-1970s, the Division of Research and Development in the Department of the Environment recommended that the Hamoun Protected Area (see site 47) be extended eastwards to incorporate the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak, but this recommendation was never implemented. A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission visited the site in January 1992 and confirmed the desirability of extending the Hamoun Protected Area eastwards to incorporate the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak, as proposed in the 1970s (Scott & Smart, 1992). It was recommended that the new boundaries of the reserve should follow those indicated on the official map of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand Ramsar Site deposited at UNESCO. The Mission also recommended that the boundaries of the Ramsar Site should be clearly demarcated on the ground, and that an integrated management plan should be developed for all wetland and water resources in the Sistan Basin (see also Site 47).

Land use: Livestock grazing, reed-cutting and fishing.

Possible changes in land use: A major project, the "Seistan Drainage and Irrigation Completion and Rehabilitation Project", is currently being developed for possible financing from World Bank. In November 1993, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supported a study of the possible negative environmental impacts of this project, with a view to designing mitigation plans.

Disturbances and threats: Irrigation schemes on the Hirmand River, both in Afghanistan and Iran, have cause some reduction in the flow of water into the Hamoun-i Puzak. Recent developments likely to affect the Hamoun-i Puzak wetlands include the construction of a number of major irrigation canals taking water directly from the Hirmand River and its distributaries, and the construction of a large reservoir (Chahnimeh) in the desert east of Zabol, supplied by a feeder canal from the Parian branch of the Hirmand River.

During the last decade, there has been a major change in the dominant vegetation of the reed-beds, with Typha having almost completely replaced Phragmites australis. The reasons for this change are unknown, although it is supposed that the severe drought of the 1980s and extremely heavy grazing of Phragmites by domestic livestock are responsible. Large numbers of livestock have been brought from the Hamoun-i Hirmand and Hamoun-i Sabari marshes to the Hamoun-i Puzak marshes, where the population of livestock is reported to have increased from about 10,000 to 26,000. The danger that this intensive grazing and the large-scale cutting of reeds for fodder could result in permanent damage to the marsh vegetation in this area is now a cause of some concern (Scott & Smart, 1992).

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The reed-beds of the Hamoun-i Puzak play a significant role in the economy of the local inhabitants who live in villages along the shoreline. These Baluchi people use reeds for a number of purposes: as forage for domestic animals, for constructing boats ("tutans" - often likened to the reed boats of Lake Titicaca in the Andes), for fabricating wind-breaks for houses and gardens, and as a source of fuel for cooking and heating.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for ducks and coots and a staging area for a wide variety of species, including many shorebirds. In wet years, the wetlands may also be important for breeding waterfowl (see Table 22). Peak counts in winter have included up to 115 Pelecanus onocrotalus, 82 P. crispus, 1,200 Egretta alba, 200 Ardea cinerea, 2,450 Anser anser, 440 Tadorna tadorna, 58,000 Anas crecca, 12,000 A. platyrhynchos, 18,000 A. clypeata, 30 Aythya nyroca, 42 Oxyura leucocephala, 37,000 Fulica atra, 450 Grus grus, 130 Recurvirostra avosetta and 5,500 Limosa limosa. Cygnus cygnus has occurred as a rare straggler (maximum 2). Breeding species include Podiceps cristatus, Botaurus stellaris (three booming in June 1973), Ardea purpurea, Porphyrio porphyrio, Vanellus leucurus, Sterna albifrons, Chlidonias hybridus and Acrocephalus stentoreus. Marmaronetta angustirostris is probably a scarce resident in the marshes, although there has been only one recent record (a single bird in January 1977). Wintering birds of prey have included up to seven Haliaeetus albicilla, 45 Circus aeruginosus (which also breeds), five Aegypius monachus and five Aquila heliaca. Passer moabiticus is a scarce resident, breeding in the tamarisk scrub.

Mammals include Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1970 (with aerial surveys from 1972 to 1976), and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. Petocz et al. (1976) have described the wetlands on the Afghani side of the border. A major ecological study of the wetlands of the Sistan Basin was undertaken by a group of experts from Tehran University during the mid-1980s. More recently, the Department of the Environment has embarked upon a study of the wetlands, as a part of its nationwide inventory of wetlands. A Government Committee has been established, including representatives of the Department of the Environment, Department of Agriculture and Department of Water, to coordinate studies and centralize the collection of information. Accommodation is available for visiting researchers at the Department of the Environment's office in Zabol.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Mansoori (1984); Petocz et al. (1976); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1975a, 1976a, 1976c, 1978b, 1980, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1c, 1d, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. The Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak is an excellent example of a large, permanent, freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds in an extremely arid desert region. Spanning the international border between Iran and Afghanistan, the wetland plays a substantial hydrological and ecological role in the natural functioning of a major river basin shared between two countries. It supports an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus plays an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The wetland supports wintering populations of four globally threatened species of birds, Pelecanus crispus, Aythya nyroca, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca, and probably also a small resident population of Marmaronetta angustirostris. The lake regularly holds over 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Egretta alba, at least six species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Grus grus, Himantopus himantopus and Limosa limosa.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Kharku Island (49)

Location: 29°19'N, 50°21'E; in the northern Persian Gulf, 4 km north of the island of Kharg and 60 km northwest of Bushire.

Area: 312 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to 3 m.

Overview: A small sandy island with fringing coral reefs in the northern Persian Gulf, important for breeding terns (Sterna spp.). Protected in the Kharko Protected Area.

Physical features: Kharku (Kharko) Island is a low-lying, sandy island with a coral-rock substrate and fringing coral reefs, situated in the northern Persian Gulf about 30 km off the mainland coast and 60 km northwest of Bushire. Surface water is lacking, but there is a freshwater well near the south end of the island.

Ecological features: Most of the island is covered in sand-dune vegetation of grasses and low shrubs. It is fringed by a sandy beach with low strand vegetation. There are a few banyan trees near the south end of the island.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: Kharku Island and the nearby much larger island of Kharg (Khark) were designated as a Protected Region with a total area of 2,438 ha in May 1960. The reserve was upgraded to Wildlife Refuge in the early 1970s, but the Kharg portion was de-notified a few years later leaving only the island of Kharku protected in the Kharko Wildlife Refuge (312 ha). The island has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The island was uninhabited until the late 1970s, when an airforce camp was built at the north end. The nearby island of Kharg is a major oil terminal.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The island was visited by egg-collectors every year during the 1970s, and the breeding success of the terns was extremely low. An airforce camp was constructed at the north end of the island in the late 1970s. This involved the construction of a substantial landing stage and a number of permanent brick buildings. There is an ever-present threat of oil pollution from the major oil terminal on the nearby island of Kharg.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important site for breeding terns. Surveys in 1974 and 1977 indicated that about five pairs of Sterna bergii, 600 pairs of S. bengalensis, 2,500 pairs of S. repressa and 250-300 pairs of S. anaethetus were frequenting the island, but breeding success was minimal in both years because of egg-collecting by local fishermen.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Sea-bird censuses have been carried out during the breeding season by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, and some sea-birds were ringed in 1977. Accommodation facilities are available on the neighbouring island of Kharg.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Argyle (1977a); Evans (1994); Firouz et al. (1970); Gallagher et al. (1984); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1975b, 1976a, 1976b).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2c & 3c. Kharku Island is a good representative example of a low-lying island with fringing coral reefs, characteristic of the Persian Gulf. The island supports an important breeding colony of terns (Sterna spp.), including over 1% of the regional population of Sterna bengalensis.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Delta of Helleh River (50)

Location: 29°10'N, 50°50'E; on the Persian Gulf coast, 35 km north-northwest of Bushire.

Area: 35,600 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to about 7 m.

Overview: A complex of fresh to brackish lagoons, marshes and inter-tidal mudflats in the delta of the Helleh Rud on the northern Persian Gulf coast, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris. The wetlands are protected in the Helleh Protected Area.

Physical features: The delta of the Helleh (Hilleh or Halileh) Rud comprises a complex of permanent, fresh to brackish lagoons with extensive reed-beds and sedge marshes, and a large area of inter-tidal mudflats at the mouth of the river. A maximum water depth of 3.5 m has been recorded in the lagoons. The adjacent semi-desertic plains are subject to seasonal flooding. The wetland is of recent origin, having developed in the early 1970s with the blocking-off of the main river channel and diversion of river water onto the adjacent saline coastal plain.

Ecological features: Extensive reed-beds and sedge marshes, seasonally flooded plains with halophytic vegetation, and inter-tidal mudflats. The adjacent desertic plains are very sparsely vegetated.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The wetlands and a large area of surrounding desert (totalling 42,600 ha) were designated as the Helleh Wildlife Refuge in 1977. This was downgraded to Protected Area in the 1980s. (This Protected Area is not listed in IUCN, 1992). The entire reserve has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: It has been proposed that the Helleh Delta Marshes be designated as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Some grazing of aquatic vegetation by domestic livestock. In recent years, water has been taken from the wetland to irrigate farmland on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: In recent years, large quantities of water have been extracted from the marshes for irrigation purposes, and as a consequence the wetland may dry out completely during the summer months. This has resulted in a decline in the numbers of breeding birds.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetland supports large numbers of breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species, and is especially important for wintering Phalacrocorax carbo (maximum 3,060), herons and egrets, Platalea leucorodia (maximum 278), Phoenicopterus ruber (maximum 280), Anser anser (maximum 7,860), surface-feeding ducks, Grus grus (maximum 120) and shorebirds. Pelecanus crispus is a regular winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 10), and small flocks of Anser erythropus occurred on two occasions in the 1970s (maximum 37). Other scarce winter visitors have included Pelecanus onocrotalus (maximum 6), Ciconia nigra (maximum 5), Plegadis falcinellus (maximum 9) and Anser albifrons (maximum 10). Oxyura leucocephala was not recorded in the 1970s, but 173 were present in January 1988. The wetland is particularly important for Marmaronetta angustirostris; up to 1,000 have been recorded in winter, and about 15-20 pairs breed in the marshes. Other breeding species include Ixobrychus minutus, Nycticorax nycticorax, Ardea purpurea (10 pairs), Francolinus francolinus, Recurvirostra avosetta, Glareola pratincola (25 pairs), Charadrius alexandrinus (40-50 pairs), Vanellus indicus, V. leucurus, Gelochelidon nilotica (10-20 pairs), Sterna caspia (5-10 pairs), S. albifrons (40 pairs), Halcyon smyrnensis, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. Ardeola ralloides and Rallus aquaticus have been recorded in summer and may breed. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 23.

Wintering birds of prey have included Haliaeetus albicilla, Circus aeruginosus (up to 15), Aquila heliaca and A. clanga (up to three). Pterocles alchata is a fairly common breeding bird on the adjacent plains. At least 111 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Noteworthy flora: The wetland supports the most extensive freshwater marshes on the entire Persian Gulf coast of southern Iran.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1974, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1975b, 1976a, 1976c, 1978a, 1980); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. The delta marshes and mudflats of the Helleh River are a good example of a deltaic system characteristic of the northern shore of the Persian Gulf. The wetlands support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The marshes support a substantial breeding and wintering population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and wintering populations of three other threatened species of birds: Anser erythropus, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca. In winter, the wetlands regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl, including over 1% of the regional populations of Phalacrocorax carbo, Platalea leucorodia, Anser anser, Tadorna tadorna, Anas penelope, A. strepera, A. acuta, A. clypeata and Recurvirostra avosetta.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Bushire Bay (51)

Location: 29°00'N, 50°53'E; on the Persian Gulf coast, north of the city of Bushire.

Area: 27,000 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A shallow sea bay with extensive mudflats and many sand spits and low-lying islands in the northern Persian Gulf, important for sea turtles and wintering shorebirds, gulls and terns. Unprotected.

Physical features: Bushire Bay is a shallow sea bay with large areas of inter-tidal mudflats, sand spits and low muddy and sandy islets; the bay extends from the town of Bushire on a rocky peninsula in the south to the southern limits of the Helleh Rud Delta, 20 km to the northwest. The largest island, Shif Island (1,500 ha), lies near the south end of the bay, and is comprised mainly of bare mudflats with low sand dunes at the north and south ends and a small fishing village at the north end. Two small islands have recently formed as sand spits near the north edge of the bay, and there is a sandy island of 50 ha in the north-central part of the bay.

Ecological features: Inter-tidal mudflats, sand spits and low sandy islets; bare mudflats and sparsely vegetated desertic plains inland.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The bay has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing. The busy harbour town of Bushire is situated to the southeast of the wetland, and there are numerous oil industry facilities in the general area.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Possible oil pollution.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for shorebirds, gulls and terns. Peak counts have included 84 Dromas ardeola, 20 Charadrius mongolus, 250 Larus ichthyaetus, 500 L. ridibundus, 7,500 L. cachinnans and 20 Sterna caspia. Small numbers of terns, including 15-20 pairs of Gelochelidon nilotica, 50 pairs of Sterna repressa and 10-15 pairs of S. saundersi, breed on islets in the bay, and up to 300 S. bengalensis have been recorded on passage in May. Pterocles alchata is a common breeding bird on the adjacent sandy flats. The

Green Turtle Chelonia mydas formerly nested in small numbers on islands in the bay, but has apparently now disappeared from the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1972.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Harrington (1976b).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a & 3b. Bushire Bay is a good example of shallow sea-bay with extensive mudflats and low-lying islands, characteristic of the Persian Gulf coast. The mudflats are known to support appreciable numbers of many species of waterfowl, particularly shorebirds, gulls and terns, but comprehensive counts are lacking.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Monde River Delta (52)

Location: 27°50'N, 51°30'E; on the Persian Gulf coast, 100 km south-southeast of Bushire.

Area: 26,870 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to 10 m.

Overview: Riverine marshes, mudflats and sand banks at the mouth of the Monde River on the northern Persian Gulf coast, important for wintering waterfowl including Pelecanus crispus. The wetlands are protected in the Monde Protected Area.

Physical features: The Monde River is much the largest river entering the Persian Gulf between the Khuzestan lowlands in the west and the Khouran Straits in the east. In its lower reaches, the river meanders across a broad sandy plain and here it has created a number of long, thin oxbow lakes which support some marsh vegetation and tamarisk scrub. There are extensive sand banks at the mouth of the river, and a large creek system with extensive inter-tidal mudflats and low sandy islets to the south.

Ecological features: Wetland habitats include wide sandy beaches, inter-tidal mudflats with sand spits and low sandy islets, and patches of marsh vegetation along the river banks and around old oxbow lakes. Adjacent habitats include extensive coastal sand dunes with good sand-dune vegetation, tamarisk scrub, sandy plains with steppic vegetation, small areas of irrigated wheat cultivation, and low rocky hills almost devoid of vegetation except in gullies.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The wetlands and adjacent areas of coastal sand dune and desertic steppe were designated as a Wildlife Refuge of 46,700 ha in 1976. This was downgraded to Protected Area (Monde Protected Area) in the 1980s. The entire Protected Area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: There is some fishing along the coast, but otherwise the region is very sparsely populated and little disturbed.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Phalacrocorax carbo (maximum 3,600), Platalea leucorodia (maximum 80), Phoenicopterus ruber (maximum 455), Grus grus (maximum 122), shorebirds, gulls and terns. Peak counts have included up to 16 Egretta gularis, 27 Tadorna ferruginea, 200 Limosa lapponica, 22 Tringa cinerea, 1,000 Larus ichthyaetus, 1,525 L. ridibundus, 28 Gelochelidon nilotica and 80 Sterna caspia. Pelecanus crispus is an occasional winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 4). Waterfowl recorded during a survey in October included 146 Charadrius alexandrinus, 61 C. leschenaultii, 135 Calidris alba, 305 Sterna bergii and 150 S. bengalensis. Up to three Pandion haliaetus and three Haliaeetus albicilla have been recorded in winter, along with the occasional Falco peregrinus and F. cherrug. Chlamydotis undulata is a regular winter visitor to the adjacent plains, and up to 40 have been recorded in January. Hypocolius ampelinus has been recorded in June, and probably breeds in the area.

Some 300 Goitred Gazelles Gazella subgutturosa were known to inhabit the plains near the mouth of the river in the mid-1970s.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1972, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1975b, 1980).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a & 3c (possibly also 2a). The Monde River Delta is a good example of a deltaic system characteristic of the northern shore of the Persian Gulf. In winter, the delta regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Phalacrocorax carbo and Larus ichthyaetus. Pelecanus crispus (a globally threatened species) has been recorded in winter, and may be regular in small numbers.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Nakhilu, Morghu and Ummal Korm Islands (53)

Location: 27°50'N, 51°30'E; a few km offshore along the Persian Gulf coast, about 40 km southeast of the Monde River Delta and 140 km south-southeast of Bushire.

Area: 2,045 ha (Nakhilu 15 ha; Morghu 2,000 ha; Ummal Korm 30 ha).

Altitude: Sea level to 3 m.

Overview: Three small, sandy, inshore islands with extensive inter-tidal mudflats in the northern Persian Gulf, extremely important for breeding Dromas ardeola and terns (Sterna spp.), and also important for nesting sea turtles. Unprotected.

Physical features: The site comprises three small, low-lying islands a few km offshore along the Persian Gulf coast south of the Monde River Delta. Nakhilu, the westernmost of the islands and the furthest offshore, is a small, almost circular island of about 15 ha, comprised mainly of sand with some rocky shores in the south and west. The island is fringed with low sand dunes which encircle a central basin almost completely covered in dense, low scrub. There are two small brackish pools near the south end and a ruined shrine near the west coast. Morghu Island is a long narrow island (about 10 km from north to south and about 2 km from east to west), consisting of a broad expanse of bare mudflats with a chain of low vegetated sand dunes along its southwestern (seaward) margin and round the southern end. The dunes are separated by narrow tidal channels which open up into a chain of shallow lagoons on the mudflats on the landward side of the dunes. There is a small, un-manned navigation tower on one of the highest sand dunes. Ummal Korm (Ummal Karam), the easternmost island, lies less than one km off the mainland coast. It is a long, thin low island, about 1.5 km long and 200 m wide, with rocky shores in the south, sandy beaches in the north, and extensive sand dunes, particularly in the west. A system of tidal creeks drains a small Salicornia marsh near the east end of the island. Elsewhere in the interior, the vegetation consists of low scrub with one small patch of thorn bushes and a few stunted date palms. All three islands are devoid of fresh water and are uninhabited.

Ecological features: Small offshore islands with sandy beaches and rocky shores, well-vegetated sand dunes, low scrub, Salicornia flats and (at Morghu) extensive bare mudflats flooded only at the highest tides.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The islands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The islands of Nakhilu, Morghu and Ummal Korm have been proposed for protection as part of the Monde Protected Area (Harrington, 1976b).

Land use: There is an unmanned marine light installation on Morghu. The islands are seldom visited as they are situated off a remote stretch of coast, far from the nearest fishing villages.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important breeding area for Dromas ardeola and terns. A colony of 1,500 pairs of D. ardeola was discovered in the sand dunes on Ummal Korm during a survey of all three islands in June 1975. Seven species of terns were nesting on the islands at that time: Gelochelidon nilotica (2+ pairs on Ummal Korm), Sterna caspia (5-10 pairs on Ummal Korm), S. bergii (40 breeding pairs on Nakhilu, with an additional 40 adults on Morghu and 100 adults on Ummal Korm), S. bengalensis (1,000 breeding pairs on Nakhilu, with an additional 300 adults on Morghu and 50 adults on Ummal Korm), S. repressa (170 pairs on Nakhilu, 65 pairs on Morghu and 300 pairs on Ummal Korm), S. anaethetus (15,000 pairs on Nakhilu, 5,500 pairs on Morghu and 1,000 pairs on Ummal Korm) and S. saundersi (4 pairs on Nakhilu and 5 pairs on Ummal Korm). There was also a colony of 26 pairs of Egretta gularis on Ummal Korm in 1975. Small numbers of Platalea leucorodia (maximum 12) have been recorded on the mudflats around Morghu in winter.

Nakhilu and Ummal Korm are important breeding sites for sea turtles including the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). A small viper (Viperidae) is common on Ummal Korm. In June 1975, there was a plague of small mice on Nakhilu Island.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Very little work has been carried out in the area, and there are no facilities. Breeding season surveys were carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in 1975 and 1976, and brief aerial surveys were undertaken by the Ornithology Unit in the winters of 1973/74 and 1974/75.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Argyle (1976b); Evans (1994); Gallagher et al. (1984); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1975b).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2c, 3a & 3c. Nakhilu, Morghu and Ummal Korm islands are good representative examples of low-lying inshore islands characteristic of the Persian Gulf. The islands support important breeding colonies of Dromas ardeola and terns (Sterna spp.), and are also important for nesting sea turtles, including Eretmochelys imbricata (a threatened species). The islands regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl and sea-birds, including over 1% of the regional populations of Dromas ardeola, Sterna bengalensis and S. anaethetus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Sheedvar Island (54)

Location: 26°48'N, 53°24'E; about 2 km off the eastern tip of Lavan Island and 9 km off the mainland coast, in the central Persian Gulf.

Area: 160 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to 6 m.

Overview: A small sandy and rocky offshore island with fringing coral reefs in the north-central Persian Gulf, extremely important for breeding sea turtles (Chelonidae) and terns (Sterna spp.). Protected as the Sheedvar Wildlife Refuge.

Physical features: Sheedvar Island is a small rocky island surrounded by excellent coral reefs in the north-central Persian Gulf, about 2 km due east of the eastern tip of Lavan Island and some 9 km southwest of the nearest stretch of mainland coast. The island is roughly oblong in shape, relatively flat and low-lying, with a maximum elevation of about 6 m. It is composed of a coral conglomerate which is almost completely hidden, above high water mark, by an overlay of sand dunes and sandy soils. Along the southern, western and northwestern shores, the rock is exposed as low cliffs which nowhere exceed about two metres in height. In the southeast corner, the rocks have become fragmented to form a jumbled heap of boulders just above high water mark. The remainder of the shoreline consists of a narrow sandy beach which widens at the northeast corner to form a sandy promontory. There are two main areas of sand dunes stretching across the northern and southern parts of the island. There are no springs or surface water on the island. Rainfall is very low, and the island is subjected to extremely high temperatures during the summer months, with temperatures frequently exceeding 40°C.

Ecological features: The sand dunes are sparsely vegetated with a typical sand-dune plant community. The flat area across the centre of the island is densely clad with arid steppic vegetation dominated by Atriplex sp. which in places forms an impenetrable shrub layer up to 60 cm in height.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The entire island (160 ha) was designated a Protected Region in July 1971, and upgraded to Wildlife Refuge in 1972. The island has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Various recommendations were made in the 1970s concerning improved protection for the tern colonies. These included the erection of appropriate notices on the island and the stationing of Department of the Environment personnel on the island for the duration of the breeding season.

Land use: Nature protection. The island is uninhabited, although the presence of a ruined stone building at the southeast corner of the island is evidence of some human occupation in the past.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Egg-collecting for human consumption was a major problem in the 1970s. In 1972, it seemed that only the larger terns (Sterna bergii and S. bengalensis) were being targeted by the egg-collectors, and Sterna repressa was scarcely disturbed. However, egg-collecting increased in intensity enormously over the next few years, and by 1976, the S. repressa colony had been reduced to only about 10% of its former size. S. anaethetus, which breeds under rocks or in tunnels in the dense vegetation, did not appear to have been affected by egg-collecting. Presumably this species benefits from the presence of the many poisonous snakes. There is an ever-present threat of oil pollution from the oil terminal on Lavan Island and from the many oil tankers in the nearby shipping lanes.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The island supports the largest known breeding colony of terns in Iran. This was believed to contain about 300,000 pairs of Sterna repressa and 3,000-5,000 pairs of S. anaethetus in 1972, along with much smaller numbers of S. bergii (only 3-6 breeding pairs, but up to 100 adults) and S. bengalensis (only 11-18 breeding pairs, but up to 1,000 adults). However, by 1976 and 1977, the population of S. repressa had fallen dramatically to only 25,000-45,000 pairs, almost certainly as a result of massive egg-collecting by the Lavan islanders. Numbers of S. anaethetus had remained stable at around 3,000-5,000 pairs, possibly because the eggs of this species, which nests in tunnels in dense scrubby vegetation or in crevices amongst boulders, are much less accessible to egg-collectors. The site also holds the only known breeding colony of Phalacrocorax nigrogularis in Iran, with about 50-100 pairs breeding in an area of boulders at the southeastern corner of the island. There is a small colony of Egretta gularis (8-12 pairs) as well as 3-4 breeding pairs of Butorides striatus. The discovery of B. striatus on Sheedvar in June 1972 constituted the first record of this species in Iran. Only two species of passerines are resident on the island: Galerida cristata and Prinia gracilis. Pandion haliaetus has been recorded in June, and may breed nearby.

The island is a very important nesting site for sea turtles, mainly Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), with smaller numbers of Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and possibly one other species. About 500 turtles were thought to be nesting in 1971. A small poisonous snake (Viperidae) is abundant and has given rise to the island's alternative name "Maru" (Snake Island). A small lizard, Scincus conirostris, is also present.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Avifaunal surveys were carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, during the breeding season in 1972, 1976 and 1977, and some sea-birds were ringed in 1976. The Department of the Environment also investigated the breeding sea turtles in the early 1970s. Accommodation facilities are available at the large oil installation on the neighbouring island of Lavan.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Argyle (1976c); Cornwallis (1977); Evans (1994); Gallagher et al. (1984); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1972a, 1975b); UNEP/IUCN (1988).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2c, 3a & 3c. Sheedvar Island is a good representative example of a low-lying offshore island with fringing coral reefs, characteristic of the Persian Gulf. The island supports an extremely important breeding colony of terns (Sterna spp.) and other waterfowl, and is also important for nesting sea turtles, including Eretmochelys imbricata and Chelonia mydas (threatened species). The island regularly holds well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl and sea-birds, including over 1% of the regional populations of Sterna repressa, S. anaethetus and probably also S. bengalensis.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Faror Islands (55)

Location: Faror Island 26°15'N, 54°31'E; Bani Faror 26°07'N, 54°27'E; in the south-central Persian Gulf, 45 km southwest of Bandar Lengeh.

Area: 2,620 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to a peak at 142 m on Faror Island.

Overview: Two small rocky offshore islands in the south-central Persian Gulf, important for breeding sea-birds, especially terns (Sterna spp.). Protected as the Faror Islands Protected Area.

Physical features: The Faror Islands are two isolated rocky islands in the south-central Persian Gulf. Faror Island is 24 km off the mainland coast; it is about 6.5 km long and 4 km wide, and rises in dark volcanic hills to a peak at 142 m. The tiny rocky islet of Bani Faror is a further 16 km south-southwest of Faror.

Ecological features: No information.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The islands have recently been designated as a Protected Area (Faror Islands Protected Area) with a total area of 2,620 ha. They have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: None known, other than the ever present threat of a major oil spill in the Persian Gulf.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: La Personne (in Ticehurst et al., 1925) found large numbers of Sterna repressa and S. anaethetus breeding on the islands in 1923, and observed several flocks of 20-30 Puffinus persicus offshore. He also found Pandion haliaetus nesting on Faror and Bani Faror.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: The islands were visited by La Personne in July 1923, but do not appear to have been visited by any naturalists since then.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Gallagher et al. (1984); Ticehurst et al. (1925).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2c & 3b. The Faror Islands are good representative examples of rocky offshore islands in the Persian Gulf. The islands are known to support large breeding colony of terns (Sterna spp.) and perhaps other sea-birds, but no census data are available.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Khouran Straits (56)

Location: 26°50'N, 55°40'E; in the southern Persian Gulf between the mainland and the island of Gheshm, about 60 km west-southwest of Bandar Abbas, Bandar Abbas Province.

Area: 100,000 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A vast complex of low-lying muddy islands, mangrove swamps, inter-tidal mudflats and creeks in the shallow straits between the island of Gheshm and the mainland coast, in the southern Persian Gulf; extremely important for breeding and wintering waterfowl, especially Ardeidae, shorebirds, gulls and terns. The greater part of the wetland is protected as the Hara Protected Area, and the entire wetland has been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: The Khouran Straits (formerly known as the Clarence Straits) are situated between the Iranian mainland in the region of the Mehran and Kul/Rasul (Gol) river deltas, and the large island of Gheshm (110 km from east to west and up to 20 km from north to south). Within the straits, there are some 100,000 ha of low-lying islands, mangroves, mudflats and creeks which constitute much the largest of the mangrove/mudflat ecosystems in Iran. The mangrove forests reach their greatest development around a group of low-lying muddy islands in a large bay on the north shore of Gheshm Island opposite the Mehran Delta, but there are also significant stands along the outer margins of the Mehran Delta. In these areas and in the delta of the Kul/Rasul (Gol) river to the east, vast areas of mudflats are exposed at low tide. Elsewhere along the Gheshm and mainland coasts, the shoreline consists of wide sandy beaches and sand flats. A few small fishing settlements are scattered along the shore.

The climate is tropical to sub-tropical, with summer temperatures reaching 45°C. The annual rainfall of 100-300 mm falls mainly between November and April.

Ecological features: The mangrove forests, which cover an estimated 6,800 ha, comprise monospecific stands of the Black Mangrove Avicennia marina. These are the most westerly mangrove forests of any size in Iran, although there is a tiny and now badly degraded stand of mangroves at Bandar Asalu, some 300 km further west along the coast. Apart from the mangroves, red and brown algae (Rhodophyceae and Phaeophyceae) constitute the dominant vegetation in shallow coastal waters. The adjacent coastal plains are mainly barren sand flats with scattered Acacia, Prosopis and other thorn trees. There are small date gardens around some of the settlements.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The main area of mangroves and mudflats (an area of 82,360 ha) was designated as a Protected Region in 1973. This reserve was later increased in size to 85,686 ha and upgraded to National Park status (Hara National Park). However, the park was downgraded to Protected Area in the 1980s. The entire area of mangroves, mudflats and creeks in the Khouran Straits (100,000 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The reserve was designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in June 1976. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing (both subsistence and commercial); also some cutting of mangroves for charcoal, and grazing by domestic livestock, especially camels.

Possible changes in land use: There is a proposal to develop a free port on Gheshm Island. The potential impact of this development on the mangroves of the Hara Protected Region is unknown. The Action Programme for the Conservation of Wetlands in South and West Asia, drawn up in Karachi in 1991, includes a recommendation that "national and international conservation bodies should cooperate with the Gheshm Free Area Authority to ensure that ecological considerations are fully incorporated in the planning stages of this economic development" (Anon, 1992).

Disturbances and threats: Some illegal cutting of mangroves for fuel and grazing by domestic livestock has been reported in the reserve. The easternmost part of the site is not included within any legally protected area, and has been subjected to logging of mangroves for charcoal production. There is some disturbance from fishing activities and boat traffic in the straits. A part of the area is potentially at risk from the proposed development of a free port and tourist facilities on Gheshm. There may be some pollution from the nearby port of Bandar Abbas, and oil pollution is an ever present threat.

Hydrological and biophysical values: The mangroves and shallow inshore waters are an important breeding and nursery ground for many species of crustaceans and fishes important in the local fishery.

Social and cultural values: Fishing (commercial and subsistence) is an important activity through the Straits.

Noteworthy fauna: The mangrove forests support substantial breeding populations of Ardeidae, including at least 30 pairs of Ardeola grayii (the largest colony in Iran), 50 pairs of Egretta gularis, 25-30 pairs of E. alba and one or two pairs of Ardea goliath (single nests found in 1976 and 1977 are the only confirmed breeding records of this species in Iran). The E. alba belong to the South Asian subspecies modestus, which probably reaches the western extremity of its range in this region. This is also one of the few localities in Iran where Butorides striatus has been recorded; single individuals have been recorded on a number of occasions and the bird is thought to breed in the area. Other breeding birds include Dromas ardeola (at least 20 pairs), Esacus recurvirostris (several pairs), Gelochelidon nilotica (10-20 pairs) and Sterna saundersi (10-20 pairs). Acrocephalus stentoreus is a very common summer visitor to the mangroves. The extensive inter-tidal mudflats are an extremely important staging and wintering area for shorebirds and gulls, along with substantial numbers of Pelecanus crispus, Platalea leucorodia (maximum 442), Phoenicopterus ruber (maximum 611) and many other species. About 100 Pelecanus crispus are present in most winters, but as many as 210 were recorded in January 1975. Few ducks occur in the area, but small flocks of Anas querquedula have been recorded on passage, and Mergus serrator has occurred in winter (maximum 2). Peak counts of some breeding and wintering waterfowl are given in Table 24. Pandion haliaetus is a remarkably common winter visitor; a total of 52 were counted during an aerial survey in the 1970s. Other wintering raptors include Milvus migrans (very common, with concentrations of up to 500 recorded near Bandar Abbas to the east of the site), Haliaeetus albicilla, Circus aeruginosus (maximum 4), Accipiter badius (maximum 4) and Neophron percnopterus (maximum 35). The adjacent desertic plains with scattered thorn trees and date gardens support a typical Baluchi avifauna with several primarily Indo-malayan species. At least 93 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Green Turtles Chelonia mydas occur in significant numbers off the coast of Gheshm Island.

Noteworthy flora: The site contains much the most extensive stands of Avicennia marina in Iran, although most of the trees are rather stunted compared to those further east along the coast of Persian Baluchistan.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1970 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. Some ringing was carried out at the heron and egret colonies in 1975, 1976 and 1977. A marine laboratory was established in Bandar Abbas in the early 1970s, and there is a marine research station on the island of Hormoz to the east.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Department of the Environment is responsible for management of the Protected Area and administration of the Ramsar Site.

References: Anon (1992); Argyle (1975b, 1976b, 1977b); Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Gallagher et al. (1984); Gretton (1991); Harrington (1976b); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1975b, 1976a, 1976c, 1978a, 1993); Summers et al. (1987); UNEP/IUCN (1988); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. The wetlands of the Khouran Straits are an outstanding example of the coastal mudflat/mangrove ecosystem characteristic of deltaic and estuarine systems in the southern Persian Gulf and along the adjacent coasts of the Gulf of Oman. The wetlands support a very diverse fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. They are also important spawning and nursery grounds for many fish species, and support large breeding colonies of Ardeidae. Two globally threatened species have been recorded: Pelecanus crispus occurs in appreciable numbers in winter, while Chelonia mydas regularly feeds in the area. The mudflats regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Egretta gularis, Platalea leucorodia, Haematopus ostralegus, Dromas ardeola, Numenius arquata, Tringa cinerea, Larus ridibundus and Gelochelidon nilotica.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Deltas of Rud-i-Shur, Rud-i-Shirin and Rud-i-Minab (57)

Location: 27°05'N, 56°45'E; on the north shore of the Straits of Hormoz, about 10-70 km east of Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan.

Area: 11,800 ha of wetlands. Ramsar Site 20,000 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A large area of inter-tidal mudflats, mangrove swamps and sandy beaches in the contiguous deltas of three rivers on the northern shore of the Straits of Hormoz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf; important for wintering waterfowl, especially shorebirds and gulls. The entire wetland has been designated as a Ramsar Site, but is otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: The deltas of the Rud-i-Shur, Rud-i-Shirin and Rud-i-Minab form a continuous strip of coastal wetlands extending for about 55 km along the northern shore of the Straits of Hormoz from the region of Bandar Abbas in the west to Khor Kolahy in the east. The wetlands include extensive inter-tidal mudflats (over one km wide at low tide), about 300 ha of mangroves at the river mouths and along adjacent creeks, long sandy beaches, low sand bars and sand spits, and two large shallow sea bays, Khor Tiab and Khor Kolahy, near the mouth of the Rud-i Minab in the east. The rivers are dry for much of the year, flowing only after erratic rainfall in the interior (usually in winter). The waters of the Rud-i-Shirin and Rud-i-Minab are fresh, but that of the Rud-i-Shur is somewhat brackish. Arid, sandy plains with open thorn woodland stretch inland from the coast. There are a few small human settlements in the area, generally with date gardens.

The climate is tropical to sub-tropical, with summer temperatures reaching 45°C. The annual rainfall of 100-300 mm falls mainly between November and April.

Ecological features: Mangroves (Avicennia marina) occur at the mouths of the rivers and as fringes along tidal creeks. The mudflats are barren of vegetation except for some characteristic saltmarsh plant associations. The adjacent coastal plain supports a sparse woodland of Acacia, Prosopis, Ziziphus and Tamarix with some date palms Phoenix dactylifera and large areas of bare sandy flats.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. The delta wetlands of the Rud-i-Shur, Rud-i-Shirin and Rud-i-Minab are included in a Ramsar Site of 20,000 ha, designated on 23 June 1975. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing along the coast, and some cutting of mangroves for fuel; grazing by domestic livestock on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Some areas of mangrove have been degraded by excessive cutting for fuel and browsing by camels. There may be some pollution from the nearby port of Bandar Abbas, and oil pollution is an ever present threat.

Hydrological and biophysical values: The mangroves and shallow inshore waters are an important breeding and nursery ground for many species of crustaceans and fishes important in the local fishery.

Social and cultural values: Fishing is an important activity.

Noteworthy fauna: An extremely important wintering area for shorebirds and gulls, notably Haematopus ostralegus (up to 3,500), Limosa lapponica (up to 5,000), Numenius arquata (up to 1,500) and Larus cachinnans (up to 3,000), along with smaller numbers of Pelecanus crispus (up to 19), Egretta alba (up to 250), Ardea cinerea (up to 140), Platalea leucorodia (up to 50) and Phoenicopterus ruber (up to 386). The site may also be important for breeding Ardeidae including Ardea goliath and Ardeola grayii (which have both been recorded at the site), but this has never been investigated. Wintering raptors include Haliaeetus albicilla (maximum 2), Accipiter badius (maximum 2), Neophron percnopterus (maximum 3) and Falco peregrinus (one record). Halcyon smyrnensis is a fairly common resident in the area. The adjacent sandy plains and thorn woodland support a typical Baluchi avifauna with several species of Indo-malayan origin occurring here at or near the western extremity of their ranges, notably Gyps bengalensis, Francolinus pondicerianus, Pterocles exustus, Athene brama, Dendrocopos assimilis and Acridotheres tristis.

Noteworthy flora: The site contains extensive stands of relatively undisturbed mangrove forest.

Scientific research and facilities: Aerial surveys were carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in 1973, 1974 and 1975, and the landward edge of the wetland has been surveyed on several occasions at other times of the year. Much of the area is, however, very difficult of access. There is a marine research station on the island of Hormoz to the southwest.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Harrington (1976b); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1975b, 1976a, 1976c); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2c & 3c. The deltas of the Rud-i-Shur, Rud-i-Shirin and Rud-i-Minab contain good representative examples of the mudflat/mangrove ecosystem characteristic of the coasts of the southern Persian Gulf and adjacent Gulf of Oman. They are important spawning and nursery grounds for many fish species, and support a wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (a globally threatened species). In winter, the mudflats regularly hold over 1% of the regional populations of Haematopus ostralegus and Numenius arquata.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Deltas of Rud-i-Gaz and Rud-i-Hara (58)

Location: Rud-i Gaz 26°50'N, 57°40'E; Rud-i Hara 26°30'N, 57°00'E; on the eastern shore of the Straits of Hormoz, 120 km southeast of Bandar Abbas, Sistan/Baluchistan.

Area: 15,000 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A large area of inter-tidal mudflats, mangrove swamps and sandy beaches at the mouths of two rivers on the eastern shore of the Straits of Hormoz, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf; important for wintering waterfowl, especially shorebirds and Pelecanus crispus. The entire wetland has been designated as a Ramsar Site, but is otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: The deltas of the Rud-i-Gaz and Rud-i-Hara form a continuous strip of coastal wetlands extending for about 40 km from north to south along the eastern shore of the Straits of Hormoz. The wetlands comprise a complex of tidal creeks and mudflats, an estimated 900 ha of mangrove swamps, numerous sand banks and sand bars, and several low-lying muddy islands. The rivers are dry for much of the year, flowing only after erratic rainfall in the interior (usually in winter). Arid, sandy plains with open thorn woodland stretch inland from the coast. The area is remote and very sparsely populated, with only a few tiny fishing villages nearby.

The climate is tropical to sub-tropical, with summer temperatures reaching 45°C. The annual rainfall of 100-300 mm falls mainly between November and April.

Ecological features: Extensive stands of mangroves (Avicennia marina) occur at the mouths of the rivers, along tidal creeks and as a broad fringe along the landward side of coastal sand bars. The mudflats are barren of vegetation except for some characteristic saltmarsh plant associations. The adjacent coastal plain supports a sparse woodland of Acacia, Prosopis, Ziziphus and Tamarix with large areas of bare sandy flats.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. The deltas of the Rud-i-Gaz and Rud-i-Hara (15,000 ha) were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Harrington (1976b) recommended that the many stands of mangroves, the tidal mudflats and a stretch of about 45 km of shoreline should be protected as a terrestrial reserve, but with offshore waters encompassed within the boundaries.

Land use: Some fishing. The area is remote and very sparsely populated.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known.

Hydrological and biophysical values: The mangroves and shallow inshore waters are an important breeding and nursery ground for many species of crustaceans and fishes important in the local fishery.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An extremely important wintering area for shorebirds, notably Haematopus ostralegus (up to 2,000), Dromas ardeola (up to 120), Limosa lapponica (up to 11,500), Numenius arquata (up to 5,000), Tringa totanus (up to 2,000) and T. cinerea (up to 100), along with smaller numbers of Pelecanus crispus (up to 68), Egretta alba (up to 57), Platalea leucorodia (up to 39) and Gelochelidon nilotica (up to 30) . The site may also be important for breeding Ardeidae including Ardea goliath and Ardeola grayii, both of which have occurred at the site, but this has never been investigated. At least one pair of Esacus recurvirostris is resident, and Haliaeetus albicilla is a regular winter visitor (maximum 6). The adjacent sandy plains and thorn woodland support a typical Baluchi avifauna including Pterocles exustus, Dendrocopos assimilis and Calandrella raytal.

Noteworthy flora: The patch of mangrove forest at the mouth of the Rud-i-Hara is probably the finest stand of mangroves in Iran, in terms of tree size and density.

Scientific research and facilities: Aerial surveys were carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in 1973, 1974 and 1975, and the landward edge of the wetland has been surveyed on several occasions at other times of the year. Much of the area is, however, very difficult of access.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Harrington (1976b); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1975b, 1976a, 1976c); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2c, 3a & 3c. The deltas of the Rud-i-Gaz and Rud-i-Hara contain good representative examples of the mudflat/mangrove ecosystem characteristic of the coasts of the southern Persian Gulf and adjacent Gulf of Oman. They are important spawning and nursery grounds for many fish species, and support a wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (a globally threatened species). The mudflats regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Haematopus ostralegus, Limosa lapponica and Numenius arquata.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Khor Jask (59)

Location: 25°40'N, 57°40'E; north of Jask town in southwest Persian Baluchistan, about 225 km southeast of Bandar Abbas, Sistan/Baluchistan.

Area: 11,500 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A large tidal creek with an excellent stand of mangroves on the coast of Persian Baluchistan, important for passage and wintering waterfowl including Pelecanus crispus. Unprotected.

Physical features: Khor Jask is a large tidal creek with adjacent beaches, sand dunes and sandy plains, on the coast of southwestern Persian Baluchistan, a few km north of the fishing port of Jask. The creek extends inland for several km and contains a particularly fine stand of mangrove forest at its landward end.

Ecological features: Extensive inter-tidal mudflats, about 100 ha of mangrove forest (Avicennia marina), long sandy beaches and coastal sand dunes. The adjacent sandy plains are very sparsely vegetated.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing. There is some cutting of mangroves for fuel and grazing by domestic livestock on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: The mangroves and shallow waters of the creek are an important breeding and nursery ground for many species of crustaceans and fishes important in the local fishery.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Khor Jask is an important staging and wintering area for a wide variety of shorebirds, gulls and terns, including up to 160 Haematopus ostralegus, 150 Charadrius mongolus, 400 Calidris alba, 300 C. alpina, 250 Numenius arquata, 100 Tringa totanus, 60 T. stagnatilis, 100 T. cinerea, 50 Arenaria interpres, 60 Larus hemprichii, 245 L. genei, 1,200 L. cachinnans, 85 Sterna caspia, 300 S. sandvicensis and 880 S. hirundo. Pelecanus crispus is a regular winter visitor, with up to 42 recorded, as are Egretta gularis (maximum 15), Ardea cinerea (maximum 25) and Platalea leucorodia (max 18). Up to 114 P. leucorodia have been recorded on autumn migration, along with smaller numbers of Phoenicopterus ruber (maximum 46) and a Ciconia nigra. Butorides striatus, Ardeola grayii (maximum 3) and Esacus recurvirostris (one pair) are probably resident in the area, and Ardea goliath has been recorded in October and January (single individuals on both occasions). Wintering raptors have included several Pandion haliaetus, up to three Haliaeetus albicilla, two Accipiter badius and a Falco peregrinus. Pterocles exustus and Calandrella raytal occur on the adjacent sandy plains.

Noteworthy flora: The site contains a large stand of relatively undisturbed mangrove forest.

Scientific research and facilities: A number of mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. The area is readily accessible from the nearby town of Jask.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a & 2a. Khor Jask is a good representative example of a large creek with mudflat/mangrove ecosystem, characteristic of the coasts of the southern Persian Gulf and adjacent Gulf of Oman. It supports a wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (a globally threatened species).

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Deltas of Rud-i-Jagin and Rud-i-Gabrik (60)

Location: 25°35'N, 58°20'E; on the coast of Persian Baluchistan, 45-80 km east of Jask, Sistan/Baluchistan.

Area: c.14,000 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A large area of inter-tidal mudflats, mangrove swamps and sand banks at the mouths of two rivers on the coast of Persian Baluchistan; important for wintering waterfowl, especially shorebirds and Pelecanus crispus. Unprotected.

Physical features: The deltas of the Rud-i-Jagin and Rud-i-Gabrik form a continuous strip of coastal wetlands extending for about 35 km from east to west along the Gulf of Oman coast. The wetlands comprise a complex of tidal creeks and mudflats, mangrove swamps, sand banks and low muddy offshore islands and sand bars formed at the mouths of the two rivers. The rivers are dry for much of the year, flowing only after erratic rainfall in the interior (usually in winter). Arid, sandy plains with open thorn woodland stretch inland from the coast, with dense tamarisk woodland along the watercourses. The area is remote and very sparsely populated, with only a few tiny fishing villages nearby.

Ecological features: Extensive stands of mangroves (Avicennia marina) occur at the mouths of the rivers and along tidal creeks. The adjacent coastal plain supports a relatively dense woodland of Acacia, Prosopis and Ziziphus interspersed with bare sand flats. Stands of tall Tamarix forest line the river banks.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Some fishing. The area is remote and very sparsely populated.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known.

Hydrological and biophysical values: The mangroves and shallow inshore waters are an important breeding and nursery ground for many species of crustaceans and fishes important in the local fishery.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Pelecanus crispus (up to 48), Ardea cinerea (up to 35), Platalea leucorodia (up to 26), Phoenicopterus ruber (up to 160) and shorebirds, notably Dromas ardeola (maximum 14), Numenius arquata (maximum 350) and Tringa cinerea (maximum 40). Up to five Ardeola grayii have been recorded in the mangroves, where the species is probably resident. Wintering birds of prey have included several Pandion haliaetus, up to four Haliaeetus albicilla and up to six Neophron percnopterus. Chlamydotis undulata may also winter in the area. The sandy plains, thorn woodland and tamarisk forest support a typical Baluchi avifauna including Francolinus pondicerianus, Pterocles exustus and Dendrocopos assimilis.

Noteworthy flora: The site contains extensive stands of relatively undisturbed mangrove forest.

Scientific research and facilities: Aerial surveys were carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in 1973, 1974 and 1975, and the landward edge of the wetland has been surveyed on several occasions at other times of the year. Much of the area is, however, very difficult of access.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2c & 3b. The deltas of the Rud-i-Jagin and Rud-i-Gabrik contain good representative examples of the mudflat/mangrove ecosystem characteristic of the coasts of the southern Persian Gulf and adjacent Gulf of Oman. They are important spawning and nursery grounds for many fish species, and support a wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (a globally threatened species). The mudflats are known to support very large numbers of waterfowl, especially shorebirds and terns, in winter, but few census data are available.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Pozm Bay (61)

Location: 25°23'N, 60°15'E; on the coast of Persian Baluchistan, about 40 km west of Chahbahar, Sistan/Baluchistan.

Area: 9,000 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A shallow sea bay with long sandy beaches, tidal creeks, coral reefs and seagrass beds, on the coast of Persian Baluchistan; important for wintering waterfowl including Pelecanus crispus, and probably also sea turtles. Unprotected.

Physical features: Pozm (Pozam, Pizom) Bay is a shallow sea bay with extensive coral reefs and seagrass beds, similar in many respects to the larger Chahbahar Bay to the east (see site 62). The bay is about 12 km across at its widest and 7 km from north to south, with an entrance 9 km wide between rocky headlands. Except at these headlands, the shoreline consists of a wide sandy beach backed by a broad belt of low sand dunes. There are two large creek systems with inter-tidal mudflats, one at the mouth of the Rud-i Kalar in the northwest corner of the bay, and the other at the mouth of the Rud-i Sergan in the northeast. A large area of well-vegetated sand dunes stretches away to the north.

Ecological features: Sandy beaches and tidal mudflats.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Harrington (1976b) recommended that Pozm Bay be afforded some form of protection, and considered that from the aesthetic point of view, the site would merit National Park status.

Land use: Some fishing. The area is very sparsely populated.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known. Although the bay itself remains relatively undisturbed, the aesthetics of the area have been badly affected by the construction of a new port and road nearby.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Pelecanus crispus (maximum 50), Phalacrocorax carbo (maximum 1,350), Ardea cinerea (maximum 150), shorebirds (notably Haematopus ostralegus, Charadrius spp., Limosa lapponica and Numenius arquata), gulls and terns. The latter have included up to 73 Larus ichthyaetus, 2,500 Larus cachinnans and 20 Sterna caspia. Egretta alba, E. gularis, Platalea leucorodia, Phoenicopterus ruber and Larus hemprichii are regular winter visitors in small numbers. Up to three Pandion haliaetus and two Haliaeetus albicilla have been recorded in winter.

Noteworthy flora: The bay contains important seagrass beds, and there is excellent sand dune vegetation to the north.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, on a number of occasions since 1971 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975).

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Harrington (1976b); UNEP/IUCN (1988).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a & 2b. Pozm Bay is one of the finest and least disturbed bays on the south coast of Iran, with excellent coral reefs and seagrass beds. It thus plays an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. It supports a significant wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (a globally threatened species), and is thought to be important for sea turtles.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Chahbahar Bay and Khor Konarak (62)

Location: 25°25'N, 60°30'E (Khor Konarak 25°20'N, 60°20'E); on the coast of southeast Persian Baluchistan west of the town of Chahbahar, Sistan/Baluchistan.

Area: 33,500 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A shallow sea bay with long sandy beaches, tidal creeks, coral reefs and seagrass beds, on the coast of Persian Baluchistan; important for wintering waterfowl including Pelecanus crispus, and probably also sea turtles. Unprotected.

Physical features: Chahbahar Bay is an almost circular bay about 22 km across at its widest and 18 km from north to south, with an entrance 14 km wide between rocky headlands. The bay averages about 6 m in depth, and contains extensive coral reefs and seagrass beds; the water is normally very clear. Except at the rocky headlands at either side of the entrance to the bay, the shoreline consists of a sandy beach backed by a broad belt of low sand dunes. There is a large creek with extensive inter-tidal mudflats near the small fishing village of Konarak on the west side of the bay (Khor Konarak). The much larger harbour town of Chahbahar is situated in the lea of the rocky headland at the east side of the bay.

Ecological features: The sandy beaches and tidal mudflats lack vegetation other than some algae. The coastal dunes support typical sand dune vegetation, while further inland the coastal plain supports an open woodland of Acacia, Prosopis, Ziziphus and Tamarix, with large areas of bare sand flats.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The bay has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Chahbahar Bay was proposed for protection by the Tourist-Consult Group in the early 1970s, as it is one of the few sites on the coast of Iran suitable for SCUBA diving. It was not, however, considered suitable for National Park status because of the considerable coastal development and large military installation around Chahbahar port. Harrington (1976b) also recommended protection for the site, and suggested that it might reasonably constitute a Protected Area, in which pollution and other standards could be enforced to protect the unique features of the bay.

Land use: Fishing. There is a large fishing port and military installation at Chahbahar on the east side of the bay, and a fishing village (Konarak) on the west side.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The principal threat is pollution from the busy harbour town of Chahbahar on the east side of the bay.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The site has little importance for breeding waterbirds, although at least two pairs of Esacus recurvirostris are resident. A small flock of Pelecanus crispus (maximum 48) winters in the bay, along with up to 30 Egretta gularis, 58 E. alba, 80 Platalea leucorodia, reasonable numbers of shorebirds and large numbers of gulls and terns. The latter have included up to 135 Larus ichthyaetus, 450 L. ridibundus, 1,400 L. genei, 3,500 L. cachinnans, 10 Sterna caspia and 500 S. sandvicensis. Wintering shorebirds include up to 50 Charadrius mongolus, 70 C. leschenaultii and a few Pluvialis fulva (here at the extreme edge of the species' wintering distribution) and Tringa hypoleucos (maximum 11). Other wintering waterfowl include up to 65 Podiceps cristatus and the occasional Ciconia nigra. Up to 77 Larus hemprichii, 180 Sterna bergii and 110 S. bengalensis have been recorded on spring migration. Pandion haliaetus, Haliaeetus albicilla, Neophron percnopterus, Falco peregrinus and F. pelegrinoides are regular winter visitors in small numbers, and Gyps fulvus is an occasional visitor (maximum 6). The coastal dunes, open thorn woodland and rocky hills around the bay support a typical Baluchi avifauna including Ammoperdix griseogularis, Francolinus pondicerianus, Athene brama, Eremopterix nigriceps, Calandrella raytal, Hirundo obsoleta and Oenanthe alboniger.

Noteworthy flora: The bay contains important seagrass beds.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and a number of avifaunal surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year. The site is readily accessible from the nearby fishing port of Chahbahar.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1975b); UNEP/IUCN (1988).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a & 2b. Chahbahar Bay and Khor Konarak are an extremely good example of a large, shallow sea bay with associated creek system, characteristic of the north coast of the Arabian Sea. The bay contains excellent coral reefs and seagrass beds, and thus plays an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. It supports a significant wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (a globally threatened species), and is thought to be important for sea turtles.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Lower Sarbaz River and Khor Govater (63)

Location: 25°15'N, 61°30'E (Lower Sarbaz River 25°40'N, 61°00'E; Khor Govater 25°10'N, 61°30'E); in extreme southeast Persian Baluchistan near the Pakistan border, 85 km east of Chahbahar, Sistan/Baluchistan.

Area: Lower Sarbaz River 2,900 ha; Khor Govater 11,560 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to 50 m.

Overview: The riverine and estuarine wetlands of the Lower Sarbaz River, including permanent freshwater pools and marshes, mangrove swamps and inter-tidal mudflats, and also the sandy beaches of the adjacent Gulf of Oman coast in extreme southeastern Persian Baluchistan; important for Crocodylus porosus [erratum; correct is palustris] and wintering waterfowl, notably Pelecanus crispus, shorebirds, gulls and terns. Protected in the Gandu (Bahu Kalat) Protected Area.

Physical features: The site comprises the lower course of the Sarbaz River, its estuary in Khor Govater (Govater Bay), and a 61 km stretch of the Gulf of Oman coast in the extreme southeast corner of Persian Baluchistan up to the Pakistan border. Erratic winter rains in the interior of Baluchistan produce some surface flow in the river in most years, and there are occasional torrential floods, but for much of the year, surface water in the river bed is confined to a series of deep, stagnant pools. There are extensive inter-tidal mudflats in the estuarine portion of the river and about 200 ha of mangrove forest. The coastline consists of long sandy beaches backed by sand dune areas, as well as stretches of high sea-cliffs. A tiny rocky islet offshore provides a roost for large numbers of sea-birds but is unsuitable as breeding habitat because it is awash during storms.

The region is generally extremely hot throughout the year, and has very low winter rainfall. However, the climate in summer is influenced by the southwest monsoon, and although heavy rainfall is unusual, the humidity remains high throughout the summer.

Ecological features: Permanent pools in the bed of the Sarbaz River support rich submerged aquatic vegetation and a narrow fringe of emergent vegetation, including some Phragmites sp. and Typha sp. Mangrove areas in the estuarine zone are mono-specific stands of Avicennia marina, with some very large trees. A high water table in the main valley supports open park-like woodland of Acacia, Prosopis, Ziziphus, Tamarix and date palms, with stands of oleander and fan-palms along the river bed. Away from the river the vegetation is extremely sparse, and much of the area is almost devoid of vegetation except after the very infrequent rains.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: The wetlands are included within a Protected Area of 382,430 ha (the Bahu Kalat Protected Area), established in 1971. The boundaries have remained unchanged since then, but the reserve has been re-named the Gandu (Gando) Protected Area. The entire reserve has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing along the coast, and some grazing by domestic livestock in riverside vegetation. There is a small fishing village on Govater Bay near the mouth of the Sarbaz River and several tiny villages with small areas of cultivation along the river banks, but the area is remote and most of it is very sparsely populated.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The tidal mudflats, mangroves, sandy beaches and inshore waters at the mouth of the Sarbaz River are an important wintering area for Phalacrocorax carbo (up to 3,500), Pelecanus crispus (maximum of 52 in the 1970s but up to 112 in recent years), Platalea leucorodia (up to 49), a variety of shorebirds (notably Haematopus ostralegus, Calidris alba, Limosa lapponica, Numenius arquata and Tringa totanus) and gulls. The latter have included up to 2,000 Larus ridibundus, 1,000 L. genei and 1,000 L. cachinnans. Scarce winter visitors have included single Ciconia nigra and Pluvialis fulva. Large numbers of terns occur on passage, including up to 2,000 Sterna bergii. Breeding birds in this area include Ardeola grayii (up to 15 birds), Esacus recurvirostris (at least two pairs), Dromas ardeola (a few pairs), Sterna saundersi (10-15 pairs), Halcyon smyrnensis (common) and Acrocephalus stentoreus (common). Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 25.

Up to 14 Pandion haliaetus have been recorded in winter, and the species is thought to breed in the area. Other wintering raptors have included Haliaeetus albicilla, Accipiter badius (up to 4), Neophron percnopterus (up to 27), Aquila heliaca, Falco cherrug and F. peregrinus. Chlamydotis undulata is a regular winter visitor to the plains of the nearby Dasht-i Ari, in flocks of up to 11 birds.

The avifauna of the lower Sarbaz valley is typical of the lowlands of Baluchistan, and has much stronger affinities with the Indo-malayan fauna than with the Palearctic. Characteristic species include Butastur teesa, Aquila rapax, Gyps bengalensis, Francolinus pondicerianus, Turnix sylvatica, Pterocles exustus, Athene brama, Caprimulgus mahrattensis, Dendrocopos assimilis, Calandrella raytal, Lanius vittatus, Saxicola caprata, Lonchura malabarica, Passer pyrrhonotus and Acridotheres tristis. At least 204 species of birds have been recorded in the Gandu (Bahu Kalat) Protected Area.

The Sarbaz River is noted for its thriving population of Marsh Crocodile or Mugger (Crocodylus porosus [erratum; correct is palustris]), the westernmost population of this South Asian species. Other fauna in the Protected Area include Desert Monitor (Varanus griseus), Common Indian Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsi), Palm Squirrel (Funambulus pennanti), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), Caracal (Lynx caracal), Leopard (Felis pardus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Chinkara Gazelle (Gazella dorcas bennetti), Persian Ibex (Capra hircus aegagrus) and Wild Sheep (Ovis ammon). The rare Baluchistan race of the Himalayan Black Bear (Selenarctos thibetanus) is believed to occur in the reserve.

Noteworthy flora: The large stand of Avicennia marina at the mouth of the Sarbaz River contains some of the largest mangrove trees in Iran.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1970 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and avifaunal surveys have been undertaken on several occasions at other times of the year. The Department of the Environment has also conducted some investigations on the Marsh Crocodile population and mammalian fauna. Simple accommodation facilities are available at Game Guard Stations in the Protected Area.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz (1974); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1975b, 1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b & 3c. The wetlands of the lower Sarbaz River and Khor Govater contain excellent examples of semi-permanent riverine wetlands and estuarine mudflat/mangrove ecosystems characteristic of southern Persian Baluchistan and adjacent Baluchistan Province of Pakistan. The wetlands support a diverse fauna and flora which is primarily Indo-Malayan in affinity, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The lower Sarbaz River supports a substantial population of Crocodylus porosus [erratum; correct is palustris], while Khor Govater supports a wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (both globally threatened species). One other threatened species, Aquila heliaca, occurs in winter. Khor Govater regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Phalacrocorax carbo, Larus hemprichii, L. genei, Sterna caspia and S. bergii during the migration seasons and in winter.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

 

REFERENCES

Anon. (1971). The Wetlands and Waterfowl of Iran. Game and Fish Department of Iran, Tehran. 45 pp.

Anon. (1992). An Action Programme for the Conservation of Wetlands in South and West Asia. Asian Wetland Bureau, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and IWRB, Slimbridge, U.K.

.Anstey, S. (1989). The status and conservation of the White-headed Duck, Oxyura leucocephala. IWRB Spec. Publ. 10. IWRB, Slimbridge, UK.

Archibald, G. & Landfried, S. (1993). Conservation measures for the Siberian Crane. In: Moser, M. & van Vessem, J. (eds), Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation in South and West Asia: 85-87. Proc. International Symposium, Karachi, Pakistan 14-20 December 1991. IWRB Special Publication No. 25. AWB Publication No. 85. IWRB, Slimbridge, U.K., & AWB, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Argyle, F.B. (1975a). Report on Bird-Ringing in Iran, 1970 to 1974. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 78 pp.

Argyle, F.B. (1975b). Waterfowl Ringing at Hara N.P. (Persian Gulf) and Lake Parishan (Fars); Khordad 1354 (June 1975). Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 10 pp.

Argyle, F.B. (1976a). Report on Bird Ringing in Iran, 1975. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 52 pp.

Argyle, F.B. (1976b). Hara N.P., Nakhilu Islands and Lake Parishan, 11-22 Tir 2535 (2-13 July 1976). Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 7 pp.

Argyle, F.B. (1976c). Report on the Field Trip to Lavan and Sheedvar Islands: 1-5 Tir 2535 (22-26 June 1976). Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 9 pp.

Argyle, F.B. (1977a). Khark and Kharku W.R., Persian Gulf, Avifaunal Survey and General Survey, 12-14 Tir 2536, 3-5 July 1977. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 6 pp.

Argyle, F.B. (1977b). Bird-ringing and Avifaunal Survey at Hara N.P. and Geno N.P., Coastal Province, 1-6 Tir 2536, 22-27 June 1977. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 5 pp.

Ashtiani, M.A. (1987). Siberian Crane as a Wintering Bird in Iran. In: Archibald, G.W. & Pasquier, R.F. (eds), Proc. 1983 International Crane Workshop, Bharatpur, India, February 1983: 135-137. International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Ashtiani-Zarandi, M.A. (1990). The current status of waterfowl and wetland conservation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In: Matthews, G.V.T. (ed.), Managing Waterfowl Populations: 81-83. Proc. IWRB Symp. Astrakhan 1989. IWRB Spec. Publ. No.12. Slimbridge, U.K.

van Beuningen, C.S., de Boer, I.J., de Joncheere, M.A. & van de Velde, Y.M.A. (1975). An analysis of the human use problem in the western part of the Mian Kaleh Protected Region. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 21 pp.

Carnie, S.K. (1973). Autumn observations of Peregrine Falcon on the Iranian Caspian littoral, 1972. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 30 pp.

Carp, E. (1972). Short notes on wintering waterfowl in Khuzestan and Fars, Iran: December 1971 - January 1972. IWRB Bulletin 33: 37-39.

Carp, E. (1980). A Directory of Western Palearctic Wetlands. UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya and IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. 506 pp.

Cornwallis, L. (1968a). Some Notes on the Wetlands of the Niriz Basin in S.W. Iran. In: Elliott, H.F.J. (ed.), Proc. Technical Meeting on Wetland Conservation, Ankara-Bursa-Istanbul, October 1967. IUCN Publications New Series No.12: 152-164.

Cornwallis, L. (1968b). A Report on the Wetlands and Waterfowl of Fars, S.W. Iran. Unpublished report. 32 pp.

Cornwallis, L. (1976). The Impact of the Mahabad Project on Lake Rezaiyeh and its Southern Satellite Wetlands together with Proposals for the Conservation of the Latter. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 11 pp.

Cornwallis, L. (1977). Surveys of the Birds of Sheedvar and Lavan Islands, Persian Gulf, in 2536 (1977). Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 10 pp.

Cornwallis, L. & Ferguson, D. (1970). A Review of Bird Ringing in Iran through 1969. Iran Game and Fish Department, Tehran, Iran. 49 pp.

Division of Research and Development (1972). Status of Wetlands of International Importance in Iran: 1970. In: Carp, E. (ed.), Proc. International Conference on Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl, Ramsar, Iran: 217-220. IWRB, Slimbridge.

Eetemad, E. (1986). Mammals of Iran. Vol. 2. Department of the Environment, Tehran.

Evans, M.I. (ed.) (1994). Important Bird Areas in the Middle East. BirdLife Conservation Series No.2. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K. 410 pp.

Farhadpour, H. (1987). Wintering Common Crane in Iran. In: Archibald, G.W. & Pasquier, R.F. (eds), Proc. 1983 International Crane Workshop, Bharatpur, India, February 1983: 301-304. International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Feeny, P.P., Arnold, R.W. & Bailey, R.S. (1968). Autumn migration in the south Caspian Region. Ibis 110: 35-86.

Ferguson, D.A. (1972). Waterfowl wintering, resting and breeding areas of the south-west Caspian lowlands. Wildfowl 23: 5-24.

Firouz, E. (1968). The Mordab of Pahlavi. In: Elliott, H.F.J. (ed.), Proc. Technical Meeting on Wetland Conservation, Ankara-Bursa-Istanbul, October 1967. IUCN Publications New Series No.12: 239-241.

Firouz, E. (1974). Environment Iran. Nat. Soc. Conservation of Natural Resources and Human Environment, Tehran, Iran. 51 pp.

Firouz, E. & Ferguson, D. (1970a). Status of the Species of Wildfowl Occurring in Iran. In: Isakov, Y.A. (ed.), Proc. Int. Regional Meeting on Conservation of Wildfowl Resources, Leningrad 1968: 185-188. Moscow.

Firouz, E. & Ferguson, D. (1970b). Status of the Main Wildfowl Resorts in Iran. In: Isakov, Y.A. (ed.), Proc. Int. Regional Meeting on Conservation of Wildfowl Resources, Leningrad 1968: 325-327. Moscow.

Firouz, E. & Harrington, F. (1976). Iran: concepts of biotic community conservation. In: Proc. International Meeting on Ecological Guidelines for the Use of Natural Resources in the Middle East and SW Asia. Persepolis, Iran, 24-30 May 1975. IUCN Occasional Paper No.15. IUCN, Morges, Switzerland.

Firouz, E., Hassinger, J.D. & Ferguson, D.A. (1970). The Wildlife Parks and Protected Regions of Iran. Biological Conservation 3: 37-45.

Fotoohi, H. (1974). Management of Selke Protected Region. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 3 pp.

Fotoohi, H. & Scott, D.A. (1975). The White Stork Census in Iran 1353 : 1974. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 18 pp.

Gallagher, M.D., Scott, D.A., Ormond, R.F.G., Connor, R.J. & Jennings, M.C. (1984). The Distribution and Conservation of Seabirds Breeding on the Coasts and Islands of Iran and Arabia. In: Croxall, J.P., Evans, P.G.H. & Schreiber, R.W. (eds.), Status and Conservation of the World's Seabirds: 421-456. ICBP Technical Publication No.2. ICBP, Cambridge, U.K.

Green, A.J. (1993). The Status and Conservation of the Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris. IWRB Special Publication No.23. 107 pp.

Gretton, A. (1991). The Ecology and Conservation of the Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris). ICBP Monograph No.6. ICBP, Cambridge, U.K.

Groombridge, B. (ed.). (1993). 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. IUCN, Cambridge, U.K. and Gland, Switzerland. 286 pp.

Harrington, F.A. Jr. (1976a). Iran: wildlife research as a basis for management. In: Proc. International Meeting on Ecological Guidelines for the Use of Natural Resources in the Middle East and SW Asia. Persepolis, Iran, 24-30 May 1975. IUCN Occasional Paper No.15. IUCN, Morges, Switzerland.

Harrington, F.A. Jr. (1976b). Iran, Surveys of the Southern Iranian Coastline with Recommendations for Additional Marine Reserves. In: Promotion of the Establishment of Marine Parks and Reserves in the Northern Indian Ocean including the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Proc. Regional Meeting, Tehran, Iran, March 1975. IUCN Publications new series No.35: 50-75.

Harrington, F.A. Jr. (1977). A Guide to the Mammals of Iran. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 89 pp.

Harrington, F.A. Jr. & Scott, D.A. (1972). Mian Kaleh Development. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 30 pp.

Howell, D. (1976). Selke Wildlife Refuge Management Proposal. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 4 pp.

IUCN (1992). Protected Areas of the World: A review of national systems. Volume 2: Palaearctic. IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K. 556 pp.

Loffler, H. (1959). Beitrage zur Kenntnis der Iranischen Binnengewasser I. Der Nirizsee und sein Einzugsgebiet. Int. Rev. Hydrobiol. 44.

Loffler, H. (1961). Beitrage zur Kenntnis der Iranischen Binnengewasser II. Regional-limnologische Studie mit besonderer Berucksichtigung der Crustaceenfauna. Int. Rev. Hydrobiol. 46: 309-406.

Loffler, H. (1968). The Hydrobiology of Lake Niriz, Iran. In: Elliott, H.F.J. (ed.), Proc. Technical Meeting on Wetland Conservation, Ankara-Bursa-Istanbul, October 1967. IUCN Publications New Series No.12: 141-152.

Mansoori, J. (1984). National Report of Iran. In: Proc. Second Conference of the Parties, Groningen, Netherlands, 7-12 May 1984: 345-352. Ramsar Convention Bureau, Gland, Switzerland.

Mansoori, J. (compiler). (1995). New Check-list of Birds of Iran. Department of the Environment, Tehran.

Matthews, G.V.T. (1973). The improvement of the Mian Kaleh Protected Region for Waterfowl. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 19 pp.

Monavari, S.M. (1988). Ecology, Biology and Economic Values of Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis in Iran. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran.

Motalebbi-Pour, S.A. (1993). A report on the Wetland Inventory Project in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In: Moser, M. & van Vessem, J. (eds), Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation in South and West Asia: 29. Proc. International Symposium, Karachi, Pakistan 14-20 December 1991. IWRB Special Publication No. 25. AWB Publication No. 85. IWRB, Slimbridge, U.K., & AWB, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Nielsen, B.P. (1969). Further spring observations on the birds of Gilan, northern Iran. Dansk Ornith. Foren. Tidsskr. 63: 50-73.

Nielsen, B.P. & Speyer, H.J. (1967). Some observations of birds in northern Iran. Dansk Ornith. Foren. Tidsskr. 61: 30-39.

Perennou, C., Mundkur, T., Scott, D.A., Follestad, A. & Kvenild, L. (1994). The Asian Waterfowl Census 1987-91: Distribution and Status of Asian Waterfowl. AWB Publication No.86. IWRB Publication No.24. AWB, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and IWRB, Slimbridge, U.K. 372 pp.

Petocz, R.G., Rodenburg, W.F. & Habibi, K. (1976). The Birds of Hamoun-i-Puzak observed from 27 February to 2 March 1976. Cyclostyled report. Wildlife Conservation Project, AFG/74/016. FAO, Kabul, Afghanistan. 5 pp.

Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993). Iran. In: Directory of Wetlands of International Importance: Sites Designated for the List of Wetlands of International Importance. Prepared by IWRB for the Ramsar Convention Bureau, Gland, Switzerland.

Riazi, B. (undated). Siah-keshim: the Protected Area of Anzali Mordab. Department of the Environment, Tehran. 98 pp. (In Farsi with English Abstract).

Savage, C.D.W. (1963). Wildfowling in Northern Iran. Wildfowl Trust 14th Annual Report.

Savage, C.D.W. (1964). Lake Rezaiyeh: a specialized summer habitat for Shelduck and Flamingos. Wildfowl Trust 15th Annual Report: 108-113.

Savage, C.D.W. (1968). Notes on secondary productivity in the Lake Rezaiyeh ecosystem in Iran. In: Elliott, H.F.J. (ed.), Proc. Technical Meeting on Wetland Conservation, Ankara-Bursa-Istanbul, October 1967. IUCN Publications New Series No.12: 190-195.

Savage, C.D.W. & Firouz, E. (1968). The wildfowl and wetland situation in Iran. In: Elliott, H.F.J. (ed.), Proc. Technical Meeting on Wetland Conservation, Ankara-Bursa-Istanbul, October 1967. IUCN Publications New Series No.12: 115-119.

Scott, D.A. (1972a). Preliminary survey of the birds of Sheedvar Island Protected Region, Persian Gulf. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 15 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1972b). Proposal for the establishment of a Waterfowl Refuge at Shadegan Marshes in Khuzestan. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 26 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1973a). Some Notes on the Bakhtegan Protected Region, Fars. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 7 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1973b). Pelican and Flamingo ringing, and aerial censusing at Lake Rezaiyeh, Azarbaijan; August 1973. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 10 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1973c). Recent wetland surveys and wildfowl counts at Dasht-i Arjan and Lake Parishan; with a preliminary check-list of the birds of the Arjan International Reserve. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 10 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1975a). Mid-winter waterfowl counts in the wetlands of the Seistan Basin: 1970-75. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 7 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1975b). The Avifauna of the southern coast of Iran. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 10 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1975c). The Greater Flamingo in Iran. In: Kear, J. & Duplaix-Hall, N. (eds), Flamingos: 28-32. Poyser, Berkhamsted.

Scott, D.A. (1976a). A List of the Wetlands of Iran. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 34 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1976b). The Avifauna of the Department's Reserves. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 20 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1976c). Iran National Report. In: Smart, M. (ed.), Proc. International Conference on Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl, Heiligenhafen, Germany, 2-6 December 1974: 27-33. IWRB, Slimbridge, U.K.

Scott, D.A. (1976d). A Summary of Mid-winter Wildfowl Counts in Iran 1345 to 1353 (1966/67 to 1974/75) inclusive. Internal report. Department of the Environment, Tehran, Iran. 15 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1978a). Colonial Breeding Birds in Iran. Unpublished report. 6 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1978b). The Birds of the Seistan Basin, Iran. Unpublished report. 12 pp.

Scott, D.A. (1980). Status and distribution of Cranes in Iran and some observations in Iraq. In: Lewis, J.C. & Masatomi, H. (eds), Crane Research around the World: 70-72. International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Scott, D.A. (1993). Wetlands of West Asia - A regional overview. In: Moser, M. & van Vessem, J. (eds), Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation in South and West Asia: 9-22. Proc. International Symposium, Karachi, Pakistan 14-20 December 1991. IWRB Special Publication No. 25. AWB Publication No. 85. IWRB, Slimbridge, U.K., & AWB, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Scott, D.A. & Carp, E. (1972). A Survey in Khuzestan, Iran. In: Carp, E. (ed.), Proc. International Conference on Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl, Ramsar, Iran: 292-298. IWRB, Slimbridge.

Scott, D.A., Hamadani, H.M. & Mirhosseyni, A.A. (1975). The Birds of Iran. Dept. of the Environment, Tehran. 410 pp. (In Farsi).

Scott, D.A. & Smart, M. (1992). Wetlands of the Seistan Basin, South Caspian and Fars, Islamic Republic of Iran. Ramsar Convention Monitoring Procedure Report No.26. Ramsar Convention Bureau, Gland, Switzerland. 53 pp.

Summers, R.W., Underhill, L.G., Pearson, D.J. & Scott, D.A. (1987). Wader migration systems in southern and eastern Africa and western Asia. Wader Study Group Bulletin No.49 Supplement and IWRB Special Publication No.7: 15-34.

Ticehurst, C.B., Cox, P.Z. & Cheesman, R.E. (1925). Birds of the Persian Gulf Islands. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. December 1925: 1-9.

UNEP/IUCN (1988). Coral Reefs of the World. Volume 2: Indian Ocean, Red Sea and Gulf. UNEP Regional Seas Directories and Bibliographies. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K./UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya. 389 pp.

Vahedi, M. (1982). Iran National Report. In: Spagnesi, M. (ed.), Proc. Conference on the Conservation of Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, Cagliari, Italy, 24-29 November 1980. Supplemento alle Ricerche di Biologia della Selvaggina. Vol.III (1): 741-747.

WCMC (1990). Iran. In: Directory of Wetlands of International Importance: Sites Designated for the List of Wetlands of International Importance: 310-337. Prepared by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre for the Ramsar Convention Bureau, Gland, Switzerland.

Zohary, M. (1973). Geobotanical foundations of the Middle East. 2 Vols. Stuttgart, Germany. pp. 738.


 [Appendix]     

A Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East

ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN

 

INTRODUCTION

by Jamshid Mansoori

[go to site descriptions]

Area: 1,648,195 sq.km.

Population: 58,206,250 (1992 census).

The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the largest countries in Southwest Asia, with a land area almost equal to that of Italy, Spain, France and the British Isles combined. It is bounded to the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, and to the west by Iraq and Turkey. Altitudes range from 26 metres below sea-level on the shores of the Caspian to 5,774 m at the summit of Mount Damavand, an almost perfect volcanic cone in the central Alborz Mountains near Tehran.

Approximately 60% of Iran is classified as desert and semi-desert, and over half of the country is mountainous, with ranges oriented more or less parallel to its international borders. The Alborz Mountains run from west to east across the north of the country, and the Zagros Mountains from northwest to southeast along its western borders. The Alborz Mountains, with their eastern extensions, and the Zagros Mountains which merge into the Mekran Range in the southeast, form a giant supine "V" which encloses the vast and roughly triangular area constituting Iran's central plateau. This arid plateau, which continues eastward into Afghanistan and Pakistan, has an average elevation of 1,200-1,300 m above sea level, and comprises a number of salt basins and sand deserts including the Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert) and the Dasht-e Lut (Great Sand Desert). There are also many isolated chains of mountains within the central plateau, running mostly parallel to the Zagros Mountains.

Geographically, the Iranian plateau dates from the Tertiary period, although older formations exist in many areas. Severe orogenic uplift and folding produced much of this land from an enormous sea in the mid-Miocene. Due to their comparatively young ages, the principal mountain ranges are still settling, and this seems to be one of the causes of the earthquakes that frequently rock the country.

Climatic differences are great. Much of the country has a desert climate with an average annual precipitation of less than 300 mm, but some parts of the Caspian lowlands and north slope of the Alborz Mountains receive as much as 2,000 mm of rainfall. Summers are generally warm to hot with almost continuous sunshine, while winters can be extremely cold, with cold airstreams blowing from the northeast. Mean January temperatures range from 20C along the Gulf of Oman coast in the southeast to minus 2C in northwestern Iran, while extreme temperatures range from a maximum of 53C in the south to minus 38C in the extreme northwest.

Iran may be divided into four main physiographic regions: the Caspian region; the central plateau; the Zagros and associated ranges; and the southern coastal lowlands (Firouz, 1974). The Caspian region comprises a humid region of comparatively high precipitation, ranging from 2,000 mm in Gilan in the west to about 500 mm in Gorgan in the east, and with the rainfall more evenly distributed throughout the year than elsewhere in the country. The northern slopes of the Alborz Mountains overlooking the Caspian Sea receive some of the highest rainfall in the country, and support dense deciduous forest. To the south of the Alborz, the arid central plateau extends eastward from the Zagros Mountains in the west to the border with Afghanistan in the east. The high mountain barriers in the north and west exclude the moisture-bearing clouds from the Caspian and Mediterranean regions, resulting in low annual precipitation ranging from a maximum of about 350 mm to a minimum of less than 40 mm.

The complex Zagros Mountains, which form the western and southern borders of the central plateau, extend approximately 1,770 km from the Turkish border southeastward to the province of Baluchistan in extreme southeastern Iran. In their higher parts, these mountains rise to elevations of between 3,000 and 4,600 m. Annual precipitation decreases from west to east and from north to south, ranging from about 1,000 mm in the northwest to as little as 200 mm in the southeast. Much of this region was formerly characterized by a climax woodland of two main types: a forest dominated by evergreen oaks Quercus spp. at higher elevations, and a steppe-forest composed of pistachio Pistacia spp. and almond Amygdalus spp. trees at lower elevations. Dry farming has been practised in the Zagros for many millennia and this, together with the cutting of wood for fuel, has been instrumental in the disappearance of a major part of the woodland. Large tracts of woodland now survive only in some of the remoter areas of the high Zagros and on certain isolated mountain ranges on the southern edge of the central plateau.

The narrow coastal plain along the shores of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman is characterized by open park-like stands of Acacia, Prosopis and Tamarix and extensive date-palm groves. Annual precipitation ranges from 100 to 300 mm, mostly falling between November and April, although in the extreme southeast, the southwest monsoon occasionally brings some rain in late summer. In the extreme southwest, the Mesopotamian lowlands extend into Iran in Khuzestan Province, and here, along the major rivers, there are still some remnants of the once extensive riverine thickets of Populus euphraticus and Tamarix spp.

Iran possesses an extremely diverse fauna and flora, partly because of its

great range of habitats - from permanent snows to deep deserts and from lush deciduous forests in the north to palm groves and mangroves in the south - and partly because of its position at a crossroads between three major faunal regions. The greater part of the country is situated in the Palearctic Region, with typically Western Palearctic species predominating throughout the northwest, west and central parts of the country and some typically Eastern Palearctic species extending into northeastern Iran in the highlands of Khorasan. In southern Iran, two other faunal regions have a pronounced influence: the Indo-malayan Region in the southeast, and the Afro-tropical Region in the extreme southwest. About 125 species of mammals (Harrington, 1977; Eetemad, 1986) and 500 species of birds (Scott et al., 1975; Mansoori, 1995) have been recorded, while at least 270 species of fish (including 33 endemic species) are known from the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea. A recent check-list records over 1,000 species of fish as being known to occur or potentially occurring in Iranian fresh and salt waters.

Botanically, Iran forms a bridge between four major phyto-geological regions: the Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian, Euro-Siberian and Sudanian (Zohary, 1973). It is also one of the largest speciation centres of the Holarctic desert flora, with Irano-Turanian species predominating. The total number of plant species present has been variously estimated at between seven thousand and ten thousand, about 20% of which are endemic.

Approximately 11.5% of Iran's land area is under cultivation, with wheat, rice and tobacco being the principal crops. Wheat is grown mostly in the uplands in the west and northwest, while rice and tobacco are grown mainly in the Caspian lowlands. Other crops include barley, sugar-beet, cotton, dates, raisins and tea. Over much of the arid interior of the country, the principal farming activity is livestock raising, especially sheep and goats. The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the world's largest oil producers, and much of the economy is based on the petroleum industry. The country has rich mineral resources, including iron ore, copper, manganese, chromite, coal and salt, and has an important textile industry. Other industries include sugar-refining, food processing and the production of petrochemicals, iron and steel, cement and building materials. Traditional handicrafts, notably carpets, also play an important role in the economy.

Summary of Wetland Situation

Although much of Iran is extremely dry, the country possesses a great diversity of wetland ecosystems, most of which can be grouped into six major systems: the wetlands of the south Caspian lowlands in Gilan and Mazandaran Provinces in the north; the wetlands of the Uromiyeh Basin in Azarbayjan Province in the northwest; the wetlands of Khuzestan Province in the southwest; the wetlands of central Fars Province in the southern Zagros; the wetlands of the Sistan Basin on the border with Afghanistan in the east; and the wetlands along the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman coasts in the south.

The wetlands of Gilan and Mazandaran comprise an almost unbroken chain of freshwater lakes and marshes, brackish lagoons, irrigation ponds and rice paddies stretching for some 700 km along the shores of the Caspian Sea from the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan in the west to the border with Turkmenistan in the east. Two of the most important wetlands in these lowlands are Anzali Mordab in the west and the Gorgan Bay/Miankaleh complex in the east. The former comprises a complex of shallow, freshwater lakes with extensive reed-beds and surrounding flood-meadows, while the latter is a large shallow brackish lagoon with extensive seasonally flooded sedge marshes and tamarisk thickets, almost completely cut off from the Caspian Sea by the 60 km long Miankaleh Peninsula.

One of the most important types of wetland in the south Caspian lowlands is the "ab-bandan", a small, man-made reservoir or flooded rice paddy with a luxuriant growth of underwater vegetation. These shallow wetlands, varying in size from 3 ha to 1,000 ha, provide excellent feeding and roosting areas for large numbers of migratory waterfowl. Most were originally built as temporary water storage areas to provide water for irrigation during the dry summer months. However, many also serve as private reserves for duck-trapping during the winter months; some have been built specifically for this purpose, and as such are jealously guarded. In the late 1950s, Savage (1963) estimated that there were some 400 ab-bandans in Mazandaran alone, covering about 11,000 ha. Recent surveys by personnel from the Department of the Environment have revealed that there are still about 115 ab-bandans and "damgah" (ponds created specially for duck-trapping) in Gilan and Mazandaran, totalling some 10,000 ha. Although these ab-bandans represent only a small proportion of the total wetland habitat in the south Caspian, they comprise a very important component of the habitat available for waterfowl because they embrace some of the richest feeding habitats in the region, and provide undisturbed areas where waterfowl can rest during the day. The construction of large dams on the main rivers at some time in the future would render many of the ab-bandans obsolete for irrigation purposes, and could lead to their conversion to agricultural land, very much to the detriment of wintering waterfowl. In recognition of this potential threat, the maintenance and preservation of ab-bandans has become an important part of the Department of the Environment's programme of wetland conservation in the south Caspian region.

The Uromiyeh Basin in the highlands of Azarbayjan in northwestern Iran includes a number of important wetlands centred on Lake Uromiyeh itself, a vast, shallow, hypersaline lake of some 483,000 ha with numerous small islands and spectacular breeding colonies of White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) and many other species of waterfowl. Although the lake is too saline to support any plants or animals other than the alga Enteromorpha and the brine shrimp Artemia, the numerous small fresh and brackish water lakes and marshes along the rivers which enter the lake support abundant aquatic vegetation and are very rich in wildlife.

In extreme southwestern Iran, three large rivers rising in the Zagros Mountains (the Karun, Dez and Kharkeh) flow out onto the plains of Khuzestan and create a vast complex of seasonal floodplain wetlands which extend southward to the head of the Gulf. In the west, these wetlands are contiguous with the great floodplain wetlands of lower Mesopotamia in Iraq. The most important wetland in this region is Shadegan Marshes, some 290,000 ha of seasonally flooded sedge marsh and brackish lagoons adjacent to the extensive intertidal mudflats at the head of the Gulf. Other similar, but much smaller, floodplain wetlands occur further south along the Gulf coast, notably in the delta of the Helleh River near Bushire.

Near the eastern end of the Zagros Mountains in central Fars Province, there is a group of large wetlands set in broad valleys between rugged mountain ranges. These wetlands include freshwater lakes and marshes, such as Dasht-e Arjan and the Haftbarm Lakes, and brackish to saline lakes with extensive brackish marshes, such as Parishan, Maharloo, Bakhtegan and Tashk. Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk (together known as the Neiris Lakes) are fed by the Kur River; during years of heavy rainfall they unite to form a single lake of about 108,000 ha. In most years, however, the water surface is much less than this, and the two lakes are surrounded by extensive bare salt flats.

In the Sistan Basin, on the border between Iran and Afghanistan, there is a vast complex of freshwater lakes with extensive reed-beds which at times of peak flooding can cover over 200,000 ha. These wetlands are unusual in that although the three main lakes, Hamoun-i Puzak, Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand, lie within an internal drainage basin, they are predominantly freshwater. The system is fed by the Hirmand River, which rises in the Hindu Kush in northern Afghanistan. During long periods of drought, as occurred throughout the late 1960s and again in the 1980s, the Hirmand supplies sufficient water to flood only the uppermost of the lakes, the Hamoun-i Puzak, which lies almost entirely within Afghanistan. However, during years of unusually heavy rainfall, as occurred in the late 1970s and again in 1990, the floodwaters of the Hirmand sweep through all three lakes and overflow into a vast salt waste to the southeast, flushing the salts out of the system in the process.

Each of these five major regions comprises a complex of large and small lakes and marshes, providing a wide diversity of habitat types and supporting a rich and diverse flora. Phragmites reed-beds are characteristic of many of the wetlands, and are particularly extensive at Anzali Mordab in the southwest Caspian, in the Hamoun wetlands in the Sistan Basin, at Dasht-e Arjan and Lake Parishan in Fars, and at several of the wetlands in the Uromiyeh Basin in Azarbayjan. The reed-beds are highly productive, and provide breeding habitat for many species of waterfowl. The reeds are traditionally used for thatching, especially in Gilan, Mazandaran and Sistan, where reeds are harvested on a large scale not only for local use but also for export to other parts of the country for roofing materials and mat-making.

The sixth major wetland system in Iran comprises the numerous tidal creeks and large areas of intertidal mudflats and mangrove swamps along Iran's 2,000 km of coastline on the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Mangroves are at the extreme limit of their distribution in the southern Gulf, and comprise only a single species, Avicennia marina. Harrington (1976b) gives a detailed description of mangrove distribution in Iran, and estimates the total area of mangrove at 8,900 ha. Much the largest of the mangrove/mudflats ecosystems is found in the Khouran Straits north of Qeshm Island, where there are some 100,000 ha of low-lying islands, mangroves, mudflats and creeks. Further east, along the Gulf of Oman coast in Persian Baluchistan, offshore depths increase to over 50 m and the coastline has extensive sand dunes, long sandy beaches and stretches of sea-cliffs interrupted at intervals by large creek systems with extensive mangroves and mudflats. Where the sublittoral has hard substrates, coral reefs and seagrass beds appear. The large bays at Pozm and Chahbahar in the east lie in a region with an extremely rich and diverse marine fauna.

There are seven large offshore islands in the eastern Gulf, Qeshm, Hormoz, Larak, Hengam, Kish, Henderabi and Lavan, as well as many smaller islands and islets, some of which are extremely important for breeding sea-birds and marine turtles. All of the larger islands are rocky and sparsely populated, and the easternmost are surrounded by substantial coral reefs. The little information available on Iran's coral reefs has been summarized by UNEP/IUCN (1988).

The desert interior of Iran is almost completely surrounded by a ring of high mountain ranges, the source of numerous perennial and seasonal rivers which flow down into the interior deserts and are eventually lost in great salt wastes such as the Dasht-e Kavir in the north and the Hamoun-i Jaz Murian in the south. Some of the larger rivers terminate in extensive brackish and saline lakes, such as Gavekhoni Lake at the mouth of the Zaindeh Rud in Isfahan Province. In years of high rainfall, such wetlands may remain flooded throughout the year. Elsewhere in the country, there are various isolated small lakes, spring-fed pools and seasonal marshes, particularly in the west, west-central and northwest, many of which support a diverse aquatic flora and fauna, and some of which may, at certain times of the year, be important for migratory waterfowl.

The wetlands of Iran constitute vital staging and wintering areas for millions of migratory waterfowl using the West Siberian-Caspian-East African and Central Siberian-Indus-South Asian flyways, and also support large breeding populations of many species. Several million waterfowl utilize the wetlands as wintering habitat, while perhaps as many birds again use the wetlands as staging areas on their way to and from wintering areas further to the southwest or southeast. The wetlands of Iran are very important for seven species of birds listed as globally threatened in the 1994 IUCN List of Threatened Animals (Groombridge, 1993), namely Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus), Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus), Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala), White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus). A further four threatened species formerly occurred in significant numbers, but are now only scarce passage migrants or vagrants, namely Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis), Pallas' Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), Sociable Plover (Chettusia gregaria) and Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris). The status of three of the globally threatened species, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Oxyura leucocephala and Numenius tenuirostris, within Iran and throughout their world ranges has recently been summarized by Green (1993), Anstey (1989) and Gretton (1991), respectively.

In many parts of Iran, the level of exploitation of wetlands is high. Floodplain wetlands, river banks and lake shores are utilized for the cultivation of cereals, rice or vegetables, while the rivers and lakes themselves support intensive freshwater fisheries. The wetlands provide vital sources of water for domestic and industrial consumption, and constitute natural water storage reservoirs which can be utilized for irrigation purposes. Many of the larger rivers have been dammed to provide the means for generating hydro-electricity, while some of the inland salt lakes are exploited as an abundant source of various salts. Reeds are widely used for thatching and weaving purposes or as fuel, and in the vast reed-beds of the Sistan Basin, marsh-dwelling communities were until recently almost totally dependent on reeds for their construction needs. Large numbers of domestic livestock, particularly cattle and water buffalo, are allowed to graze on wetland vegetation, and in some areas, aquatic plants are harvested to provide fodder during the winter months.

Waterfowl hunting occurs at wetlands throughout Iran. Sport hunting is common, and occurs on a large scale at wetlands near the larger cities. In many rural areas, however, waterfowl are shot, netted or trapped primarily for their meat value. In the south Caspian lowlands in particular, enormous numbers of waterbirds are harvested on a commercial basis, and provide a livelihood for hundreds of people. Savage (1963) has given an early account of waterfowl hunting in the south Caspian region. He studied waterfowl hunting in northern Iran between 1957 and 1959, and concluded that over 1,200,000 ducks were being killed annually in Gilan and Mazandaran during an average season. The principal method of capture at that time was by means of a net, gong and flare at night. Mist-nests and clap-nets sited at pools to which ducks were attracted by trained decoy-ducks were also widely used, as were long flight nets. Shooting, although increasing, accounted for only about 9% of the kill in 1957-59. A survey of duck hunting in the south Caspian region in the early 1970s, conducted by personnel from the Department of the Environment, suggested that the annual harvest of ducks and coots may have been as high as three million birds. Use of the traditional net, gong and flare technique and clap-netting were still widespread, but shooting and flight-netting had increased considerably since the 1950s. Between the 1970s and the early 1990s, the number of waterfowl wintering in the south Caspian region fell dramatically, almost certainly as a result of the excessive hunting pressure, and the annual harvest, although still high, is now well below the 1970s levels.

Wetlands in Iran, as elsewhere in the region, are increasingly coming under pressure from man's activities. Undoubtedly the most serious threats to wetlands have been the drainage and "reclamation" of wetlands for agriculture, industry and urban development, and diversion of water supplies for irrigation purposes. Flood control projects and irrigation schemes on the Hirmand River in Afghanistan have considerably affected the wetlands of the Sistan Basin, especially during years of below average rainfall. Increased siltation is becoming a problem at some wetlands, as deforestation and overgrazing in the water catchment areas lead to severe soil erosion, increased silt loads in the rivers and flash-flooding. Such problems are especially serious in the south Caspian lowlands; the wetlands of the Anzali Mordab complex, in particular, are threatened by increased rates of siltation and accelerated eutrophication. Most of Iran's major rivers have been dammed to permit the generation of hydro-electricity and to provide water for irrigation purposes, industrial use and domestic consumption. Because of soil erosion in the catchment areas, many of the dams have silted up much more rapidly than was anticipated, with consequent loss in water storage capacity and greatly reduced value for water supply and generation of electricity. In the 1970s, increased coastal erosion in the delta of the Sefid Rud in the south Caspian was attributed to a reduction in the amount of silt reaching the delta following the construction of a large dam upstream in the Alborz Mountains. At some wetlands, especially in the Sistan Basin, heavy grazing of marsh vegetation by domestic livestock is inhibiting natural plant succession, and is causing permanent damage to aquatic plant communities as the highly palatable species are grazed to extinction. This degradation of wetland vegetation and the introduction of exotic fish species have had a detrimental effect on some of the native freshwater fishes. Some of the mangrove communities in the Persian Gulf have also been degraded by excessive utilization for fuelwood and fodder, and over-grazing by camels. Many wetlands, especially those downstream of large urban centres and major farming areas, have been polluted with domestic sewage, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, industrial effluents and other waste products, and some of Iran's coastal wetlands and inshore waters are now badly polluted. The petrochemical industry in the Persian Gulf continues to pose a number of threats to the environment, not least pollution. The movement of oil tankers through the Gulf presents a continued threat to marine life and to the increasingly important Gulf fisheries.

One of the major environmental threats to wetlands in southwestern Iran during the 1980s came from the consequences of the prolonged military conflict between Iran and Iraq. In 1983, the Nowruz oil field in the Persian Gulf northwest of Kharg Island was damaged, resulting in severe pollution of the sea by oil and gas leakage. The very important Shadegan Marshes and tidal mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa (a Ramsar Site) in Khuzestan and Lake Zaribar in Kurdistan were also damaged during the war, particularly because of the use of chemical weapons by Iraq. The Gulf War in 1990-91 seems to have had much less of an impact on wetlands in Iran. At the invitation of the Iranian Government, a Japanese mission visited Iran in July and August 1991 to assess the environmental impact of the Gulf War on Iran's Gulf coast. This mission investigated the Gulf coast from Khuzestan to Bushire and Kharg Island, but was unable to find any direct evidence of damage to wildlife populations from oil spills. However, air pollution from the burning oil wells in Kuwait is reported to have damaged vegetation at some of the wetlands in Khuzestan, and this problem is still being investigated.

Despite the high human pressures on wetland resources and increasing demand for more land for agriculture, there have been relatively few major losses of wetland habitat in Iran in recent decades. Locally, losses have been severe, especially in the wetlands of Khuzestan in the southwest and in the Hamoun wetlands in the Sistan Basin. However, in most regions of the country, many of the wetlands remain in relatively good condition. This is due in large part to the active policy of wetland conservation pursued by the Government of Iran since the late 1960s, and the establishment of an effective network of protected areas which includes many of the country's most important wetlands.

The first protected area incorporating a major wetland (Lake Uromiyeh) was established in 1967 by the Iran Game and Fish Department, later to become the Department of the Environment. By the end of 1991, the system of protected areas in Iran included seven National Parks, 23 Wildlife Refuges, 43 Protected Areas and four National Nature Monuments, totalling at least 8,041,265 ha and covering over 4.8% of the country. Wetlands figure prominently in this network of reserves. One of the National Parks, nine of the Wildlife Refuges and ten of the Protected Areas were established primarily to protect wetland ecosystems, while a further two Protected Areas and a Wildlife Refuge incorporate important wetland habitat. These 23 reserves are listed in Table 1. Of the 63 internationally important wetlands described in this inventory, no less than 20 are now wholly or partly included within reserves. In the mid-1970s, it was estimated that between 40% and 75% of all ducks, geese, swans and coots wintering in Iran did so within protected areas, and with increased levels of disturbance at unprotected wetlands in recent years, this proportion may now be considerably higher.

Wetland Research

A great deal of information is available on the wetlands of Iran, particularly with respect to their importance for birds. Early accounts of the wetlands and their waterfowl were provided by Savage (1964), Firouz (1968), Savage and Firouz (1968) and Firouz and Ferguson (1970a, 1970b). The wetlands of Gilan Province in the southwest Caspian were described in some detail by Ferguson (1972). Information available up to the end of 1970 was summarized in a small booklet on the wetlands and waterfowl of Iran produced by the Game and Fish Department for distribution at the International Conference on Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl held in Ramsar, Iran, in January and February 1971 (Anon, 1971).

As a Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention, the Islamic Republic of Iran has presented a considerable amount of information on its major wetlands and conservation activities at the Conferences of the Parties to the Convention and at related international wetland meetings (e.g. Ashtiani-Zarandi, 1990; Division of Research and Development, 1972; Mansoori, 1984; Scott, 1976c; Vahedi, 1982). Information on the 18 wetlands of international importance designated by Iran for inclusion in the Ramsar List has been published in successive editions of A Directory of Wetlands of International Importance (most recently in WCMC, 1990, and Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1993). The 18 Ramsar sites have also been described in some detail by Carp (1980) in A Directory of Western Palearctic Wetlands. A recent inventory of Important Bird Areas in the Middle East, sponsored by BirdLife International, describes 105 sites of special importance for bird conservation in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Evans, 1994). These include all of the 63 wetlands of international importance identified in the present inventory, as well as a number of smaller wetlands of only national or regional importance.

Iran was the first country in the Middle East to carry out a national wetlands inventory. This was undertaken by personnel of the Department of the Environment during the early 1970s, and identified a total of 286 wetlands, 33 of which were considered to be of international importance (Scott, 1976a & 1976c). In 1990, the Department of the Environment launched a major project to update the wetland inventory and to describe the key wetlands in Iran, which special attention being given to aquatic plants, waterbirds and mammals. During the first phase of the project (1990-1994), some 58 of the most important wetlands were investigated (Motalebbi-Pour, 1993).

Much of the information on the importance of Iran's wetlands for waterfowl has been derived from mid-winter waterfowl counts. Annual mid-winter counts were initiated by the Game and Fish Department in 1966/67, and have been continued ever since, except for a gap of one year (1979) during the revolution. Initially, counts were confined to the south Caspian region, but in early 1970, coverage was extended to the wetlands of Azarbayjan, Fars and Sistan. The important wetlands of Khuzestan were counted for the first time in February 1971, as were some of the wetlands along the coast of the Persian Gulf and Persian Baluchistan. Small fixed-winged aircraft were used for censusing waterfowl at the huge and otherwise largely inaccessible wetlands of Khuzestan, Fars and Sistan from 1973 to 1976, and the entire south coast of Iran was surveyed from the air in the winters of 1973/74 and 1974/75. The overall coverage of the mid-winter waterfowl counts was considered to be very good at this time, with between 160 and 300 sites being covered each winter (Scott, 1976d). In an effort to obtain a better understanding of waterfowl movements within Iran during the course of the winter, nationwide counts of waterfowl were also carried out during the month of November in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Also during the early 1970s, breeding season surveys were undertaken at all wetlands in Iran which were thought likely to be important for breeding waterfowl. These surveys included several aerial censuses of the huge breeding colonies of Greater Flamingo, White Pelican and other waterfowl at Lake Uromiyeh, and boat surveys to islands in the Persian Gulf known or thought to be important for breeding sea-birds. Estimates of the wintering and breeding populations of waterfowl and sea-birds in Iran, based on surveys undertaken between 1970 and 1976, are given in Table 2.

Aircraft ceased to become available for waterfowl counts in 1977, and for a few years immediately following the revolution, the mid-winter counts occurred at a greatly reduced level. However, some 40 sites were being counted annually by the mid-1980s, and since then the number of sites counted has increased rapidly to levels comparable with those achieved in the early 1970s. Thus, over 100 sites were counted in January 1988, 124 in January 1992 and 153 sites in January 1994. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to carry out any aerial counts in recent years, and since effective coverage of many of the vast wetlands in central and southern Iran can only be achieved from the air, direct comparison between some of the count data from the early 1970s and count data from the early 1990s remains difficult (Perennou et al., 1994).

In 1966, the Game and Fish Department initiated a duck-banding programme in the south Caspian region, and in 1970, banding activities were extended to include Greater Flamingos at the Lake Uromiyeh colony. In the early 1970s, the Department of the Environment established a national bird-banding scheme, with its own rings bearing a Tehran address. Banding activities were rapidly expanded to take in a wide variety of waterfowl, notably White Pelicans and gulls (Larus spp.) at Lake Uromiyeh, Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) in Gilan, herons and egrets (Ardeidae) in Fars and on the Gulf coast, Common Cranes (Grus grus) in Fars, shorebirds in the south Caspian region and Tehran area, and terns (Sterna spp.) in the Gulf. Bird-banding activities in Iran and all recoveries reported up to the end of 1975 have been summarized by Cornwallis and Ferguson (1970) and Argyle (1975a, 1976a).

Many other wetland-related research activities were initiated by the Game and Fish Department and later the Department of the Environment in the late 1960s and 1970s. These included the following:

- Monthly counts of waterfowl from September to March at selected sites in the south Caspian lowlands (1971/1972 and 1972/73).

- Research on breeding Greater Flamingos at Lake Uromiyeh (initiated in 1970 and continuing).

- A study of waterfowl hunting in the south Caspian region, including an assessment of the annual harvest (early 1970s).

- A nationwide census of breeding White Storks (Ciconia ciconia), carried out in 1974 as part of an international census of storks in Europe and the Middle East (Fotoohi & Scott, 1975).

- Surveys of breeding sea-birds on islands in the Persian Gulf (1972-1977).

- A study of Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) in the Caspian littoral with particular reference to the Anzali Mordab area and Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge (Carnie, 1973).

- Studies on marine turtles in the Persian Gulf, especially at Sheedvar Island (early 1970s).

In the winter of 1975/76, the Department of the Environment, in collaboration with the International Crane Foundation, initiated a project to re-establish the endangered Siberian Crane as a wintering species in Iran through cross-fostering with Common Cranes. The first phase of the project involved the banding and colour-marking of Common Cranes on their wintering grounds at Dasht-e Arjan in Fars. One hundred and eighty-three Common Cranes were marked in 1976, 1977 and 1978 (Farhadpour, 1987). However, with the rediscovery of a wild population of Siberian Cranes wintering in Iran in 1977/78, this project was abandoned.

Since the revolution in 1978, the Department of the Environment has been formulating a policy of wetland conservation, and has been carrying out a systematic investigation of its wetlands and waterfowl populations. Some of the most important projects in recent years have been as follows:

- An investigation of the phenomenon of sea-level rise in the Caspian Sea since the late 1970s.

- Research on the limnology, ecology, flora and fauna of Siahkeshim Marsh in the Anzali Mordab complex in the southwest Caspian. The results of this study have been presented in an illustrated booklet published in Farsi (Riazi, undated).

- A project for the restoration of the wetlands of the Anzali Mordab. This project, which was initiated in 1990, is expected to be continued and expanded with the cooperation of the World Bank.

- A study of the ecology, biology and economic values of Phalacrocorax carbo in the south Caspian region (Monavari, 1988).

- A project to promote sustainable utilization of wetland resources in the Hamoun wetlands in the Sistan Basin.

- Research on changes in the aquatic vegetation of the Hamoun wetlands, with particular reference to the disappearance of Phragmites reed-beds.

A considerable amount of fisheries research has been carried out in the Caspian Sea and in adjacent coastal wetlands by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot). This organization has also conducted limnological and hydrological research in the Caspian, particularly with respect to the rise in sea level since the late 1970s. The National Centre for Marine Science is responsible for marine research in the Persian Gulf. A marine laboratory was established at Bandar Abbas in the southern Gulf in the early 1970s, and a marine research station was constructed on nearby Hormoz Island.

Other wetland research has included several investigations on the hydrobiology of the Neiris Lakes in Fars, the Hamoun wetlands in Sistan, and Lake Uromiyeh in Azarbayjan (e.g. Loffler, 1959, 1961, 1968; Savage, 1968). In the 1960s, the University of Shiraz provided support for a major study of the wetlands of Fars Province (Cornwallis, 1968a, 1968b). In recent years, the University of Tehran has also been involved in research on wetland fauna and flora. Two M.Sc. students from this university are currently studying the limnology and avifauna of Lakes Ajigol and Ulmagol on the Turkoman Steppes in Mazandaran. The University of Tabriz is currently undertaking a project on the sustainable utilization of wetland resources at Lake Uromiyeh in Azarbayjan.

Wetland Area Legislation

Early descriptions of environmental management and protection in Iran are given in Firouz et al. (1970), Firouz (1974), Firouz and Harrington (1976) and Harrington (1976a). More recently, environmental legislation has been summarized by IUCN (1992). The first law concerning the conservation of nature in Iran was passed in 1956 and created the Game Council of Iran, which was charged with the control of hunting activities and the establishment of hunting centres for the protection of endangered species. In 1967, two new laws were enacted: the Law of Protection and Exploitation of Forest and Range and the Law on Game and Fish. The latter created the Game and Fish Department as an independent governmental organization, and gave this body the powers to declare certain areas for the protection of flora and fauna. The Game and Fish Law, as amended in 1975, represents the basic legal control through which exploitation of wildlife is curtailed, hunting and shooting are regulated, and game species are legally protected.

The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act of 1974 superseded all previous enabling nature conservation legislation, and remains the main law covering conservation within Iran. This Act placed wetlands under the jurisdiction of the newly created Department of the Environment. Since the proclamation of Iran as an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979, all laws relating to the conservation of the natural environment have been implemented on the basis of Constitutional Act No.50 of the Republic, which states that all citizens are required to honour the conservation of nature and natural resources.

In 1971, Iran hosted an International Conference on the Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl at the small resort town of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. It was at this conference that the final text of the Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention) was approved and opened for signature. The Government of Iran ratified the Convention on 23 June 1975, and designated 18 wetlands (totalling 1,357,550 ha) for inclusion in the Convention List of Wetlands of International Importance (Table 3). No new sites have been added to the Ramsar List since then, but several sites are currently being considered by the Department of the Environment for designation in the near future.

Also at international level, the Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified the World Heritage Convention, although it has not designated any natural World Heritage Sites, and has signed (but not ratified) the Biodiversity Convention. Iran participates in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme, and as of December 1993, had designated nine Biosphere Reserves covering a total of 2,699,731 ha. Four of these Biosphere Reserves (Arjan, Hara, Uromiyeh and Miankaleh) contain internationally important wetlands described in this inventory. The Islamic Republic of Iran has also ratified the Regional Convention for Cooperation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution, and the Action Plan for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Areas (Evans, 1994). A joint agreement was signed with the USSR in 1973 to combat pollution in the Caspian Sea (IUCN, 1992).

Wetland Area Administration

The Department of the Environment, established in March 1972, is the only organization responsible for the investigation, management and conservation of wetlands in Iran. Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act of 1974, this Department superseded the Game and Fish Department (created in 1967), which itself superseded the Game Council of Iran (created in 1956). The Department is responsible for the protection of wildlife, hunting and fishing in inland waters, as well as protection of the natural environment. The Department undertakes long-term environmental studies and management projects, with responsibilities which include the conservation and enhancement of wildlife resources and prevention of pollution. It puts forward regulations on habitat management, and has introduced environmental legislation regarding pollution. Long-term programmes include the cleaning of the Caspian Sea and Iranian rivers, and prevention of air pollution (IUCN, 1992).

After the proclamation of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the Department of the Environment became responsible for environmental preservation according to a new philosophy, policy aim and strategy, centred on the continued utilization of environmental resources (IUCN, 1992). Any development activity likely to have an impact on wetlands must receive the necessary permission from the Department of the Environment, and an environmental impact assessment must be carried out before any work can begin. However, any organization or institute wishing to carry out research in wetlands is allowed to do so, provided that permission has first been obtained from the Department.

The establishment of hunting reserves in Iran dates back to ancient Persian times, but it was not until the creation of the Game Council in 1956 that the foundations for the present system of protected areas were laid. The Game Council was created with a policy to set up hunting centres for the protection of endangered species and the control of hunting. In 1967, the newly created Game and Fish Department was empowered by law to declare certain areas for the protection of flora and fauna. Two types of designated area were established: Protected Regions in which hunting and land-use activities were subject to certain controls, and Wildlife Parks in which wildlife and their habitats were strictly protected. These sites were re-classified in 1974 following the introduction of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, which defined four categories of protected natural area: National Park, Wildlife Refuge, Protected Area and National Natural Monument (Firouz & Harrington, 1976). These four categories are described by IUCN (1992) and Evans (1994).

The Game and Fish Law of 1967 also provided for the establishment of Protected Rivers and Fishing Refuges. Protected Rivers are areas designated to protect natural habitats from fishing. By the end of 1991, there were five Protected Rivers under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Environment: the Chalus, Karadj, Lar/Haraz, Sardab and Jajerud. Other specified areas include all marshes, wetlands, waterways and bays along the Caspian Sea, all of which are declared protected in so far as fishing is concerned (IUCN, 1992).

Organizations involved with Wetlands

Department of the Environment

Protection and enhancement of the environment; management of wildlife and fisheries in inland waters; jurisdiction and management of protected areas and wetlands; prevention of pollution and environmental degradation; promulgation of emission and quality standards and criteria for air, water, soil, wastes and noise.

Ministry of Water and Power

Enforcement of water quality standards and criteria; water treatment plants and sewage systems; dam construction and irrigation; hydrobiological and hydrochemical research.

Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Management and conservation of forests and range lands, including watershed and soil conservation.

National Fisheries Organization (Shilot)

Management of fisheries in the Caspian region; limnological, hydrological and fisheries research.

National Centre for Marine Science

Marine research.

Tehran University

Research on wetland fauna and flora.

University of Tabriz

Research on wetland fauna and flora.

University of Shiraz

Research on the wetlands of Fars Province.

 

 

Islamic Republic of Iran (part 2)

 

WETLANDS

Site descriptions compiled by Derek A. Scott from internal reports of the Iran Department of the Environment, IWRB waterfowl counts in Iran (1967-1993), the published literature, and personal observations (1970-76), with additional information received from personnel of the Department of the Environment, Eskandar Firouz and Mohammad Nosrati. All of the 63 internationally important wetlands described in this inventory have also been identified as "Important Bird Areas" by BirdLife International, and are described in Evans (1994).

____________________________________________________________________________

Akh Gol (1)

Location: 3933'N, 4447'E; in the Aras Valley in extreme northwestern Iran, 115 km north of Khoy, Azarbayjan Province.

Area: 600 ha.

Altitude: 820 m.

Overview: A small brackish lake with associated marshes in a region of semi-arid steppic hills in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important primarily as a breeding area for waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris.

Physical features: Akh Gol is a small brackish lake and marshes set in an amphitheatre of rugged lava hills on the south side of the Aras River valley near the border with the Republic of Armenia. The lake is fed by small springs and local run-off, and drains eastwards into the Aras River about 5 km away. The small western portion of the lake retains water throughout the summer, but the main eastern section dries out in late summer, exposing extensive bare mudflats. The lake is generally frozen over and under snow cover in mid-winter.

Ecological features: Fresh to brackish marshes with extensive Phragmites reed-beds around the western margins of the lake, and a large area of brackish Salicornia flats with scattered clumps of Phragmites and Tamarix on the plains to the east. The hills to the north and south support steppic vegetation dominated by Artemisia.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The lake has been designated a No-Hunting Area. It has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Livestock grazing and probably some waterfowl hunting.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The lake is in the process of being drained for agricultural land.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The site is primarily important for its breeding waterfowl which include 100-150 pairs of Himantopus himantopus. At least one pair of Marmaronetta angustirostris bred in 1974, and Oxyura leucocephala may have bred in recent years. Other breeding species include Podiceps cristatus, Burhinus oedicnemus, Charadrius dubius, C. alexandrinus (20-30 pairs), Vanellus vanellus (10-15 pairs), Tringa totanus (15-20 pairs), T. hypoleucos and Acrocephalus arundinaceus. Circus pygargus has been observed in summer and may breed in the area. Up to 90 Tadorna ferruginea have been recorded on passage (November).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Several waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment, mostly during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Green (1993); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a & 3c (possibly also 2a). Akh Gol is a good representative example of a natural wetland characteristic of the uplands of northwestern Iran. It is probably a regular breeding area for Marmaronetta angustirostris (a threatened species), and regularly supports over 1% of the regional breeding population of Himantopus himantopus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Dasht-e Moghan (2)

Location: 3935'N, 4800'E; near the town of Parsabad on the plains of the Aras River in extreme northeastern Azarbayjan Province, about 160 km north of Ardabil.

Area: 3,000 ha.

Altitude: 10 m.

Overview: An area of wet cultivated plains along the Aras River, important for wintering geese (Anser spp.). Unprotected.

Physical features: The Dasht-e Moghan is a wet cultivated plain, about 30 sq.km in extent, bordered in the northwest by the Aras River and in the northeast by the international frontier with the Republic of Azerbaijan. At this point, the Aras River is wide and meandering, with many braided channels, shingle banks, quiet backwaters with marsh vegetation, and shrub-covered islands. The river, which forms the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan, flows in a broad valley about 1.5-2.0 km wide and 10 m below the level of the adjacent plains. These are densely populated, with many small villages, and are almost entirely under cultivation for cotton and wheat.

Ecological features: Riverine habitats include braided channels, shingle banks, stagnant pools with emergent marsh vegetation, open Tamarix scrub (mainly on the many small islands) and grassy areas. The plains are mostly under cultivation for cotton and wheat, although there are some areas of short grassland and Artemisia steppe in the east and stands of poplars around the villages.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Agriculture (mainly cotton and wheat) and some livestock grazing.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The goose flocks feeding on the cultivated plains are subject to high levels of disturbance from farm workers, and there is some waterfowl hunting.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for geese (Anser albifrons and A. anser) and ducks. Up to 320 A. albifrons and 1,370 A. anser have been recorded, this being one of the best areas for A. albifrons in Iran. The goose flocks feed at dawn and dusk on the cultivated plains of the Dasht-e Moghan and spend much of the day loafing on shingle banks in the river where they are free from disturbance. Four Anser erythropus were present in the area in November 1971. Small numbers of Mergus merganser (maximum 18) occur along the river and Ciconia nigra has been recorded in winter. Other wintering birds have included up to 188 Egretta alba, 274 Cygnus olor, 149 Tadorna ferruginea, 2,320 Anas crecca, 1,660 A. platyrhynchos, 200 Aythya ferina, 400 A. fuligula, 400 Vanellus vanellus and 9 Tringa nebularia. Aquila heliaca, Falco cherrug, F. peregrinus and F. columbarius are regular winter visitors, and small numbers of Tetrax tetrax have occurred in late autumn.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment on a number of occasions since 1969.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 3c. The Dasht-e Moghan regularly supports over 1% of the regional wintering population of Anser albifrons and A. anser.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Gori Gol (3)

Location: 3750'N, 4640'E; on the north side of the main Tabriz to Tehran highway, about 40 km east-southeast of Tabriz, Azarbayjan Province.

Area: 120 ha.

Altitude: 1,950 m.

Overview: A small freshwater lake with associated marshes in the steppic uplands of northwestern Iran, important primarily as a breeding area for waterfowl including Oxyura leucocephala. The lake has been designated as a Ramsar Site, but is otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Gori Gol (or Gory Gol) is a fresh to brackish, eutrophic lake fed by local rainfall, springs and small streams, and receiving the bulk of its water after the spring snow-melt. The lake has an average depth of about 2-3 metres, and shows little fluctuation in water level. It overflows at its northeast corner into a small stream. The bottom consists of a mud deposit on shale and rocks. The lake is generally frozen over by late December and remains frozen, often under deep snow cover, throughout the winter.

Ecological features: There are extensive areas of Phragmites, Juncus, Carex and Scirpus around the shores of the lake and abundant underwater vegetation. The surrounding area is semi-arid, steppic country with one small settlement and wheat cultivation on the west and damp grassland on the southwest. The main Tabriz-Tehran road passes close by the south side of the lake.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: There is no legal habitat protection. However, hunting is prohibited, and the Department of the Environment maintains some control over the area. Lake Gori (120 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975, and has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Sport fishing, grazing, reed-cutting and wildfowl hunting. Some outdoor recreation by the inhabitants of Tabriz, especially at weekends and holidays.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The lake remains in good condition, and there are no serious threats. However, lying close to the main Tabriz-Tehran road and only 45 km from Tabriz, the lake is subjected to intensive recreational use, including shooting and fishing. This causes a considerable amount of disturbance to breeding waterbirds.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The site has some value for outdoor recreation for the people of Tabriz.

Noteworthy fauna: An important site for breeding waterfowl, notably Podiceps nigricollis (125-150 pairs), Aythya nyroca (several pairs) and Oxyura leucocephala (several pairs), and the only known breeding locality in Iran for Podiceps grisegena (1 or 2 pairs). Other breeding species include Fulica atra (100s of pairs), Vanellus vanellus (15-20 pairs), Tringa totanus (15-20 pairs), Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus. Porzana parva has been heard calling in summer, and may breed. Feeding flocks of Pelecanus onocrotalus occasionally frequent the lake in summer, presumably from the breeding colony at Lake Uromiyeh. A wide variety of waterfowl occur on passage, including up to 70 Ardeola ralloides, 100 Tadorna ferruginea, 1,000 Anas querquedula, 150 A. clypeata, 400 Aythya fuligula, 40 A. nyroca, 15 O. leucocephala, 12,500 Fulica atra, 100 Himantopus himantopus, 70 Charadrius hiaticula, 100 Calidris minuta, 200 Philomachus pugnax, 25 Tringa stagnatilis, 100 T. glareola, 22 Gelochelidon nilotica, 80 Chlidonias hybridus and 400 C. leucopterus. Botaurus stellaris, Circus pygargus and Falco cherrug have been recorded on passage in small numbers. The lake has no value for wintering waterfowl as it is completely frozen over during the mid-winter period.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: The Ornithology Unit at the Department of the Environment has carried out a number of surveys of breeding waterfowl.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 2c & 3c. Gori Gol is a good representative example of a natural wetland characteristic of the uplands of northwestern Iran. It is a breeding site for Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala (globally threatened species), and is the only known breeding site for Podiceps grisegena in Iran. It is an important breeding site for many other species of waterfowl, and regularly supports over 1% of the regional breeding population of Podiceps nigricollis.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Uromiyeh (4)

Location: 3730'N, 4530'E; in a large internal drainage basin in western Azarbayjan Province, 60 km southwest of Tabriz.

Area: 483,000 ha.

Altitude: 1,280 m (Kabudan peak at 1,525 m).

Overview: A large, shallow, hypersaline lake with numerous islands and extensive fringing brackish to saline marshes, in a large internal drainage basin in the uplands of northwestern Iran. The lake is of great importance as a breeding area for many species of waterfowl, notably Phoenicopterus ruber and Pelecanus onocrotalus, and as a staging area for migratory species in spring and autumn. The lake is protected as a National Park and Ramsar Site.

Physical features: Lake Uromiyeh (Orumiyeh), formerly known as Lake Rezaiyeh, is a vast hypersaline lake of great scenic beauty with numerous small islands and extensive salt-encrusted flats and shingle beaches. The lake is about 140 km long (from northwest to southeast) and up to 55 km wide near its southern end. The average depth of the lake is about five metres, except in the southern portion where depths reach 8 m. The bottom consists of mud or silt, often covered by salt crystals. Salinities range from 80 to 280 p.p.t. and the water temperature from 3C to 30C; the salts present in the lake are very similar to those in sea water. Seasonal inflow is mostly from snow-melt. This causes the lake to rise in spring by 1-2 m, and reach its highest levels in the first half of June. Evaporation then lowers the level again throughout the summer and autumn. Water temperatures are at their highest in August. There are several large areas of fresh to brackish marshes with abundant aquatic vegetation in the "deltas" of the many small rivers and streams which flow into the lake. The most extensive of these marshes is found at the mouth of the Jogatu Chay (river) at the south end of the lake. The lake includes 56, mostly small, uninhabited islands. The largest island, Kabudan (Ghoyoon Daghi), comprises 3,125 ha of hilly terrain covered with steppe vegetation and scattered trees. The climate is semi-arid, with very hot summers and extremely cold winters (temperatures regularly falling below -25C). The mean annual rainfall is in the range 400-600 mm.

Ecological features: The lake supports an abundant growth of the alga Enteromorpha intestinalis (Ulvaceae) and there is a build up of brine shrimp Artemia salina during the summer months. Savage (1968) has described secondary productivity in the lake ecosystem. In years when salt concentrations remain low, Enteromorpha becomes so abundant that the whole lake takes on the appearance of a thin vegetable soup. Artemia begins to appear in April, but does not build up in great strength until June; successive hatches maintain high numbers until September. The lake is too saline to support any other plants or animals. The shoreline vegetation is dominated by species of Atriplex, Frankenia and Suaeda. The marshes around the lake have typical saltmarsh plant communities with Juncus, some Phragmites reed-beds at river mouths, and occasional stands of Tamarix. Remnant stands of Pistasia atlantica woodland survive on the larger islands, notably Kabudan (Goyoon Daghi) and Ashk. Other conspicuous plants on the larger islands include Rhamnus pallasii and species of Artemisia, Dianthus, Cerasseus, Hodeum and Bromus. There are rolling wheat-lands to the west and south of the lake, and semi-arid steppe and hills to the north and east. Much of the surrounding semi-arid steppe has been converted to wheat fields. There are small human settlements at various points on the shore.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: Ghoyoon Daghi (Kabudan) Island was established as a Protected Region in February 1960. This was enlarged to encompass the entire lake and all its islands (483,000 ha) in August 1967. The Protected Region was reduced in size to 465,000 ha and given National Park status in the early 1970s. The National Park has since been reduced to its present size of 463,600 ha. The entire lake (483,000 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. 462,600 ha of the National Park were designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in June 1976. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Cornwallis (1976) recommended that the boundaries of the National Park be extended to the upper limit of the inundation zone of the lake. This would involve no conflict with agricultural interests, and would incorporate the Gordeh Git and Mamiyand marshes (site 6), the Talab-e-Garrous marshes, and Ghopi Bob Haydar (a small lake and freshwater marsh about 4 km southeast of Talab-e-Garrous) within the National Park.

Land use: Several small steamer services operate on the lake, ferrying people and supplies between five small ports, and there is some grazing by domestic livestock in peripheral marshes, but otherwise the entire area is protected as a National Park.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Freshwater discharge into the marshes at the south end of the lake was reduced in the early 1970s following the construction of a dam on the Mahabad River (as part of the Mahabad Multipurpose Drainage and Irrigation Project). However, this was partially compensated for by discharge from the irrigation scheme through two main drains emptying into one of the marshes (Talab-e-Garrous). These drains provide water to the marsh throughout the summer and have improved its value for nesting birds (Cornwallis, 1976). The most serious threat is likely to be water-borne pollution from towns in the catchment area, especially the large city of Tabriz to the northeast and the town of Uromiyeh to the west, and pollution with toxic chemicals used in the surrounding agricultural land.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The lake has little value for conventional outdoor recreation because of its extremely high salinity, but has exceptionally high values for eco-tourism because of its great scenic beauty and spectacular concentrations of waterbirds. Local people believe that the lake-side mud has special medicinal properties.

Noteworthy fauna: The lake is extremely important for breeding Pelecanus onocrotalus (1,000-1,600 pairs), Egretta garzetta (90 pairs), Plegadis falcinellus (100+ pairs), Platalea leucorodia (50-100 pairs), Phoenicopterus ruber (15,000-25,000 pairs), Tadorna ferruginea (300-500 pairs), Tadorna tadorna (4,000-5,000 pairs), Himantopus himantopus (300-500 pairs), Recurvirostra avosetta (1,500-2,000 pairs), Tringa totanus (2,000-3,000 pairs), Larus (cachinnans) armenicus (4,000-5,000 pairs) and Larus genei (3,000-4,000 pairs). Other breeding birds include several pairs of Anser anser, Marmaronetta angustirostris (maximum of 25 adults present in summer) and Aythya nyroca. Charadrius leschenaultii has been recorded during the summer months and may breed on the saline flats around the lake. The pelicans, spoonbills, Egretta garzetta and many of the gulls breed on a group of small islands (the Dowguzlar Islands) near the south end of the lake, and flight to the extensive brackish and freshwater wetlands on the plain to the south of the lake to feed. Savage (1964) surveyed the lake in 1960 and found only about 100 non-breeding flamingos; he located some old nest-mounds, and speculated that flamingos had bred in the past. However, some 10,000 to 12,000 birds were found breeding in 1965 and 1966, and in 1970, there were an estimated 40,000 birds at the colony. Aerial censuses of the breeding colonies in 1971 and 1972 indicated 15,000-20,000 pairs in both years, with an additional 5,000-10,000 non-breeders present. Flamingos are known to have bred in large numbers at Lake Uromiyeh every year since then, and numbers appear to be increasing slightly, with perhaps as many as 25,000 breeding pairs in recent years. The birds have bred at many localities amongst the numerous islands in the lake, and in some years there are several large colonies. After hatching, the chicks gather together in large creches and swim to the south end of the lake to feed in the extensive shallows. Towards the end of the breeding season, the adults congregate in huge rafts to moult.

Most other species of waterfowl breed on the mudflats surrounding the lake or in the extensive fresh to brackish marshes at the main river mouths.

The vast mudflats surrounding the lake are the most important autumn staging area for migratory shorebirds and Anas querquedula in Iran, while the open waters of the lake occasionally support huge numbers of passage Podiceps nigricollis. Over 425,000 waterfowl of at least 53 species were recorded in the Uromiyeh Basin during an aerial survey on 29-31 August 1973. These included an estimated 146,000 unidentified small shorebirds (probably mostly Calidris minuta and C. ferruginea) on the mudflats around the lake, along with over 21,000 A. querquedula and 13,600 Recurvirostra avosetta. The lake appears to be an important moulting area for Tadorna tadorna (with up to 35,000 in August), and in mild winters may support large numbers of wintering waterfowl. Peak counts of waterfowl are given in Table 4.

The islands in Lake Uromiyeh are the only known breeding locality for Falco biarmicus in Iran (at least five pairs) and also provide nesting sites for at least ten pairs of Neophron percnopterus. Falco cherrug and F. peregrinus have been recorded during the summer months and may breed; Gyps fulvus and Aegypius monachus are regular visitors from the surrounding hills; and Haliaeetus albicilla and Falco columbarius occur in winter. The Great Bustard Otis tarda was a regular visitor to the plains around the lake in the 1970s, with up to 19 being recorded in August, but the birds were not known to breed in the area. At least 187 species of birds have been recorded in the National Park.

Wild Sheep (Ovis ammon) of the western red race were introduced onto Kabudan Island in the 19th century, while Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) were introduced onto Ashk Island in the late 1970s. The sheep population peaked at over 4,000 in 1971/72, but then crashed to only about 1,150 in 1973/74. Leopard (Panthera pardus) were introduced onto Kabudan in about 1970 in an attempt to control Wild Sheep numbers. Although the Leopard are known to have bred on the island, they are believed to have died out towards the end of the decade.

Noteworthy flora: Several of the islands, notably Ashk and Kabudan, support almost pristine stands of Azarbayjan Pistachio (Pistacia atlantica) forest. The few surviving stands of this forest type elsewhere in northwestern Iran are now much degraded.

Scientific research and facilities: The Department of the Environment has carried out a considerable amount of research on the fauna of the lake and its islands, and especially on the introduced populations of Ovis ammon and Dama dama mesopotamica, and the breeding colony of Phoenicopterus ruber. A flamingo ringing programme was initiated in 1970, and by 1990, over 35,000 chicks had been ringed with metal rings bearing the inscription of the Department of the Environment. Pelican chicks have also been ringed on a regular basis since 1970, although in much smaller numbers, and some gulls were ringed in the late 1970s. Mid-winter waterfowl counts have been carried out on an annual basis since the early 1970s, and several aerial censuses of breeding waterfowl were conducted during the 1970s. Accommodation for research workers and basic laboratory facilities are available at the park headquarters on Kabudan Island.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment. The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Carp (1980); Cornwallis (1976); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz (1974); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Firouz et al. (1970); Green (1993); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage (1964, 1968); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1973b, 1975c, 1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1993); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. Lake Uromiyeh is a magnificent example of a natural, hypersaline lake with great scenic beauty. It is a regular breeding site for Marmaronetta angustirostris and Aythya nyroca (globally threatened species), and supports a great diversity of wetland fauna and flora associated with brackish and saline to hypersaline conditions. It is particularly important for its large breeding colonies of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Phoenicopterus ruber and Larus (cachinnans) armenicus, but also supports over 1% of the regional breeding populations of seven other species of waterfowl. During the migration seasons and in winter, it regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of an additional five species of waterfowl.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Shur Gol, Yadegarlu and Dorgeh Sangi Lakes (5)

Location: Shur Gol 3701'N, 4528'E; Yadegarlu 3702N, 4532'E; Dorgeh Sangi 3659'N, 4534'E. On the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh, 7-10 km south of the southeast corner of the lake and about 30-35 km northwest of Mahabad, Azarbayjan.

Area: 2,500 ha (Shur Gol 2,000 ha; Yadegarlu 350 ha; Dorgeh Sangi 150 ha).

Altitude: 1,290 m.

Overview: A group of fresh to brackish and saline lakes and marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The wetlands have been designated as a Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Shur Gol and the associated Hassanlu Marshes consist of a shallow, brackish to saline lake and marshland fed by local rainfall, springs, seepages and several small streams. The maximum depth of the lake is about one metre. Flooding occurs in autumn and winter, but drainage is virtually closed and the complex dries out completely only in very dry years. The much smaller Yadegarlu and Dorgeh Sangi wetlands a few km to the east and southeast are shallow freshwater lakes with peripheral eutrophic marshes. Both are subject to wide fluctuations in water level, and are often completely frozen over in winter.

Ecological features: The extensive marshes at Shur Gol and Yadegarlu are dominated by sedges (Carex) and grasses. There is relatively little aquatic vegetation at Dorgeh Sangi, where extensive bare mudflats are exposed at low water levels. The surrounding land includes wheat fields on the rolling hills and plains to the north, and more intensive agriculture in the vicinity of the villages to the south.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: There is no legal habitat protection, but the Department of the Environment exerts some control over hunting activities in the area. All three wetlands were designated as a single Ramsar Site of 2,500 ha on 23 June 1975. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Cornwallis (1976) recommended that Wildlife Refuges be established at Yadegarlu and Dorgeh Sangi lakes.

Land use: Waterfowl hunting, grazing of lakeshore vegetation by domestic livestock, and some traditional reed-cutting.

Possible changes in land use: Possible conversion of marshes for agriculture.

Disturbances and threats: Hunting pressure on waterfowl is reported to have been excessive, especially in the years immediately following the revolution, and grazing pressure on the aquatic vegetation is very high. There have been reports of wetland drainage for agriculture at Yadegarlu. However, all three wetlands were reported to be in good condition in January 1995.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetlands are especially important for breeding waterfowl, notably Ciconia ciconia, Plegadis falcinellus (50-75 pairs), Marmaronetta angustirostris (10-15 pairs), Aythya nyroca (several pairs), Oxyura leucocephala (several pairs) and Glareola pratincola (50-80 pairs), and passage ducks, Fulica atra (up to 120,000) and shorebirds. When not frozen over, the lakes also support large numbers of wintering waterfowl, mainly dabbling ducks and F. atra. A small flock of Cygnus columbianus (maximum 57) occurred regularly at these lakes in the early 1970s, and this was the only regular wintering site for C. columbianus in Iran at that time, with 41 in 1969/70, 57 in 1970/71, 4 in 1971/72 and 14 in 1974/75. A few C. columbianus were present in a flock of 30 swans (mainly C. cygnus) in January 1995. Small flocks of Anser erythropus (maximum 175) were recorded on autumn passage in the 1970s, and up to 120 Anser albifrons were present in winter, along with several hundred Anser anser. Ciconia nigra and Charadrius asiaticus have occurred as scarce passage migrants. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 5. The Great Bustard Otis tarda was an occasional visitor to the surrounding plains in the 1970s (maximum 6). Haliaeetus albicilla is a regular winter visitor, with up to three birds present at one time.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1970, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Cornwallis (1976); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. Shur Gol, Yadegarlu and Dorgeh Sangi lakes provide habitat for at least five threatened species of birds: Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala breed in the wetlands, and Anser erythropus and Otis tarda occur on passage. The wetlands support a high diversity of wetland fauna and flora, and constitute important feeding habitat for Pelecanus onocrotalus and other species from the internationally important breeding colonies at nearby Lake Uromiyeh. The wetlands regularly hold more than 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, as well as over 1% of the regional populations of eight species of waterfowl.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Gerde Gheet and Mamiyand (6)

Location: 3702'N, 4540'E; on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh, 10 km from the south end of the lake and about 30 km north of Mahabad, Azarbayjan.

Area: 500 ha.

Altitude: 1,300 m.

Overview: An area of freshwater marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: The wetland comprises two adjacent areas of freshwater marsh, Gerde Gheet and Mamiyand (Gordeh Git and Meimand), on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh.

Ecological features: Most of the wetland is covered in tall stands of Phragmites reeds.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The Department of the Environment controls hunting activities in the area. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Cornwallis (1976) recommended that the boundaries of the Lake Uromiyeh National Park be extended to the upper limit of the inundation zone of the lake. This would bring the Gerde Gheet and Mamiyand marshes within the boundaries of the National Park.

Land use: There is some waterfowl hunting in winter, and some grazing of aquatic vegetation by domestic livestock.

Possible changes in land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A breeding area for Ardea purpurea (several pairs), Ciconia ciconia, Circus aeruginosus (several pairs) and Glareola pratincola (50+ pairs). One or two pairs of Oxyura leucocephala were breeding in the marshes in the 1970s, and Marmaronetta angustirostris and Gelochelidon nilotica probably bred. Up to 20 Great Bustards Otis tarda have occurred on the surrounding plains in winter. Large numbers of wintering waterfowl have been recorded in recent years, including large numbers of Anser anser, up to 2,500 Tadorna ferruginea and 3,000 T. tadorna.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1970, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Cornwallis (1976); Evans (1994); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Gerde Gheet and Mamiyand support a small breeding population of Oxyura leucocephala (a threatened species) and probably also Marmaronetta angustirostris. In winter, the wetlands regularly support over 1% of the regional populations of Tadorna ferruginea and T. tadorna.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Ghara Gheshlaq Marshes (7)

Location: 3710'N, 4550'E, on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh, 12 km from the south end of the lake and about 20 km north of Mahabad, Azarbayjan.

Area: 400 ha.

Altitude: 1,290 m.

Overview: An area of freshwater marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The marshes have been designated as a No-hunting Area.

Physical features: Ghara Gheshlaq Marshes comprise some 400 ha of permanent and seasonally flooded freshwater marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh. The marshes are flooded to a maximum depth of about one metre, and are eutrophic. They are usually frozen over and under snow cover during the winter months. Peripheral areas of the wetland have been drained and converted to agricultural land.

Ecological features: Permanent freshwater marshes with extensive Phragmites reed-beds and little open water, surrounded by a belt of seasonally flooded sedge marshes and grassland.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The marshes have recently been designated as a No-Hunting Area, and are likely to be given Protected Area status within five years. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The Department of the Environment has proposed that Ghara Gheshlaq Marshes be designated as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Livestock grazing in the wetland, and agriculture in surrounding areas. There is a great deal of waterfowl hunting around the edges of the No-Hunting Area.

Possible changes in land use: Conversion of wetlands to agricultural land.

Disturbances and threats: Large portions of the marsh were drained by the Mahabad Multipurpose Drainage and Irrigation Project in the 1970s. Since the early 1980s, large-scale die-offs of waterfowl have been reported on several occasions during the breeding and migration seasons. As many as 100,000 waterfowl are believed to have died in a single year. The reason for the die-offs is unknown, but disease (possibly botulism) has been suspected.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The marshes are especially important for breeding waterfowl, including Podiceps cristatus (10-15 pairs), Nycticorax nycticorax (25 pairs), Egretta garzetta (25 pairs), Plegadis falcinellus (60 pairs), Marmaronetta angustirostris (10-20 pairs), Glareola pratincola (25 pairs) and Vanellus vanellus (common). Oxyura leucocephala and Himantopus himantopus have been recorded in summer, and may breed. Small flocks of Pelecanus onocrotalus and Platalea leucorodia from the nearby breeding colonies at Lake Uromiyeh regularly feed in the marshes during the summer months. The marshes occasionally hold large numbers of ducks and shorebirds during the migration seasons (e.g. up to 10,000 Anas acuta, 150 A. querquedula, 300 Philomachus pugnax and 100 Tringa glareola). In most winters, the wetland is frozen over and devoid of birds, but in mild years it may support large numbers of geese and ducks, e.g. up to 3,280 Anser anser, 280 Tadorna ferruginea, 15,000 T. tadorna, 500 Anas platyrhynchos and 2,700 Aythya fuligula. Anser albifrons and A. erythropus have occurred in small numbers. About 600 swans, mostly Cygnus cygnus but also including some C. olor and a few C. columbianus, were present in the winter of 1991/92. Circus pygargus (a scarce bird in Iran) was observed regularly during the summer months in the 1970s, and was believed to breed. Pandion haliaetus, Circus cyaneus and C. macrourus have been recorded on passage, and C. aeruginosus probably breeds. In recent years, the Great Bustard Otis tarda has occurred as a winter visitor to the area, with 24 in 1993 and 26 in 1994.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1970, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Cornwallis (1976); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Ghara Gheshlaq Marshes support a significant breeding population of Marmaronetta angustirostris (a threatened species). During the migration seasons and in winter, the wetlands regularly support over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser, Tadorna tadorna, Anas acuta and Aythya fuligula.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Kobi (8)

Location: 3657'N, 4530'E; on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh, 30 km from the south end of the lake and about 25 km northeast of Mahabad, Azarbayjan. (The longitude of this lake have often been given erroneously as 4552'E, e.g. in all Ramsar documentation).

Area: 1,200 ha.

Altitude: 1,290 m.

Overview: A fresh to brackish lake and associated marshes on the plains to the south of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The lake has been designated as a Ramsar Site, but is otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Lake Kobi (or Ghopi Bob Ali) is a shallow, eutrophic, fresh to brackish lake with extensive seasonally flooded marshes, receiving its water from local rainfall, several springs, seepages and temporary watercourses fed by snow-melt. The maximum depth is about 1.5 m; the bottom is comprised of mud. The lake overflows when full, flooding marshland to the north and west. It regularly freezes over in winter.

Ecological features: The lake supports an abundant growth of submerged vegetation; there are extensive sedge marshes around much of the shoreline, and Phragmites reed-beds occur in the south and to the northwest, together with some grassland. The whole area is surrounded by rolling steppic hills, with scattered settlements and cultivation to the north and south.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. Lake Kobi (1,200 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing of livestock and wildfowl hunting.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The marshes support a variety of breeding waterfowl, notably Nycticorax nycticorax (100 pairs), Ardeola ralloides (100 pairs), Egretta garzetta (100 pairs), Plegadis falcinellus (100-150 pairs) and Aythya nyroca (several pairs), and there was a breeding colony of 50 pairs of Podiceps nigricollis at the lake in 1972. Sterna albifrons is present in summer and may breed. Oxyura leucocephala occurs during the summer (maximum 33), but these birds appear to be non-breeders or feeding birds from breeding sites at other wetlands in the general area. The lake is an extremely important staging area for ducks, Fulica atra and shorebirds in autumn, regularly holding in excess of 100,000 birds. Peak counts have included 6,600 Phoenicopterus ruber, 3,000 Anas querquedula, 5,000 A. clypeata, 20,000 Aythya ferina and 50,000 F. atra, as well as over 100 O. leucocephala. Large numbers of ducks and coots remain throughout the winter in very mild years when the lake remains unfrozen. A flock of 16 Branta ruficollis in January 1970 was exceptional, as was a single Grus virgo in August 1972. Small numbers of Marmaronetta angustirostris and Charadrius asiaticus have been recorded on autumn passage. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 6. Haliaeetus albicilla and Falco columbarius are regular winter visitors, and Circus pygargus has been recorded in summer and may breed. The Great Bustard Otis tarda is an occasional visitor in small numbers to the surrounding plains (maximum 6).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1970, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Carp (1980); Cornwallis (1976); Evans (1994); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1978a); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 3a & 3c. Lake Kobi is a particularly good representative example of a natural brackish lake characteristic of the uplands of northwestern Iran. It supports significant numbers of two globally threatened species, Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala, during the summer and autumn, and Marmaronetta angustirostris has occurred on passage. Otis tarda is a regular visitor to the surrounding plains. The lake often holds over 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, and regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Phoenicopterus ruber, Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, Anas clypeata, Aythya ferina, Fulica atra and Himantopus himantopus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Nowruzlu Dam (9)

Location: 3655'N, 4610'E; in the valley of the Zarrineh Rud, 15 km southeast of Miandoab and about 45 km east-northeast of Mahabad, Azarbayjan.

Area: 1,000 ha.

Altitude: 1,260 m.

Overview: A small reservoir with adjacent arable land along the Zarrineh Rud to the southeast of Lake Uromiyeh in the uplands of northwestern Iran, important as a feeding area for Pelecanus onocrotalus in summer, and as a wintering area for ducks and geese (Anatidae). Unprotected.

Physical features: Nowruzlu Dam is a small water storage reservoir on the Zarrineh Rud, one of the principal rivers flowing into Lake Uromiyeh; it is situated in a region of undulating plains set between ranges of stony hills. There is a small marshy area with some reed-beds and shrubby vegetation where the river enters the dam. The plain is fairly heavily populated, with several villages and a complex network of gravel and dirt roads.

Ecological features: The dam supports little emergent aquatic vegetation except for a small stand of Phragmites at the mouth of the river. The adjacent plains are under cultivation (primarily wheat); nearby rolling hills support Artemisia steppe.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Water supply for irrigation. There is some waterfowl hunting in autumn and winter. The principal land-use activity throughout the region is wheat cultivation. Livestock (mainly sheep and goats) graze on fallow land and the adjacent steppic hills.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There are high levels of disturbance from farming activities on the surrounding plains.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The dam is an important feeding area for Pelecanus onocrotalus (maximum 830) and Platalea leucorodia (maximum 64) from the breeding colonies at Lake Uromiyeh, and there is a small breeding colony of Nycticorax nycticorax (20 pairs). Flocks of Anser albifrons (maximum 156) and A. anser (maximum 415) frequent the area in winter, and small numbers of ducks occur on the dam when ice-free (e.g. up to 310 Aythya ferina, 55 Mergellus albellus and 5 Mergus merganser). Much larger numbers of waterfowl are present during the spring and autumn migration seasons. Peak counts have included 100 Phalacrocorax carbo, 35 Ardeola ralloides, 25 Ardea cinerea, 150 Plegadis falcinellus, 650 Tadorna ferruginea, 1,880 Anas crecca, 1,060 A. platyrhynchos, 5,000 A. querquedula, 1,790 Fulica atra, 46 Haematopus ostralegus, 50 Himantopus himantopus, 50 Recurvirostra avosetta, 300 Calidris minuta, 250 Philomachus pugnax, 50 Tringa stagnatilis and 200 Chlidonias leucopterus. Haliaeetus albicilla and Falco cherrug have been recorded in winter. The surrounding plains are reported to have been an important breeding area for Great Bustards Otis tarda in the 1960s, and there were still several females nesting there in the 1970s. The plains are regularly visited by flocks of O. tarda in spring and autumn, with a maximum of 37 in November 1972.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most years since 1971, and there have been several surveys during the breeding season.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 3c. Nowruzlu Dam is an important feeding area for flocks of Pelecanus onocrotalus from the large breeding colony at Lake Uromiyeh, regularly holding over 1% of the regional population. The wetland also occasionally supports over 1% of the regional wintering population of Anser albifrons.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

South Caspian Shore (10)

Location: From 3825'N, 4852'E at Astara in the west to 3721'N, 5357'E at the Turkmenistan border in the east; the southern limit lies at 3635'N. The shore and inshore waters of the Caspian Sea from Astara on the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan in the west to the border with the Republic of Turkmenistan, about 35 km north-northwest of Gomishan, in the east. In the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran.

Area: 650 km of shoreline.

Altitude: 26 m below sea level.

Overview: The sandy beaches and inshore waters of the Caspian Sea in Iran, from the border with Azerbaijan in the west to the border with Turkmenistan in the east; of outstanding importance for fisheries production and as a staging and wintering area for huge numbers of migratory waterfowl. Short sections of the beach are included within two Protected Areas in the southwest Caspian, and a 60 km stretch of beach is included in the Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge in the southeast

Physical features: The site comprises the entire shoreline (some 650 km) and inshore waters of the Caspian Sea in Iran. The present coastline of the South Caspian, produced as it was by shrinkage of the water surface, appears generally straight or only slightly curved, and without any prominent headlands or cliffs. It is characterized by a sequence of sand beaches, dunes, spits and bars, bordered by a series of low-lying brackish and freshwater lagoons and marshes. The shore itself is almost entirely a narrow, hard, sand beach, except in the extreme west where there are stretches of shingle, and at one point to the west of Alamdeh (central coast) where there is a small area of rocky shore. Along most of is length, the shore is backed by a line of sand dunes from 10-20 m high and at varying distances from the water's edge, but no more than about 600 m wide. The salinity of the Caspian Sea is about 12-13 p.p.t.

Between 1866 and 1933, the level of the Caspian Sea fluctuated between 25.2 and 26.0 metres below sea level. In the early 1930s, however, following the construction of several major dams on the Volga River in the former U.S.S.R., the level started to fall and this continued almost without break (other than seasonal fluctuations) until 1977/78, when the level had reached 28 metres below sea level. Then began a sudden and rapid rise, averaging over 10 cm per year. By the end of 1991, the water had risen by approximately 1.8 metres, bringing the level of the Caspian Sea almost back to its level in the 1930s. In the mid-1970s, when the Caspian Sea was at its lowest, the beach was generally 30-50 metres wide and in some areas up to 100 metres wide, but by 1992, most of the beach had been submerged and in many places the sea was invading the adjacent vegetated dunes. The changes in sea level prior to 1970 have been summarized by Ferguson (1972).

There remains considerable uncertainty as to the cause of this sudden rise in sea level. It has been argued that the rise has been deliberately engineered by the Government of the former U.S.S.R., in an effort to restore the sea to its original level. Two major engineering works could have contributed to the rise in sea level: the closing of Karabogaz Bay in the east Caspian in 1978 (thereby reducing the loss of water by evaporation), and the diversion of two Siberian rivers into the Ural River (thereby increasing the inflow of fresh water). According to some calculations, the closing of Karabogaz Bay could alone have been responsible for a rise in sea level of between 40 and 45 cm. However, there is also a strong body of opinion in favour of the view that the rise in sea level is a natural phenomenon and merely part of a long-term cycle.

The climate throughout the South Caspian lowlands is characterized by warm, humid summers and mild winters, with a relatively low annual range in temperature. The average annual rainfall is 1,950 mm, with rain falling throughout the year but mainly in winter. Relative humidity averages 80-85%, with highest readings during spring and autumn. The lowest temperatures occur in February (mean around 6C) and the highest in August (mean maximum nearly 25C); extremes are -11C and 30C. Hard frosts and snow are relatively infrequent, especially in the southeast Caspian.

Ecological features: Shallow inshore waters of the Caspian Sea, long sandy beaches, some stretches of shingle beach (mainly in the west), and a small area of rocky shoreline (in the centre). The lower beach is generally devoid of macrophytes. Characteristic vegetation of the non-mobile sands of the spray zone include Agriophyllum latifolium, Crepis foetida, Convolvulus persicus, Tournefortia arguzia, Daucus littoralis and Salsola kali.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: Short sections of Caspian beach are included within the Lavandavil Protected Area (see site 11) and Lisar Protected Area in Gilan, and about 60 km of beach are included within the Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge in Mazandaran (see site 20). The entire South Caspian shoreline has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing, both from large and small vessels in inshore waters, and from long seine nets operated from the beach. The long sandy beaches of the South Caspian are very popular for outdoor recreation during the warm summer months, especially in the vicinity of the larger towns such as Astara, Bandar Anzali, Ramsar, Chalus, Babolsar and Sari. Many private villas have been constructed in the coastal dunes, and there are a number of public parking areas and picnic grounds adjacent to the beach.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The falling level of the Caspian Sea in the 1960s and 1970s was becoming a cause of concern to fishing and shipping interests, as important fish spawning areas in coastal wetlands were drying out, and much of the very shallow northern Caspian was becoming too shallow for shipping. Thus the recent rapid rise in sea level has been welcomed. Significant changes have occurred at coastal wetlands in the South Caspian, including three Ramsar Sites (the Miankaleh/Gorgan Bay complex, the Anzali Mordab complex and the Bandar Kiashahr/Sefid Rud complex), but on the whole, the rise in sea level has probably had more positive than negative effects. There seems widespread agreement that the "optimum" level for the Caspian Sea is about 26 metres below sea level, i.e. a little higher than its present level. Fisheries departments and the shipping industry are undoubtedly benefitting from the higher level, and few of the towns, ports and coastal installations around the Caspian have been adversely affected, since most were established in the early part of the century when the sea level was still high. The major losses, in economic terms, have been in beach development and tourism, especially in Iran, where the rising sea level has almost obliterated the former extensive sandy beaches, and has caused considerable damage to beach houses, hotels and other recreation facilities.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The inshore waters of the Caspian Sea support a major fishery, while the beach is an important recreation area for Iranian holiday-makers during the summer months.

Noteworthy fauna: Important for a wide variety of migratory waterfowl, notably wintering grebes, cormorants, diving ducks and gulls, and passage terns. Pelecanus crispus occasionally feeds in inshore waters, especially off the Mazandaran coast in the east, where up to 83 have been recorded in January. The sea is used extensively as a day roost for wintering surface-feeding ducks which feed at night on freshwater marshes and rice fields on the coastal plain. Large numbers of shorebirds stop over briefly along the beach during the spring and autumn migration seasons, but rather few remain throughout the winter. Peak counts of some waterfowl during mid-winter and the migration seasons are given in Table 7. Other species occurring in much smaller numbers include Gavia arctica (maximum 2), G. stellata (maximum 2), Podiceps grisegena, Pelecanus onocrotalus (maximum 6), Cygnus cygnus (maximum 8), C. columbianus (maximum 2), Aythya nyroca (maximum 8), Mergus serrator (maximum 9) and M. merganser (maximum 3). There have also been records of single Marmaronetta angustirostris and Oxyura leucocephala. (The most important stretches of shoreline for waterfowl, i.e. along Miankaleh Peninsula and along the coast north of Gomishan, are described separately as parts of sites 20 and 21). Haliaeetus albicilla remains fairly common throughout the South Caspian Region, especially in winter, and frequently scavenges along the shore or fishes in inshore waters. Falco peregrinus is also a relatively common winter visitor and passage migrant, frequently hunting along the shoreline. Melanitta nigra and Clangula hyemalis have occurred as vagrants. Caspian Seals (Phoca caspica) are occasional offshore.

Noteworthy flora: None known.

Scientific research and facilities: A Joint Committee was formed in the late 1980s by the governments of Iran and the former U.S.S.R. to discuss the problems caused by the sudden rise in level of the Caspian Sea. The focal point for this committee in Iran is the Ministry of Power (formerly Ministry of Water and Electricity), although several other ministries and the Department of the Environment are involved. The rise in sea level is being carefully monitored by researchers in Iran and the four republics of the former U.S.S.R. bordering on the Caspian Sea, and considerable attention is being given to the obvious economic aspects of the sea level rise. A considerable amount of limnological and fisheries research has been carried out by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot). Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1967. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Ferguson (1972); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 3a & 3c. The shoreline and inshore waters of the Caspian Sea in Iran constitute a significant portion of a unique wetland ecosystem (the world's largest lake), shared between Iran and several of the new republics of the C.I.S. As such, they are of outstanding limnological, biological and ecological importance. The Iranian sector provides habitat for Pelecanus crispus, a globally threatened species, and regularly holds well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl in winter and during the migration seasons. At least 12 species of waterfowl occur in internationally significant numbers in winter, and two others (Calidris alba and Sterna albifrons) do so during the migration seasons.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lavandavil Marsh (11)

Location: 3820'N, 4850'E; on the shore of the Caspian Sea about 10 km south of Astara, Gilan.

Area: Area of wetland unknown; within a Protected Area of 949 ha.

Altitude: 24 m below sea level.

Overview: A small area of swampy woodland and freshwater marsh adjacent to the shore of the southwest Caspian, of considerable botanical interest and of some importance for passage and wintering waterfowl including Phalacrocorax pygmaeus. The wetland is included in the Lavandavil Protected Area.

Physical features: Lavandavil Marsh is a small area of swampy woodland and freshwater marsh adjacent to the Caspian beach, about 10 km south of Astara. The narrow coastal plain in this region consists of a series of old beach ridges, with alder woodland and scrub growing on the high ground and permanent pools with emergent marsh vegetation in the depressions. The site is bordered to the east by the Caspian Sea and to the west by the main coast road from Astara to Bandar Anzali.

Ecological features: Swampy woodland dominated by Alnus, freshwater marshes with extensive stands of Juncus, and typical strand vegetation along the Caspian beach.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The wetland is included within the Lavandavil Protected Area (949 ha), originally designated as the Astara Wildlife Refuge in about 1975. The entire Protected Area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: None, other than nature protection.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Some changes have occurred to the wetlands as a result of the rise in Caspian sea level, but details are lacking.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetland supports small numbers of waterfowl in winter, including up to 70 Cygnus olor, 14 C. cygnus, 360 Anas strepera, 445 A. clypeata, 30 Larus ichthyaetus and 50 L. minutus, while the adjacent beach occasionally holds substantial numbers of shorebirds for short periods during the migration seasons, e.g. 180 Calidris alba and 100 C. minuta. Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor; there are generally 15-50 birds in the area, but a maximum of 146 has been recorded. Situated on the west coast of the Caspian, at a point where the coastal plain is almost at its narrowest, the site lies in a bird migration "corridor", and is thus an excellent locality for observing bird migration. Large numbers of herons and egrets have been observed migrating south over the site and adjacent Caspian Sea in autumn (including 360 Ardeola ralloides, 170 Egretta garzetta, 340 Ardea cinerea and 520 Ardea purpurea in a single day in September 1973). Other migrants have included up to 200 Phalacrocorax carbo, 63 Plegadis falcinellus, 4 Porzana porzana and 8 Chlidonias niger. A pair of Haliaeetus albicilla bred in the area in the 1970s, and may still do so. Aquila heliaca, Falco peregrinus and Asio flammeus are regular winter visitors in small numbers, and Panurus biarmicus has occurred (a party of 6 in October 1970). At least 167 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Noteworthy flora: The reserve contains excellent stands of Alnus woodland which has become rare in the South Caspian lowlands outside Protected Areas.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since about 1975, and the area has been surveyed by ornithologists during the breeding and migration seasons.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d, 2a & 2b. Lavandavil Marsh is a good example of a natural wetland ecosystem (swampy Alnus woodland and freshwater marsh) characteristic of the South Caspian lowlands, but now becoming rare outside protected areas. The wetland provides wintering habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (a globally threatened species), and plays an important role in maintaining faunal and floral diversity in the region.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Abbas-abad Dam (12)

Location: 3823'N, 4850'E; on the coastal plain of the Caspian Sea, about 7 km south of Astara, Gilan.

Area: 45 ha.

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: A small reservoir with adjacent seasonally flooded woodland in the southwest Caspian lowlands, important primarily for its large breeding colonies of Phalacrocorax carbo and Ardeidae. Unprotected.

Physical features: Abbas-abad Dam is a small water storage reservoir used for irrigation purposes in an area of deciduous woodland on the narrow coastal plain of the Caspian Sea, about 7 km south of Astara. The dam lies at the foot of the forested coastal ranges, to the west of the main highway from Astara to Bandar Anzali. At maximum flooding in late winter and spring, parts of the surrounding woodland are flooded, while at low water level in late summer, some mudflats are exposed.

Ecological features: A small artificial lake with some emergent marsh vegetation and an adjacent area of swampy woodland. There are many tall dead trees in the lake.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The dam has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The dam is used as a source of water for irrigation during the dry summer months, and there is some waterfowl hunting in autumn and winter.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Much of the surrounding forest has been cleared for pastureland and cultivation (mainly fruit and vegetables).

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The swampy woodland and dead trees in the lake support a large breeding colony of Phalacrocorax carbo (1,200-1,500 pairs), along with about 70 pairs of Nycticorax nycticorax, 50 pairs of Ardeola ralloides, 10 pairs of Bubulcus ibis and 40 pairs of Egretta garzetta. Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor in very small numbers (maximum 3), and there are usually a few duck present (e.g. up to 20 Netta rufina). Scolopax rusticola is a common winter visitor in the surrounding swampy woodland, and up to 100 Chlidonias hybridus occur on passage in autumn. A pair of Haliaeetus albicilla breeds in the area, and Falco cherrug and F. peregrinus have been recorded in winter.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1969, and the area has been surveyed by ornithologists on a number of occasions during the breeding and migration seasons. Some ringing of cormorants, herons and egrets was carried out in the late 1970s.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1978a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 2c & 3c. Abbas-abad Dam provides wintering habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (a globally threatened species); in summer, it supports important breeding colonies of cormorants, herons and egrets, including over 1% of the regional breeding population of Phalacrocorax carbo.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Nur Gol (13)

Location: 3800'N, 4833'E; in the northwestern Alborz Mountains about 50 km south of Astara, Azarbayjan.

Area: 200 ha.

Altitude: 2,300 m.

Overview: A small freshwater lake set high in the western Alborz, of considerable limnological and botanical interest, and of some importance for breeding waterfowl. The lake and its watershed are protected within the Lisar Protected Area.

Physical features: Nur Gol (or Neur Gol) is a small freshwater lake with extensive sedge marshes in a depression at 2,300 m on the relatively dry western slope of the Alborz Mountains, west of the Caspian Sea. The lake drains north into a tributary of the Aras River. The wetland provides some breeding habitat for waterbirds, but is completely frozen over for about six months of the year.

Ecological features: The lake supports extensive freshwater marshes and is rich in submergent vegetation. Surrounding hillsides support montane steppe. Nearby rocky peaks rise to summits at almost 3,200 m.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: Nur Gol and its entire catchment are included within the Lisar Protected Area, established in 1970 with an area of 31,250 ha and subsequently enlarged to its present size of 33,050 ha. The Protected Area incorporates the entire watershed of the Lisar River from its source near the crest of the Alborz in the west to the Caspian shore in the east (about 30 km), and also part of the much drier western slope of the Alborz around Nur Gol. The entire Protected Area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Trout were introduced into the lake in the early 1970s, in an effort to promote sport-fishing within the Protected Area. There are many small settlements and farming areas at low elevations in the reserve, but the upper regions of the reserve around Nur Gol remain sparsely populated and relatively undisturbed.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known at the wetland. Large areas of forest at low elevations have been cleared for cultivation and pastureland, and much of the remaining forest has been degraded by cutting for fuelwood and grazing by domestic livestock. There has been some illegal logging in the reserve.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetland supports small numbers of breeding waterfowl, including Tadorna ferruginea (maximum of 90 birds), Anas platyrhynchos, Tringa totanus and T. hypoleucos. Ciconia nigra has been recorded at the lake in summer and may breed. As many as 50 Tringa ochropus have been recorded during autumn migration.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: The Fisheries Unit at the Department of the Environment has investigated the lake with a view to the development of sport fishing, and several breeding season surveys have been carried out by the Department's Ornithology Unit.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Scott (1976b).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d. Nur Gol is the only significant, relatively undisturbed lake at high altitude in the Alburz Mountains, and is thus of considerable limnological and botanical interest.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

 [Bottom

_______

Anzali Mordab Complex (14)

Location: 3725'N, 4928'E; in the western part of the broad deltaic plains around the city of Rasht in the southwest Caspian Region, Gilan. The town of Bandar Anzali is situated at the mouth of the main Mordab lagoon.

Area: Approximately 15,000 ha.

Altitude: 23 m below sea level.

Overview: A large complex of freshwater lagoons with extensive reed-beds, shallow impoundments ("ab-bandans") and seasonally flooded meadows in the southwest Caspian lowlands, extremely important as spawning and nursery grounds for fishes, and as breeding, staging and wintering areas for a wide variety of waterfowl. Parts of the wetland are protected in the Siahkesheem Protected Area and Selke Wildlife Refuge; the entire wetland has been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: The Anzali Mordab comprises a complex of large, shallow, eutrophic, freshwater lagoons, marshes and seasonally flooded grasslands, separated from the Caspian Sea by a sandy barrier, about one km wide, with open grassland, pomegranate scrub and sand dune vegetation. The main Mordab covers about 11,000 ha, and comprises an open lagoon, 26 km long and 2.0-3.5 km wide, surrounded by reed-beds which extend its eastern limits a further seven km. Siahkesheem Marsh (6,700 ha; 3724'N, 4922'E) lies in the partially enclosed basin of the Rud-e-Esfand in the southwest. This lagoon was probably once a part of the main lagoon, and is about 12 km long by 4.5 km wide. Several perennial streams emanating in the nearby Talesh Mountains feed into the Mordab complex, chief of which are the Bohambar, Chakoor, Esfand and Siahdarveshan. Inflow is usually at its greatest in autumn, when the level of the Mordab may rise by a metre or more. The entire marsh and lagoon complex drains into the deep-water harbour of Bandar Anzali through several short channels at the northeast end of the main lagoon. The 1.8 metre rise in the level of the Caspian Sea since 1978 has resulted in a one metre rise in the water level in the main Mordab and increased salt water intrusion during the summer months (when the level of the Caspian is at its highest and inflow of freshwater is at its lowest).

Much of the central and eastern portions of the main Mordab support vast stands of tall reeds, while the western portion is mainly open water. Siahkesheem Marsh is almost entirely overgrown with dense reed-beds. The permanent wetland area is surrounded by a broad belt of flood meadows and ab-bandans (shallow impoundments constructed to retain water for irrigation purposes during the dry summer months). These largely seasonal wetlands cover about 1,000 ha and flood to a maximum depth of about 50 cm; they border on arable land to the west, south and east. Selke Ab-bandan (360 ha; 3724'N, 4929'E) is situated on the southern edge of the main Mordab, and comprises 360 ha of shallow freshwater marshes and flood meadows with tall reed-beds to the north and arable land to the south. The wetland is surrounded by a low embankment and was originally created as a water storage pond and duck-hunting area. Other similar shallow marshes along the southern edge of the Mordab and around its eastern end remain in private hands and continue to be maintained as duck-hunting reserves.

The soils are fine-textured alluvials and continually or intermittently wet hydromorphic soils. They range from silt loam to silty-clay loam, clay loam and even clay at the surface. The hydromorphic soils are a variety of low-humic, humic gley and half-bog, pseudo-gley and gley, generally formed from sedimentation in the Caspian. Gradual lowering of the ground water and removal of salts makes these soils very fertile. They are, however, poorly drained.

The climate is characterized by warm, humid summers and mild winters, with a relatively low annual range in temperature. The average annual rainfall is 1,950 mm, with rain falling throughout the year but mainly in winter. Relative humidity averages 80-85%, with highest readings during spring and autumn. The lowest temperatures occur in February (mean around 6C) and the highest in August (mean maximum nearly 25C); extremes are -11C and 30C. Snow is relatively rare due to the warming effects of the Caspian Sea, but exceptional storms, as occurred in January/February 1969 and January/February 1972, may deposit several metres of snow within a few days.

Ecological features: The dominant vegetation throughout much of the Mordab consists of vast beds of Phragmites australis which in places grows to six metres in height. A rapid expansion in the extent of the Phragmites reed-beds began in the late 1960s, and by the early 1980s, almost the entire eastern and central portions of the main Mordab were covered in reeds. This rapid spread of Phragmites has been attributed to falling water levels in the Mordab, as a result of the then continuing fall in the level of the Caspian Sea, and accelerated eutrophication as a result of increased inflow of domestic sewage, fertilizers and other organic material. The situation had become so serious by the end of the 1970s that the Department of the Environment was investigating possible methods of control. It seems likely, however, that the recent rapid rise in water level in the Mordab, coupled with increased salt water intrusion during the summer months, will eventually check the expansion of Phragmites. The open-water areas of the Mordab support extensive beds of the water lily Nelumbium (caspicum) maciferum and a very rich growth of other floating and submerged vegetation including Nymphoides indica, Nymphaea alba, Utricularia vulgaris, Salvinia natans, Hydrocharis morsus-ranae, Hydrocotyle vulgaris, Lemna minor, L. trisulca, L. polyrhiza, Trapa natans, Lymnanthemum nymphoides, Polygonum spp., Spirodella polyrhiza, Riccia sp., Myriophyllum verticillatum, M. spicatum, Ceratophyllum sudmercum, C. demersum, Hydrilla verticillata, Potamogeton pectinatus, P. crispus, Elodea nutalli and Ranunculus divaricatus. The marshes and flood meadows support a wide variety of emergents including Sparganium neglectum, Typha latifolia, Echinochloa crus-galli, Glyceria luitans, Scirpus palustris, Cyperus longus, Juncus spp., Sium angustifolium, Nasturtium amphibium, Sagittaria sagittaefolia, Alisma plantigo-aquatica, Butomus umbellatus and Equisetum sp. Patches of woodland with alders Alnus glutinosus and willows Salix sp. occur on higher ground and along river levees. The flora of Siahkesheem Marsh has been described in some detail by Riazi (undated). The wetlands are bordered to the north by sand dunes with grassland and scrubby vegetation, and to the south by cultivated land (mainly rice) and patches of woodland.

Land tenure: Mainly public (Government); some of the ab-bandans along the south side of the Mordab are privately owned.

Conservation measures taken: Two reserves have been established in the Anzali Mordab complex. The central portion of Siahkesheem Marsh (3,515 ha) was first established as a Protected Region in August 1967. The reserve was enlarged to 6,701 ha and upgraded to Wildlife Refuge in 1971, but reduced to its present size of 4,500 ha and downgraded to Protected Area in the 1980s. Selke Ab-bandan (360 ha) has been protected as a Wildlife Refuge since September 1970. In an effort to increase the level of protection afforded to waterfowl in the Anzali Mordab, the Department of the Environment has recently taken steps to establish a non-hunting area at Sorkhan Kol in the central Mordab.

The Anzali Mordab complex (15,000 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. This encompasses the whole of the Anzali Mordab, Siahkesheem Marsh, Selke Ab-bandan and several other ab-bandans bordering the marshes. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Fotoohi (1974) and Howell (1976) have made a number of recommendations for the management of Selke Wildlife Refuge. A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to the wetlands in January 1992 recommended that the Department of the Environment should investigate a variety of possibilities for conserving waterfowl populations in the Mordab while at the same time maintaining hunting opportunities for the general public. These might include the following:

- imposing stricter controls on the number of hunters, number of days when hunting is permitted, bag limits, hunting techniques etc.;

- giving greater encouragement to duck hunting communities using traditional hunting techniques to manage and patrol their hunting areas (e.g. as occurs at Gasghiasheh Ab-bandans in the eastern Mordab);

- encouraging sport hunters (using shot-guns) to form their own hunting clubs or societies to manage their activities more wisely;

- improving the protection of Siahkesheem Protected Area;

- creating a buffer zone around Selke Wildlife Refuge to reduce poaching around the edge of this extremely important reserve;

- establishing additional non-hunting areas in other parts of the Anzali Mordab (e.g. at Sorkhan Kol).

Land use: Anzali Mordab supports a major local fishery. The Mordab and deeper rivers flowing into it are used for transportation of farm goods as well as people and other materials to the various villages around the wetland and to Bandar Anzali. This busy fishing port and market town straddles the channels which connect the Mordab with the Caspian Sea. Parts of the Phragmites marsh and the open wetlands bordering the south side of the Mordab are heavily utilized by domestic livestock for grazing. Several villages cut and use the reeds for mat-weaving, fencing and building materials. Duck-hunting is an extremely important activity in winter, including both sport hunting and market hunting for sale in local markets and export to Tehran. Many of the ab-bandans surrounding the Mordab are managed as duck-hunting areas throughout the winter months. At these sites, the duck hunters employ a traditional dazzling and hand-netting technique (the "net, gong and flare" method) to catch ducks and coots from a boat at night. Elsewhere in the Mordab, hunting is mostly by shot-gun. The ab-bandans also provide a source of water for irrigation during the dry summer months. Surrounding areas are used mainly for the production of rice and vegetable crops, although there is also some tea grown.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The Anzali Mordab seems to have been relatively undisturbed until the late 1950s. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, a number of development projects in Gilan greatly affected the wetland ecosystem. New roads were constructed into areas formerly served only by foot trail or by boat, particularly on the south side of the Mordab. The harbour facilities at Bandar Anzali were expanded, and an industrial site was developed on the south side of the Mordab. In the late 1960s, a drainage canal, two km long and 20 m wide, was constructed from the northeast corner of the Mordab to the Caspian Sea to facilitate the reclamation of 5,000 ha of reed marsh for agriculture. In recent years, there has been a massive spread of the water fern Azolla, which was introduced into the Caspian wetlands by rice-farmers in the 1970s. This aquatic weed now covers much of the water surface within the reed-beds and in most of the quieter backwaters. The ecological consequences of this invasion by Azolla have yet to be fully documented. However, it is believed that the greatly reduced abundance of Nelumbium maciferum and Trapa natans (both valuable waterfowl food plants) can in part be attributed to the spread of Azolla.

Waterfowl populations are subjected to very high levels of disturbance from fishing activities, boat traffic and hunting. Hunting pressure on waterfowl populations in the Anzali Mordab has increased greatly since the 1970s. The number of licensed hunters in Gilan Province has increased from about 6,000 in the 1970s to about 20,000 at the present time. Traditional hunting (using the "net, gong and flare" method) continues at a high level, and is thought to account for at least 100,000 waterfowl per season. Hunting with shot-guns has increased considerably, and there are now about 1,000 hunters hunting in this way at Anzali Mordab. These are thought to account for another 100,000 waterfowl per season. A considerable amount of illegal flight-netting occurs, and Siakesheem Marsh is now dotted with shacks used by the duck-netters. Unless some measures are introduced to curb hunting pressure and its associated disturbance, there is a high likelihood that within a few years, the once vast flocks of migratory waterfowl will have disappeared completely from all those areas of the Anzali Mordab open to hunting for the general public. Only those areas protected as refuges by the Department of the Environment or jealously guarded by private land-owners for their own hunting activities will remain as havens for waterfowl. Poaching is reported to have been a very serious problem in the reserves in the first few years after the revolution, but the situation has improved considerably in recent years, especially at Selke Wildlife Refuge where there is a new Game Guard Station and protection is excellent.

Hydrological and biophysical values: The Mordab is a very important spawning and nursery area for economically important species in the Caspian Sea fishery.

Social and cultural values: Throughout the winter months, a large proportion of the local human population are involved either directly or indirectly in waterfowl hunting, and this is of considerable importance in the local economy.

Noteworthy fauna: The Anzali Mordab and its satellite wetlands such as Siahkesheem Marsh and Selke Ab-bandan are extremely important for a wide variety of breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The wetlands support a very large breeding colony of Chlidonias hybridus (2,000-4,000 pairs), small colonies of six species of Ardeidae, and (at least formerly) a large resident population of Porphyrio porphyrio. The wetlands also support huge wintering concentrations of ducks, geese, swans and coots. The Anzali Mordab is the most important wintering area in Iran for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, regularly holding more than 500 in mid-winter (maximum 650 in November 1972). Pelecanus onocrotalus, P. crispus, Botaurus stellaris and Anser erythropus are occasional winter visitors in small numbers, while Oxyura leucocephala, Charadrius asiaticus, Vanellus gregarius and Gallinago media have been recorded on passage. Scolopax rusticola is a very common winter visitor to the surrounding damp woodlands and scrub, while Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus are very common breeding birds in the reed-beds. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 8.

The number of waterfowl wintering in Anzali Mordab in recent years has been much lower than in the 1970s, when the total count of ducks and Fulica atra usually exceeded 200,000. The great majority of waterfowl are now confined to the well protected Selke Wildlife Refuge, Siahkesheem Marsh and a chain of a duck-netting marshes along the south side of the Mordab protected from disturbance by the local people. The recent scarcity of ducks and coots on the open waters of the main Mordab (open to duck shooting) is clearly a result of the great hunting pressure in the area. This continues a trend first recorded in the early 1970s, when numbers of Fulica atra in Gilan fell from over 100,000 in 1972/73 to only 34,000 by 1974/75. This decline was attributed to the extremely heavy hunting pressure in Gilan and the almost continuous disturbance from hunters in unprotected wetlands, especially Anzali Mordab. Selke Wildlife Refuge continues to support large numbers of birds, but there is evidence of a change in species composition, with more diving ducks and Fulica atra and fewer dabbling ducks and geese than in the 1970s. This change is undoubtedly a result of the higher water levels in the Refuge caused by the rise in level of the Caspian Sea.

There has been a dramatic decline in the population of Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) at Anzali Mordab in recent years. The reasons for this decline are unknown, as the extent of suitable habitat appears to have increased enormously during the last decade, but may be related to the great increase in water depth and/or spread of Azolla. Numbers of wintering Pygmy Cormorants (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) have, however, remained relatively stable over the past 20 years. At least 237 were recorded in January 1992, a figure that compares well with single-day counts of the early 1970s (which ranged from 210 to 325).

The Mordab is a very important wintering area for birds of prey, holding up to 20 Haliaeetus albicilla, six Aquila heliaca, 24 A. clanga and six Falco peregrinus, along with smaller numbers of Falco cherrug, F. columbarius and Asio flammeus. Circus aeruginosus is common throughout the year, with some 15-25 breeding pairs, up to 85 individuals in winter, and up to 130 during autumn passage. At least 144 species of birds have been recorded in Siahkesheem Protected Area and at least 157 species in Selke Wildlife Refuge.

Mammals include the Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Common Otter (Lutra lutra) Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), White-toothed Shrew (Crocidura leucodon) and Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica). A pack of wolves (Canis lupus) appeared in the marshes during the extremely severe weather of early 1972.

The Mordab is one of the principal breeding grounds of "mahi sefid" or White Fish Rutilus frisii, commercially one of the most important fish in the South Caspian after sturgeon. It is also an important breeding ground for the local sander Lucioperca lucioperca, while the pike Essox lucius is abundant. Other fishes include Perca fluviatilis, Silurus glanis, Rutilus rutilus, Aspius aspius, Tinca tinca, Barbus brachycephalus, Chalcalburnus chalcoides, Abramis brama, Vimba vimba and Cyprius carpio. Four species of frogs have been recorded: Rana caucasia, R. ridibunda, R. esculenta and the tree frog Hyla arborea. Reptiles include the lizards Agama agilis, Lacerta chlorogaster, L. strigata, Ophisaurus apodus and Anguis fragilis, the snakes Natrix natrix, Oligodon taeniolatus, Coluber fugularis and C. najadum, and two freshwater turtles Emys orbicularis and Clemmys caspica. Riazi (undated) lists the common zooplankton and invertebrates of Siahkesheem Marsh.

Noteworthy flora: The Anzali Mordab contains much the most extensive stands of tall Phragmites reed-beds in the country.

Scientific research and facilities: Numerous limnological and hydrological studies have been conducted by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot). Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1967. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and a duck-ringing programme was initiated by the Ornithology Unit in January 1967. The Department of the Environment has also carried out investigations on duck-hunting in the Mordab, and the spread of Phragmites. The Department is currently undertaking a major programme of research, which has involved the establishment of 35 monitoring stations throughout the Mordab, to measure a variety of parameters including changes in water level, water quality and physico-chemical characteristics. The Department has recently published a book on the ecology and wildlife of Siahkesheem Marsh in Farsi (Riazi, undated). Excellent research facilities are available in the nearby town of Bandar Anzali, and the Department of the Environment maintains a guest house for visiting researchers on the north edge of the marshes near Bandar Anzali.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by a local Council under the supervision of the Department of the Environment; this department is also responsible for the management of Siahkesheem Protected Area and Selke Wildlife Refuge.

References: Carnie (1973); Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Ferguson (1972); Firouz (1968); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Firouz et al. (1970); Fotoohi (1974); Howell (1976); IUCN (1992); Mansoori (1984); Nielsen (1969); Nielsen & Speyer (1967); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Riazi (undated); Savage (1963); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1978a, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. The Anzali Mordab is an outstanding example of a natural freshwater lagoon system characteristic of the South Caspian lowlands. It plays a substantial hydrological and ecological role in the functioning of the deltaic and coastal systems of the southwest Caspian, and supports an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora. It is an important breeding and nursery grounds for various fish species, and supports large breeding colonies of several species of waterfowl. It also provides important habitat for at least three globally threatened species of birds: Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca. The wetland regularly holds well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl; it supports over 1% of the regional breeding population of Chlidonias hybridus, and in winter supports over 1% of the regional populations of Podiceps nigricollis, Phalacrocorax carbo, 12 species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Limosa limosa and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Bandar Kiashar Lagoon and mouth of Sefid Rud (15)

Location: 3720'N, 4955'E; about 40 km east of Bandar Anzali, Gilan. Bandar Kiashar Lagoon lies immediately to the east of the mouth of the Sefid Rud (River).

Area: 500 ha.

Altitude: 25 m below sea level.

Overview: A shallow sea bay (formerly brackish lagoon), associated freshwater marshes and the nearby riverine marshes at the mouth of the Sefid Rud in the southwest Caspian, important as spawning and nursery grounds for fishes, and as breeding, staging and wintering areas for a wide variety of waterfowl. The wetlands have been designated as a Ramsar Site but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: The wetland complex comprises a shallow sea bay (formerly an enclosed lagoon), the nearby mouth of the main channel of the Sefid Rud, and the associated fresh to brackish marshes. The Sefid Rud is the second largest river in Iran; it has a catchment area of over 54,000 sq.km in the western Alborz Mountains, and a natural flood discharge of 3,400 to 4,200 cubic metres per second. This diminishes to a minimum flow of less than 20 cubic metres per second during late summer. The river divides into several distributary channels on the plains of Gilan, the main channel entering the Caspian at Bandar Kiashar. Bandar Kiashahr Lagoon (formerly Bandar Farahnaz Lagoon) is situated in an area of coastal sand dunes and grassland about 1.5 km east of the mouth of the Sefid Rud. In the 1960s and 1970s, this wetland was a shallow, brackish coastal lagoon, 3.75 km long by 1.5 km wide, with fringing Juncus marshes and about 140 ha of Phragmites and Typha reed-beds at its west end. The lagoon was fed by two streams from the Sefid Rud and local run-off, and drained northeast through a narrow channel into the Caspian Sea. The bottom was a mixture of sand and mud, and the waters were predominantly oligotrophic, except towards the marshy western extremity. The lagoon had been formed as recently as 1960 as a result of the falling level of the Caspian Sea and development of coastal sand spits. The 1.8 m rise in the level of the Caspian Sea since 1978 has obliterated the sand barrier between the lagoon and the sea, with the result that the wetland now constitutes a sea bay with broad entrance to the sea (similar to the situation in the 1950s). The marshy grassland and sand dune areas at the mouth of the Sefid Rud have, however, remained more or less unchanged, while new wetland habitats have been created to the west of the river mouth.

Ecological features: The lagoon supports relatively little vegetation other than algae. Freshwater marshes at the extreme west end of the lagoon support some reed-beds (Phragmites and Typha), while the southern and eastern shores are dominated by Juncus sp. and grasses. Sandy areas to the west and northwest are covered in scrub and grassland which give way to sand dune vegetation near the Caspian shore. Grassland along the banks of the Sefid Rud is subject to seasonal flooding. Land to the south of the wetland is mostly under cultivation, although there are some relict patches of Alnus woodland near the wetland.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. Bandar Kiashahr Lagoon and the mouth of Sefid Rud were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The Ramsar Site (500 ha) includes the whole of the lagoon area, its associated marshes and the marshes and sand flats at the mouth of the Sefid Rud to the west. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Further investigations are required to assess the ecological changes which have occurred at the wetland, and to identify ways of reducing the disturbance to waterfowl from fishing activities.

Land use: Fishing in the lagoon and adjacent coastal waters; grazing by domestic livestock, reed-cutting and wildfowl hunting in the marshes. There is a fish-processing warehouse on the south side of the lagoon.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There is heavy hunting pressure on waterfowl throughout the winter months, and the lagoon is subjected to high levels of disturbance from fishing activities and the passage of boats to and from the fish-processing warehouse on the south side. There is also considerable disturbance from recreation activities at weekends and holidays. The disappearance of the wintering flock of Pelecanus crispus in the late 1970s and great decrease in the numbers of other wintering waterfowl during the last decade have been attributed to the increasing disturbance from fishing activities and heavy hunting pressure.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The lagoon is an important centre for commercial fishing.

Noteworthy fauna: An important staging and wintering area for a wide variety of migratory waterfowl, notably grebes, Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (up to 300), ducks, shorebirds, gulls and terns. A flock of Pelecanus crispus (usually 30-40 birds) wintered at the mouth of the Sefid Rud in the 1970s but apparently disappeared by about 1980, probably because of increased disturbance. Anser erythropus was also an occasional winter visitor to the area in the 1970s, with a maximum of 10 in January 1973, but none has been seen in recent years. The open grassy areas and dunes near the river mouth provide breeding habitat for 20-30 pairs of Glareola pratincola and a few pairs of Sterna hirundo, while a small patch of woodland to the south of the lagoon supports a large breeding colony of Phalacrocorax carbo (1,000 pairs), Nycticorax nycticorax (200 pairs) and other Ardeidae. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 9. Scarce winter visitors and vagrants have included Botaurus stellaris, Branta ruficollis (one in January 1973), Oxyura leucocephala (three in February 1972), Phalaropus fulicarius and Rissa tridactyla. Haliaeetus albicilla is present year-round and breeds locally (up to five have been observed at one time), while Circus aeruginosus (maximum 20) and Falco peregrinus (maximum 4) are regular winter visitors. Aquila heliaca, Buteo lagopus, Falco cherrug, F. columbarius and Asio flammeus have also been recorded.

The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) is common in the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: A considerable amount of fisheries research has been carried out by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot). Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Ferguson (1972); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1978a); Scott & Smart (1992); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2c & 3c. Bandar Kiashar Lagoon and the mouth of the Sefid Rud are good representative examples of natural wetlands characteristic of the South Caspian lowlands. The lagoon is an important breeding and nursery grounds for various fish species, and supports large breeding colonies of several species of waterfowl. The wetlands also provide important wintering habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (a globally threatened species), and, formerly, supported a wintering flock of Pelecanus crispus. The wetlands regularly support over 1% of the regional breeding population of Phalacrocorax carbo, and over 1% of the regional wintering populations of Podiceps nigricollis, Anas platyrhynchos and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Amirkelayeh Lake (16)

Location: 3718'N, 5010'E; on the coastal plain of the Caspian Sea, about 12 km north of Langarud, Gilan.

Area: 1,230 ha.

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: A permanent freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds in the southwest Caspian lowlands, important for passage and wintering waterfowl, notably Phalacrocorax pygmaeus and Netta rufina. The lake is protected as a Wildlife Refuge, and has been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: Amirkelayeh Lake is a permanent, eutrophic, freshwater lake with rich growth of floating and submergent vegetation, extensive fringing reed-beds of Typha and Phragmites and some willow thickets. The lake is about 4.5 km long by up to 1.7 km wide; the water is extremely clear, with an average depth of about 3-4 m and maximum depth of 6 m. It is fed by springs and local run-off and, at high water levels, drains from the northwest through a small stream into a channel of the Sefid Rud some 1.5 km away. The lake is sufficiently high above the level of the Caspian Sea to have been unaffected by the recent rise in sea level.

Ecological features: The open-water areas of the lake support abundant submerged and floating vegetation including species of Nelumbium, Lemna, Potamogeton, Hydrilla, Myriophyllum and Ceratophyllum. The surrounding emergent marshes are dominated by Phragmites with some Typha and Salix. The surrounding area comprises rice paddies with patches of woodland of Salix caprea, S. micans and Pterocarya fraxinifolia, and there are remnants of former coastal forest.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The lake and marshes were designated as a Protected Region in 1970 and upgraded to Wildlife Refuge (1,230 ha) in 1971. This Wildlife Refuge of 1,230 ha was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. Following the revolution in the late 1970s, the Department of the Environment experienced some difficulty in managing the Wildlife Refuge properly. A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to Gilan in January 1992 recommended that the Department of the Environment should seek to re-establish its authority at the site (Scott & Smart, 1992). Considerable progress has been made since then; the Department of the Environment was able to re-establish control of the area in 1994, and duck-hunting has now been stopped. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Formerly duck-hunting for local consumption and export. The hunters used a traditional clap-netting technique, with the clap-nets set on poles in deep water and operated from hides (blinds) in the nearby reed-beds. The lake provides a source of water for irrigation during the dry summer months. There are several small villages in the area, and an all-weather road passes close to the eastern side of the lake.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There are no major threats to the habitat, and the ecological character of the site has remained unchanged since the establishment of the Wildlife Refuge in 1971. Prior to its designation as a Wildlife Refuge, the lake had been an important waterfowl hunting area for local villagers, who employed a traditional clap-netting technique to trap ducks and coots for the market. During the revolution, local villagers burned down the Department of the Environment's Game Guard Station and Watch Tower, and re-assumed control of the lake. Duck-trapping re-commenced, and by 1992 there were some 60 teams of duck-netters operating at the lake. However, the Department re-established control of the area in 1994, and hunting has again been prohibited.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: Formerly an important duck hunting area.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important wintering area for diving ducks, notably Netta rufina (maximum 2,500) and Aythya ferina (maximum 4,200), and Fulica atra (maximum 45,000), and a wintering area for up to 100 Phalacrocorax pygmaeus. Other wintering waterfowl have included up to five Podiceps auritus, 100 Tachybaptus ruficollis, 200 Cygnus olor, 25 C. cygnus, 16 C. columbianus, 1,300 Anas strepera, 4,560 A. crecca, 1,220 A. platyrhynchos, 910 Aythya fuligula, five A. nyroca, small numbers of Rallus aquaticus and 200 Larus minutus. Some 700 swans Cygnus spp. were present on neighbouring ab-bandans in November 1993. Passage migrants in spring and autumn have included up to 140 Egretta alba, 20 Ardea purpurea, 300 Anas querquedula, three Porzana parva and 30 Gallinago gallinago. A single Marmaronetta angustirostris was observed in November 1969. Several pairs of Porphyrio porphyrio breed in the reed-beds, along with large numbers of Gallinula chloropus, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus, and Panurus biarmicus has been recorded (a party of five in October 1970). Pandion haliaetus is regular on passage, and a pair of Haliaeetus albicilla nested in a tree close to the lake in the 1970s. Circus aeruginosus is a common winter visitor (maximum 20), and Falco peregrinus is an occasional winter visitor. At least 101 species of birds have been recorded in the Wildlife Refuge.

Mammals known to occur in the refuge include Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and a duck-ringing programme was initiated by the Ornithology Unit in 1968. The Department of the Environment has also carried out some investigations on duck-hunting techniques and harvesting levels at the lake.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment. The Ramsar Site is administered by a local Council under the supervision of the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1970b); Evans (1994); Ferguson (1972); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 3a & 3c. Amirkelayeh Lake is a good representative example of a natural wetland characteristic of the South Caspian lowlands. It provides important wintering habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (a globally threatened species), and regularly holds over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Netta rufina, Aythya ferina and Fulica atra.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Fereidoonkenar Marshes (17)

Location: 3635'N, 5231'E; on the coastal plain of the South Caspian, 5 km south of the village of Fereidoonkenar (Fereydun Kenar) and 13 km southwest of Babolsar, Mazandaran.

Area: 1,000 ha.

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: A complex of shallow freshwater impoundments developed for irrigation purposes and as a duck-hunting area and surrounded by rice paddies, in the southeast Caspian lowlands; of outstanding importance as the winter quarters of the entire western population of the Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus), but also extremely important as a wintering area for many other species of waterfowl, notably dabbling ducks (Anas spp.) and geese (Anser spp.). A small part of the area is under protection as a Protected Area.

Physical features: Fereidoonkenar (Fereydun Kenar) "damgah" is an artificial wetland, created and maintained primarily as a duck-hunting area, but also utilized as a supply of water for irrigation during the summer months. The core of the damgah comprises a series of shallow, freshwater impoundments with a rich growth of submerged and floating aquatic vegetation. The impoundments are almost entirely surrounded by an embankment and narrow belt of tall trees in which there are about 100 duck-trapping stations. The wetland is situated in the middle of a large expanse of rice paddies which provide excellent feeding habitat for ducks, geese, shorebirds and the Siberian Cranes.

Ecological features: The shallow impoundments support abundant floating and submerged aquatic vegetation and some fringing reed-beds of Phragmites australis and Typha sp. Cyperus rotundus (the principal food of the wintering cranes) is common. The surrounding plains are under rice cultivation.

Land tenure: Private.

Conservation measures taken: Part of the area is under protection as the Fereidoonkenar Protected Area (148 ha). This was originally established in the late 1970s as a Wildlife Refuge, but has since been downgraded in status. To ensure that the waterfowl are not disturbed, the duck trappers enforce a very strict ban not only on shooting activities in the area, but also on all other unnecessary human activity. As a result, the damgah wetland and surrounding paddies constitute one of the best protected and least disturbed wetlands in the South Caspian lowlands. Few birds other than Anas platyrhynchos and A. crecca are trapped, and thus for the many thousands of other ducks, geese and shorebirds and for the cranes, conditions are ideal. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Duck-hunting for local consumption and export. The duck-hunting was originally developed as market hunting and provided many local people with a livelihood throughout the winter months, but in recent years, the primary interest of many hunters has been for the sport. The hunters operate from trapping stations set on the embankment surrounding the main ab-bandan, and use live decoy Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) to lure other ducks (principally Mallard, but also occasionally Teal A. crecca) into flight nets. The duck-netting is carried out under licence from the Department of the Environment, each of the 100 or so trapping stations (each manned by two men) being permitted to capture up to five birds a day throughout the hunting season. The ab-bandans also provide a supply of water for irrigation during the dry summer months.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The restrictions imposed on access by the local land-owners extend even to personnel of the Department of the Environment, and the Department therefore has no control over hunting activities. Towards the end of each season, when duck-netting becomes unprofitable, the area is opened up to hunting with guns in a massive "shoot-out". Large numbers of waterfowl of many species are shot at this time, and there is a danger that Siberian Cranes could be accidentally killed.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: A very important duck-hunting area.

Noteworthy fauna: The artificially-maintained shallow impoundments and extensive rice fields at Fereidoonkenar provide excellent feeding and roosting habitat for large numbers of wintering waterfowl, notably Phalacrocorax carbo (maximum 1,560), dabbling ducks (maximum 200,000), Anser albifrons (maximum 1,700), A. anser (maximum 6,000), Vanellus vanellus (maximum 16,000) and Limosa limosa (maximum 5,000). Peak counts of dabbling ducks have included 14,500 Anas penelope, 20,000 A. strepera, 80,000 A. crecca, 80,000 A. platyrhynchos, 60,000 A. acuta and 12,000 A. clypeata. A small flock of 11 Anser erythropus was present in January 1992. Other wintering waterfowl have included up to 500 Aythya ferina, 330 A. fuligula, 900 Fulica atra, 15 Pluvialis apricaria and 40 Gallinago gallinago. These large concentrations of waterbirds attract a variety of wintering raptors including Haliaeetus albicilla (maximum 4), Aquila heliaca, A. clanga and Falco peregrinus. Large concentrations of Philomachus pugnax (maximum 2,800) have been recorded on spring migration. The wetland gained international fame in 1978 when ornithologists from the Department of the Environment discovered a tiny wintering population of the endangered Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus) at the site. The local duck-hunters were very familiar with the cranes, and reported that they had been coming to this area for many years. The cranes arrive in October and depart in mid-March. Since the discovery of the cranes in mid-January 1978, their numbers have fluctuated between 7 and 14. At least 11 cranes were present in January 1992, including two juveniles. Thus the alarming rumours in early 1991 that four or fives cranes had been shot or captured for zoos were clearly erroneous, as nine of the ten birds present in the winter of 1990/1991 could still be accounted for. Eleven cranes were present in the winter of 1992/93, and nine in the winter of 1993/94. The rediscovery of Grus leucogeranus in the South Caspian, after an absence of records for 60 years, has been described by Ashtiani (1987).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1974. The small wintering population of Grus leucogeranus has been monitored closely since its discovery in 1978, and the Department of the Environment has now established a long-term research and conservation project on the cranes, in consultation with the International Crane Foundation. A proposal by the International Crane Foundation to use radio-telemetry and satellite-tracking in an attempt to follow the cranes to their breeding areas in Russia is currently under consideration.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Department of the Environment is responsible for the management of the small protected area.

References: Archibald & Landfried (1993); Ashtiani (1987); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Scott (1976a, 1980); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 3a & 3c. Fereidoonkenar Marshes are critically important as the wintering grounds of the entire western population of Grus leucogeranus (7-14 birds). They regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Phalacrocorax carbo, eight species of Anatidae, Vanellus vanellus and Limosa limosa.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Seyed Mohalli, Zarin Kola and Larim Sara (18)

Location: 3645'N, 5300'E (Seyed Mohalli and Zarin Kola 3644'N, 5300'E; Larim Sara 3645'N, 5303'E); on the coastal plain of the South Caspian, about 20 km north of Sari and 10 km from the Caspian shore, Mazandaran.

Area: 1,600 ha (Seyed Mohalli and Zarin Kola 600 ha; Larim Sara 1,000 ha).

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: A complex of shallow freshwater impoundments ("ab-bandans"), developed for irrigation purposes and managed throughout the winter as duck-hunting areas, and an adjacent area of marshy plains and rice paddies, in the southeast Caspian lowlands; important both as a breeding area and a wintering area for many species of waterfowl, notably herons and egrets (Ardeidae) and ducks and geese (Anatidae). Unprotected.

Physical features: The Seyed Mohalli (Saidmahaleh) and Zarin Kola ab-bandans comprise a large complex of shallow, freshwater irrigation ponds surrounded by rice fields on the coastal plains of the South Caspian, to the east of the Rud-e Tajan (river) and about 10 km from its mouth. The ab-bandans are maintained throughout the winter months as private duck-hunting reserves. The nearby Larim Sara plains formerly consisted of an open grassy plain with a low-lying central area of Salicornia flats subject to winter flooding. Much of this area has now been converted to agricultural land.

Ecological features: Shallow freshwater impoundments with rich submerged, floating and emergent aquatic vegetation, including extensive stands of Typha and Phragmites; willow thickets (Salix sp.); rice fields; and seasonally flooded grassland and Salicornia flats.

Land tenure: Private.

Conservation measures taken: None. The duck hunters protect the waterfowl from disturbance by day, and prohibit all shooting in the area during the main duck-hunting season. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The ab-bandans are used as a source of water for irrigation in summer, and as duck-hunting reserves in winter. The duck hunters use the same "net, gong and flare" technique that is used at Anzali Mordab. As many as 40 teams of hunters were operating at the ab-bandans in the 1970s, and reportedly were able to catch as many as a thousand ducks in a single night. The surrounding region is a very important rice-growing area.

Possible changes in land use: With the construction of a large dam on the Rud-e Tajan and development of a network of irrigation canals, the importance of the ab-bandans as a source of water for irrigation will diminish, and there is the danger that some of them will fall into disrepair and/or be converted in agricultural land.

Disturbances and threats: Much of the Larim Sara plains has been converted to agricultural land and there may be little, if any, natural wetland vegetation remaining in this area. Huge numbers of ducks were trapped each year at the Seyed Mohalli and Zarin Kola ab-bandans in the 1970s.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: An important duck-hunting area.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important wintering area for a wide variety of waterfowl, especially dabbling ducks (regularly over 100,000 in the 1970s), swans, Fulica atra (up to 34,000) and some shorebirds, and a breeding area for five species of Ardeidae (including about 250 pairs of Ardeola ralloides) and Chlidonias hybridus (150-200 pairs). Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor (generally 10-30 but occasionally as many as 100); Aythya nyroca occurs in substantial numbers on passage (maximum 185 in November), and Oxyura leucocephala has been recorded in winter (maximum 27). Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 10. In the 1970s, the Larim Sara plains were an important wintering area for Phoenicopterus ruber (up to 965), Anser erythropus (maximum of 359 in February 1972) and A. anser (up to 630), and also supported a small breeding colony of Glareola pratincola (30-40 pairs), but much of the area has since been reclaimed for agriculture and most of these birds have disappeared. Huge flocks of Anser erythropus are reported to have wintered in this area in the 1950s and early 1960s, along with much smaller numbers of Branta ruficollis. A pair of Haliaeetus albicilla nested near Seyed Mohalli in the 1970s. Circus aeruginosus is a very common winter visitor (maximum 60), and Aquila heliaca, A. clanga, Falco cherrug, F. peregrinus, F. columbarius and Asio flammeus are regular winter visitors in small numbers. Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus are abundant breeding birds, and Remiz pendulinus probably breeds. Motacilla citreola is a regular winter visitor in small numbers, and Panurus biarmicus has been recorded (a party of five in January 1971). During the exceptionally severe winter of 1971/72, over 1,000 Melanocorypha leucoptera and several hundred M. yeltoniensis were present on Larim Sara plains.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and the Department of the Environment has also carried out some investigations on duck-hunting techniques and harvesting levels at the ab-bandans.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1978a); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 2c, 3a & 3c. The Seyed Mohalli, Zarin Kola and Larim Sara wetlands provide important habitat for three threatened species of birds: Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca, and have held appreciable numbers of two other threatened species in the recent past, Anser erythropus and Oxyura leucocephala. The wetlands support important breeding colonies of Ardeidae and Chlidonias hybridus, and regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of eight species of Anatidae and Fulica atra.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans (19)

Location: 3650'N, 5317'E; near the Caspian shore, 5-10 km west of Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge and about 25 km northwest of Behshahr, Mazandaran.

Area: 950 ha.

Altitude: 20 m below sea level.

Overview: Two shallow freshwater lagoons with extensive reed-beds, adjacent to the Caspian beach in the southeast Caspian lowlands; important primarily as a wintering area for ducks (Anatidae) and Fulica atra. The wetlands are included within a large Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: The Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans are two long narrow freshwater lagoons with fringing reed-beds on the landward side of the coastal dunes bordering the Caspian Sea. The lagoons are situated about 10 km west of the extreme west end of the Gorgan Bay marshes. They are fed by irrigation ditches and local run-off, and drain east into the Gorgan Bay marshes. The water level fluctuates considerably, and extensive mudflats are exposed at low water levels. The ab-bandans do not appear to have been affected by the recent rise in level of the Caspian Sea.

Ecological features: Open-water areas of the ab-bandans support a rich growth of submerged and floating aquatic vegetation. The fringing marshes are dominated by Phragmites reed-beds with some Typha, but there are scrubby areas of Salix, Ribes, Rubus and Punica (pomegranate). The wetlands are bounded to the north by dune vegetation and to the south by arable land (cotton and wheat).

Land tenure: Privately owned by inhabitants of the nearby village of Zargmarz.

Conservation measures taken: The Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans have no legal protection, but are protected and managed as a private waterfowl hunting area by inhabitants of the nearby village of Zargmarz. These villagers pay a warden to patrol the area throughout the hunting season and prevent poaching. The ab-bandans are included within the Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay Ramsar Site (100,000 ha), designated on 23 June 1975. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The ab-bandans are used for waterfowl hunting in winter and as a source of water for irrigation during the summer months. Under an agreement with the Department of the Environment, the owners are permitted to hunt at the ab-bandans on a maximum of three days per month throughout the hunting season. In recent years, however, the owners have hunted at the site on only three or four occasions per season. There is also some reed-cutting in the marshes, and a little fishing.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: A traditional duck-hunting area.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetland is used by a wide variety of waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, but few species occur in large numbers except Anas strepera (maximum 1,500) and Fulica atra (maximum 18,600). Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 15), and Botaurus stellaris has been recorded in winter. During periods of low water level in late summer and autumn, the wetland occasionally attracts large numbers of migrant shorebirds, e.g. up to 300 Philomachus pugnax and 175 Tringa stagnatilis, and Porzana parva has been recorded. There is a large breeding colony of Chlidonias hybridus (100-150 pairs). Other breeding species include Podiceps cristatus (10-15 pairs), Tachybaptus ruficollis (20 pairs) and Gallinula chloropus (at least 50 pairs). Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus are common breeding birds in the reed-beds. A small flock of Oxyura leucocephala (maximum of 28 in January 1972) wintered in the area in the 1970s, feeding by night on the ab-bandans and roosting by day on the adjacent Caspian Sea. No O. leucocephala have been recorded since 1978, but it may be that the birds have simply moved a few kilometres east to Gorgan Bay, where the increased water depth has created more favourable conditions for the species. The numbers of other Anatidae using the site have increased in recent years, presumably because of the better protection from disturbance now being afforded to the wetland by the local duck hunters. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 11. Up to three Haliaeetus albicilla have been recorded in winter, and the species breeds locally. Falco peregrinus and F. columbarius are regular winter visitors in small numbers.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. The Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans provide important habitat for Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, a globally threatened species, and were an important wintering area for another threatened species, Oxyura leucocephala, in the recent past. The ab-bandans also regularly support over 1% of the regional wintering population of Anas strepera.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay (20)

Location: 3650'N, 5345'E; at the extreme southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, north and east of the town of Behshahr, Mazandaran.

Area: 97,200 ha.

Altitude: 18-25 m below sea level.

Overview: A large, shallow, brackish bay at the extreme southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, cut off from the open sea except at its eastern end by a long sandy peninsula, and with extensive freshwater marshes at its western end and along the south side; of great importance as spawning and nursery grounds for fishes, and of outstanding importance for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl of a very wide variety of species. The greater part of the wetland is protected in the Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge; the entire wetland has been designated as a Ramsar Site along with the nearby Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans.

Physical features: Gorgan Bay is a large shallow inlet at the extreme southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, almost totally cut off from the open sea by the 60 km long Miankaleh Peninsula - a low sandy peninsula with coastal dunes, pomegranate scrub and grassland. The peninsula, which covers 24,200 ha, averages about two km in width, with the narrowest point being about one km wide and the widest about 4 km. A chain of 50 metre-wide sand dunes parallels the Caspian Sea coast. The dunes, which rise to about 4 m above the sea level, form the highest points in the area. Gorgan Bay (23,800 ha) has a muddy bottom, and is oligotrophic, with a salinity of 10-12 p.p.t. It receives freshwater inflow from a number of small rivers and streams rising on the humid north slope of the Alborz Mountains to the south. There are extensive freshwater marshes at the west end of the bay and along its south shore, where freshwater inflow is greatest. These are flooded in autumn and winter, and are eutrophic due to the inflow of numerous streams, agricultural run-off and irrigation channels. There are also extensive tracts of seasonally flooded Tamarix woodland at the west end of the bay.

The rise in level of the Caspian Sea during the last decade has resulted in a marked increase in the level of Gorgan Bay and re-flooding of all those bare flats at the west end of the bay which had been exposed by falling sea levels during the previous decades. On the seaward side of the peninsula, the sandy beach has virtually disappeared, and no longer provides easy vehicular access to the fishing village of Ashuradeh at the extreme eastern tip of the peninsula.

The climate is characterized by warm, humid summers and mild winters, with a relatively low annual range in temperature. The annual rainfall varies from as little as 200 mm to over 1,000 mm, with rain falling throughout the year but mainly in winter. Temperatures range from -6C to +34C. Frosts and snowfalls are rare due to the warming effects of the Caspian Sea.

Ecological features: Most of the peninsula is covered with a carpet of herbaceous plants and grasses, such as Agropyron, Bromus, Dactylis, Cynodon and Festuca. The western half also supports scrubby woodland with scattered Wild Pomegranate (Punica granatum), hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), rhamnus (Rhamnus sp.) and blackberry (Rubus sp.). There are a few large willow trees (Salix sp.) planted around some of the shepherds' houses. Much of the shoreline of the bay is fringed with a broad belt of Juncus sp. and there are some large areas of Salicornia flats. The extensive seasonally flooded marshes at the west end of the bay are dominated by sedges (Carex spp.), with small patches of Phragmites, clumps of Juncus and a large stand of Tamarix. This tamarisk forest increased greatly in size as water levels fell during the early 1970s, but has since started to die back as the Caspian level has risen again. Cultivation bordering the bay in the south is predominantly wheat and cotton.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The entire area (97,200 ha) was designated as a Protected Region in May 1970. Cultivated land along the southern edge of the bay was subsequently excised from the reserve, reducing the area to 68,800 ha, and the reserve was upgraded to Wildlife Refuge. This refuge includes Miankaleh Peninsula, the open waters of Gorgan Bay and the marshes at the west end of the bay. Miankaleh Peninsula, Gorgan Bay and the nearby Lapoo-Zargmarz Ab-bandans were designated as a Ramsar Site of 100,000 ha on 23 June 1975. The entire Wildlife Refuge (68,800 ha) was designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in June 1976. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Various recommendations for management have been made by Harrington and Scott (1972), Matthews (1973) and van Beuningen et al. (1975). A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to the site in January 1992 concluded that the construction of a proposed paved highway along the peninsula would have a detrimental effect on the reserve and should not proceed (Scott & Smart, 1992).

Land use: Fishing in Gorgan Bay and in the inshore waters of the adjacent Caspian Sea. There is a fishing village with about 300 inhabitants (1970) and fish processing factory at the eastern end of the peninsula (Ashuradeh), and there are about ten small fishing stations scattered along the Caspian shore of the peninsula. Much of the peninsula is heavily grazed by flocks of sheep, goats and water buffalo, and there are several small farms within the reserve. In 1975, it was estimated that there were about 8,700 sheep, 3,090 water buffalo, 2,900 cows and 200 horses on the peninsula. Land to the south and west of the bay is under cultivation, mainly for wheat and cotton. There are several small villages along the southern edge of the bay linked by road and rail, and a large power station is situated on the Caspian shore about 10 km west of the reserve.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Some poaching occurred in the 1970s along the southwestern boundary of the reserve, but this was not thought to be a serious problem. However, poaching has increased considerably in recent years, and now occurs throughout the reserve. Much of the peninsula is open to livestock grazing, and in the western portion of the reserve this has been excessive. The number of cattle has increased in recent years; shacks have been built, and the cattle herders appear to be settling in. Irrigation schemes on agricultural land to the south and west reduce the flow of freshwater into the marshes and bay, especially in summer. The major threat to the area is the construction of an asphalt highway down the centre of the peninsula to provide easy access to the fishery stations along the beach and at Ashuradeh. A highway was constructed up to the western boundary of the reserve in the late 1980s, but work was halted following intervention by the Department of the Environment. Recent reports indicate that work on the road has resumed. While the road itself might not have any significant impact on the wetland ecosystems, the greatly increased access to the reserve will inevitably lead to increased pressure for settlement, increased farming activities and increased poaching.

Hydrological and biophysical values: Gorgan Bay is a very important spawning and nursery area for economically important species in the Caspian Sea fishery.

Social and cultural values: The bay and adjacent inshore waters of the Caspian Sea support an important commercial fishery.

Noteworthy fauna: Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge is undoubtedly one of the finest waterfowl reserves in the Western Palearctic Region. Some 126 species of waterfowl have been recorded, of which about 40 have occurred in internationally significant numbers. The reserve is extremely important throughout the year, supporting perhaps as many as 250,000 waterfowl throughout the winter months and large breeding colonies of herons, egrets, pratincoles and terns in summer. It also serves as a major staging area for waterbirds and land-birds during the spring and autumn migration seasons, and is the most important staging area for many species of shorebirds in the South Caspian region. The reserve is especially noted for its large wintering populations of grebes, Pelecanus crispus (up to 690), Phalacrocorax carbo (up to 15,000), herons, Phoenicopterus ruber (up to 25,000), swans, geese, surface-feeding ducks, diving ducks, shorebirds and gulls, and its breeding colonies of herons and egrets, Glareola pratincola (over 500 pairs) and Sterna albifrons (300-400 pairs). Botaurus stellaris is an occasional winter visitor; it was heard booming in the western marshes in April 1973 and may have bred. Peak counts of the commoner species are given in Table 12. Rare visitors and vagrants have included Gavia stellata, Anser fabalis, Aythya marila, Mergus merganser, Porzana parva, Grus virgo, Glareola lactea, Charadrius mongolus, Eudromias morinellus, Phalaropus fulicarius, Stercorarius pomarinus and Larus melanocephalus.

The 1.8 m rise in the level of the Caspian Sea since 1978 has had a profound influence on waterfowl populations in the marshes at the west end of Gorgan Bay, which are now permanently flooded. These marshes formerly held between 3,000 and 10,000 Anser anser, 4,000-5,000 A. erythropus and huge numbers of surface-feeding ducks. Large numbers of waterfowl continue to winter in the marshes, but the great majority of these are now Fulica atra, a species which was relatively uncommon in the 1970s (usually between 500 and 2,500). Only small numbers of Anser anser have been observed in recent years, and no A. erythopus have been recorded since 1989. These changes in bird populations are clearly related to the increased depth of water in the western marshes.

Nine globally threatened species of waterfowl have been recorded in the reserve. Phalacrocorax pygmaeus is a regular winter visitor in small numbers to the western marshes between October and March (maximum 28). Pelecanus crispus is a common winter visitor to Gorgan Bay and the adjacent Caspian Sea between October and March. Up to 350 were recorded during the 1970s, but as many as 690 were observed in the 1980s; at least 355 were present in January 1992. Anser erythropus was a regular winter visitor in the 1970s, with the flocks arriving in October and departing in April. Numbers in mid-winter built up rapidly from 1,350 in 1970/71 to peaks of 4,900 in 1974/75 and 4,400 in 1975/76. Numbers then fell rapidly again in the late 1970s, and the flocks disappeared in the early 1980s, presumably because the rise in the Caspian Sea had flooded their main feeding area. A small flock of 19 Branta ruficollis was present with the A. erythropus flock in the winter of 1975/76. Marmaronetta angustirostris is an occasional passage migrant; 29 were recorded in late February 1972 and three in October 1978. Aythya nyroca occurs in very small numbers on passage and in winter (maximum 9 in August). Oxyura leucocephala is a regular winter visitor in small numbers to Gorgan Bay and the channel at Ashuradeh. There are usually less than 20 birds, but at least 453 were present in the severe winter of 1971/72. Vanellus gregarius and Numenius tenuirostris have both occurred as scarce passage migrants, the former in October/November 1971, and the latter in August 1963.

The reserve is also very important for its large populations of raptors. Twenty-eight species have been recorded. Breeding species include Pandion haliaetus (several pairs, with up to 14 birds on passage), Circaetus gallicus (several pairs) and Haliaeetus albicilla (at least two pairs bred on the peninsula in the 1970s). The latter is also very common in winter, with between 50 and 100 individuals present in the reserve (maximum count on one day 47). Other wintering raptors include Circus cyaneus (maximum 21), C. macrourus (maximum 4 in winter but up to 20 on passage), C. aeruginosus (maximum 30), Buteo lagopus (maximum 2), Aquila heliaca (maximum 6), A. clanga (maximum 4), Falco cherrug (maximum 4), F. peregrinus (maximum 9) and F. columbarius (maximum 16). Circus pygargus occurs as a scarce passage migrant in spring and autumn, and Haliaeetus leucoryphus has been recorded (an immature in August 1975).

Francolinus francolinus and Phasianus colchicus are common in the scrubby areas of the peninsula. The Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax was a common winter visitor to the peninsula in the early 1970s (October to March) in flocks of over 100 birds (maximum count of 602 in January 1972). A few pairs were present throughout the summer and presumably bred. Numbers fell rapidly in the late 1970s and early 1980s; small flocks were reported until the late 1980s, but none has been seen in recent years. Chlamydotis undulata and Otis tarda have also been recorded on passage. A wide variety of land-birds occur during the migration seasons, and large numbers of larks, thrushes, finches and buntings remain throughout the winter. Common breeding passerines associated with the wetlands include Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. agricola; wintering birds include Remiz pendulinus and Emberiza schoeniclus. Other notable species recorded in the reserve include Bubo bubo, Asio flammeus, Caprimulgus aegyptius, Melanocorypha leucoptera, M. yeltoniensis, Phylloscopus nitidus and Sturnus roseus. At least 288 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) are abundant in the reserve, and the Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) also occurs. Caspian Seals (Phoca caspica) occasionally haul out on the Caspian beach.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968. Many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year, including comprehensive waterfowl censuses in mid-November in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Some bird ringing was carried out in the 1970s, particularly of migratory shorebirds. A considerable amount of limnological and fisheries research has been conducted by the National Fisheries Organization (Shilot), and there is a large Fisheries Station at Ashuradeh, at the eastern end of the peninsula. Feeny et al. (1968) investigated bird migration in autumn, Harrington and Scott (1972) and Matthews (1973) considered management options for the reserve, and van Beuningen et al. (1975) investigated land-use problems. Accommodation facilities are available for visiting researchers at two Game Guard Stations on the peninsula.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); van Beuningen et al. (1975); Carnie (1973); Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Feeny et al. (1968); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Green (1993); Gretton (1991); Harrington & Scott (1972); Mansoori (1984); Matthews (1973); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1978a, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. The wetlands of Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay are an outstanding example of a natural sand spit/coastal lagoon system characteristic of the South Caspian. They play a substantial hydrological and ecological role in the functioning of the coastal systems of the southeast Caspian, and support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora. Gorgan Bay is an important breeding and nursery grounds for various fish species, while the peninsula and marshes support large breeding colonies of Ardeidae, Laridae and several species of shorebirds. The wetlands provide important wintering habitat for four threatened species of birds: Pelecanus crispus, Phalacrocorax pygmaeus, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca, and were formerly of great importance for wintering Anser erythropus. Five other threatened species of waterfowl have occurred as occasional visitors in small numbers. The wetlands regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl; they support over 1% of the regional breeding populations of Glareola pratincola and Sterna albifrons, and during the migration seasons and in winter, support over 1% of the regional populations of at least 32 other species of waterfowl.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Gomishan Marshes and Turkoman Steppes (21)

Location: 3715'N, 5355'E; on the east coast of the Caspian Sea from the region of Gomishan north and northwest for about 35 km to the border with the Republic of Turkmenistan, Mazandaran.

Area: c.20,000 ha including 4,850 ha of lagoons.

Altitude: 23 m below sea level.

Overview: A large area of shallow brackish lagoons and seasonally flooded steppe on the plains to the east of the Caspian Sea; of great importance for breeding and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species. Part of the wetland has been designated as a No-hunting Area.

Physical features: In the 1970s, the Gomishan wetlands consisted of a chain of narrow, brackish lagoons behind the Caspian Sea beach, stretching from two km north of the town of Gomishan north to the Turkmenistan border (and beyond). In the east, the wetland bordered on a vast area of low-lying plains with halophytic vegetation. The recent 1.8 m rise in the level of the Caspian Sea has resulted in extensive flooding of these plains, with the result that the Gomishan Marshes now comprise a large area of shallow, brackish lagoons and marshes covering at least 5,000 ha. The wetland lies at the western edge of the Turkoman Steppes, a vast region of grass-covered plains and rolling hills extending for over 100 km to the east in Iran and even further to the north in the Republic of Turkmenistan. Much of the natural grasslands in the southwest, near Gomishan Marshes, has been converted to arable land.

Ecological features: The main wetland area comprises shallow, brackish lagoons with salt marsh vegetation and seasonally-inundated flats with species of Salicornia, Halostachys and Halocnemum. In the west, the site is bounded by low coastal dunes with typical sand-dune vegetation and the Caspian beach. In the east, the site extends onto the short-grass plains of the Turkoman Steppes, large areas of which are under cultivation for wheat and cotton.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: Part of the wetland has recently been designated as a No-Hunting Area, and there are plans to upgrade this to Protected Area within five years. The entire area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: It has been proposed that Gomishan Marshes be designated as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Livestock grazing (mainly sheep and goats) and waterfowl hunting. Cultivation of wheat and cotton in the east.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: In recent years, the wetland has been subjected to very intensive hunting pressure (shooting) during the winter months. Large areas of natural grassland in the east have been converted to agricultural land.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: In the 1970s, when the permanent wetland area was restricted to a chain of narrow, brackish lagoons behind the Caspian beach, the area was important in summer for breeding Himantopus himantopus (250 pairs), Larus genei (50 pairs), Gelochelidon nilotica (20 pairs), Sterna hirundo (100-150 pairs), S. albifrons (200-300 pairs) and Chlidonias hybridus (100 pairs). In winter, the vast plains to the east attracted large numbers of geese (including up to 1,770 Anser erythropus), Vanellus vanellus (up to 5,000) and Pterocles alchata (up to 50,000). About 160 Syrrhaptes paradoxus were found amongst the large flocks of P. alchata in December 1970, and the species may be a regular winter visitor to this area. Other birds recorded in winter included Pluvialis apricaria (up to 5), Nyctea scandiaca (one in December 1974), Bubo bubo and Melanocorypha leucoptera. Charadrius leschenaultii was a regular passage migrant, with up to 60 occurring in July. In recent years, the rise in level of the Caspian Sea has flooded large areas of former Salicornia flats, creating large lagoons which have rapidly become of great importance for wintering waterfowl of many species, notably Pelecanus crispus (maximum 334), Phoenicopterus ruber (maximum 55,000), Anser anser (maximum 3,200), dabbling ducks (regularly over 50,000), Fulica atra (maximum 65,000) and Himantopus himantopus (maximum 1,700). Peak counts of wintering waterfowl in recent years are given in Table 13. Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila heliaca are regular winter visitors (maxima of 4 and 3 respectively), and there is a breeding colony of Falco naumanni (20 pairs) in the town of Bandar-e Shah at the southern edge of the site.

The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) is common in the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1969, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 3a & 3c. The Gomishan Marshes and Turkoman Steppes are a good representative example of a natural coastal wetland of the eastern Caspian region. The wetlands provide important wintering habitat for two globally threatened species of birds: Pelecanus crispus and Aquila heliaca, and were formerly of great importance for wintering Anser erythropus. The wetlands regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl; they support over 1% of the regional breeding populations of Himantopus himantopus and Sterna albifrons, and in winter, support over 1% of the regional populations of Phalacrocorax carbo, Egretta alba, Ardea cinerea, Phoenicopterus ruber, nine species of Anatidae and Fulica atra.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Alagol, Lake Ulmagol and Lake Ajigol (22)

Location: Lake Alagol 3721'N, 5435'E; Lake Ulmagol 3725'N, 5438'E; Lake Ajigol 3724'N, 5440'E; on the Turkoman Steppes near the border with Turkmenistan, about 60 km north-northeast of Gorgan, Mazandaran.

Area: 1,540 ha (Alagol 900 ha; Ulmagol 280 ha; Ajigol 360 ha); Ramsar Site 1,400 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A group of three small brackish and freshwater lakes with associated marshes on the rolling grassy steppes to the east of the Caspian Sea, of importance for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The lakes have been designated as a Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Lakes Alagol, Ulmagol and Ajigol are three small, rather isolated lakes in a region of gently undulating grassy plains on the Turkoman Steppes east of the Caspian Sea. Lake Alagol lies about 6 km to the southwest of Ulmagol and Ajigol; it is a slightly saline lake fed by seepage, springs and local run-off, flooding in winter and drying out completely in dry summers. When full, it overflows westwards. The lake bottom consists of mud and sand, and the water is oligotrophic, supporting little aquatic vegetation. Lake Ulmagol and Lake Ajigol are eutrophic freshwater lakes fed by local rainfall in autumn and winter. Both are subject to wide fluctuations in water level, and occasionally dry out completely during periods of drought. The lakes rarely, if ever, freeze over in winter.

Ecological features: Lake Alagol supports little aquatic vegetation except for some Juncus, Carex and grasses, mainly in the northeast, and a few small patches of Phragmites. Ulmagol and Ajigol support a more varied vegetation of Juncus, Lemna, Phragmites, Alhagi and algae. Much of Ajigol is overgrown with Phragmites reeds, and there are some stands of Tamarix by this lake. The lakes are situated on the Turkoman Steppes, a vast region of gently undulating grasslands with low sandy hills. There are several small human settlements in the vicinity of the lake complex.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. Lakes Alagol, Ulmagol and Ajigol were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975, with the area given as 1,400 ha. The lakes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Reed-cutting, grazing, wildfowl hunting and some fishing. In recent years, local farmers have begun to take water from Lake Alagol for irrigation purposes and for a fish hatchery. There are several small settlements in the general area.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The extraction of water from Lake Alagol for irrigation purposes and a fish hatchery has resulted in lower water levels in the lake, especially in summer. Ulmagol and Ajigol have long been subjected to high levels of disturbance from wildfowl hunters, and Alagol (the least accessible of the three) is also now being affected by disturbance from hunters.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The lakes are utilized by a wide variety of waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, and are especially important for Phoenicopterus ruber (up to 1,125), Anser anser (up to 750), dabbling ducks, Netta rufina (up to 1,700), Mergellus albellus (up to 250) and Fulica atra (up to 50,000). Breeding species include Podiceps cristatus (10-15 pairs), Ixobrychus minutus, Himantopus himantopus (60 pairs), Glareola pratincola (5 pairs), Charadrius alexandrinus (100 pairs), Vanellus leucurus (one pair) and Larus genei (300-350 pairs). Up to 10 Ciconia nigra have been recorded in summer, and may breed in the area. Small flocks of Anser erythropus (150) and Oxyura leucocephala (19) have been recorded at the lakes in winter, and single Gavia arctica and Pelecanus crispus have been recorded. Peak counts of wintering waterfowl are given in Table 14. Birds of prey are common in winter, with up to 9 Haliaeetus albicilla, 6 Circus cyaneus, 5 Aquila heliaca, 3 Falco columbarius, 3 Asio otus and 2 A. flammeus, and the occasional Aegypius monachus, Buteo lagopus and Falco cherrug. Francolinus francolinus, Remiz pendulinus and Passer hispaniolensis breed in the tamarisk thickets, and Acrocephalus arundinaceus is a common summer visitor to the reed-beds. Luscinia svecica is a winter visitor, and Panurus biarmicus has occurred (20 in December 1970).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1969, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. Two M.Sc. students from Tehran University are currently conducting research on the avifauna and physico-chemical characteristics of the lakes, respectively.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 3a & 3c. Lakes Alagol, Ulmagol and Ajigol are good representative examples of natural brackish and freshwater lakes characteristic of the vast plains to the east of the Caspian Sea. They provide wintering habitat for four threatened species of birds (Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca), and regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Anas strepera, Aythya fuligula and Fulica atra.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Incheh Borun Lake (23)

Location: 3713'N, 5430'E; on the Turkoman Steppes about 40 km north of Gorgan, Mazandaran.

Area: 50 ha.

Altitude: Sea level.

Overview: A small, isolated, freshwater lake with associated marshes on the rolling plains of the Turkoman Steppes, important for wintering waterfowl and birds of prey. Unprotected.

Physical features: No information.

Ecological features: Freshwater lake and marshes; grassy steppe and arable land in surrounding areas.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A wintering area for a wide variety of waterfowl including up to 135 Egretta alba, 123 Ardea cinerea, 225 Phoenicopterus ruber, 185 Cygnus olor, 44 Anser anser, 150 Tadorna tadorna, 360 Anas platyrhynchos, 60 Netta rufina, 250 Mergellus albellus, 10 Mergus merganser and 220 Fulica atra. Small flocks of Anser erythropus (36) and Oxyura leucocephala (4) have been recorded in winter, and Branta ruficollis has occurred (one in February 1973). Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila heliaca are regular winter visitors, and Aegypius monachus occurs in the area. About 10 pairs of Himantopus himantopus breed at the lake. The surrounding plains are probably an important staging area for Charadrius asiaticus; up to 110 have been recorded at the site in July.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a. Incheh Borun lake and marshes are a regular wintering area for Aquila heliaca, a globally threatened species. Two other threatened species, Anser erythropus and Oxyura leucocephala, are occasional winter visitors in small numbers.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Voshmigir Dam (24)

Location: 3712'N, 5445'E; on the Gorgan Rud (River), about 50 km north-northeast of Gorgan and 35 km west of Gonbad-e Qaboos, Mazandaran.

Area: 500 ha.

Altitude: 10 m.

Overview: A small reservoir at the southern edge of the Turkoman Steppes, important for wintering waterfowl, notably Mergellus albellus. Unprotected.

Physical features: A small water storage reservoir on the Gorgan River, in a region of steppic plains and arable land. The water level fluctuates widely, and extensive bare mudflats are exposed at low water levels. In most places, the banks are steeply shelving, and there is little emergent marsh vegetation.

Ecological features: The reservoir supports little aquatic vegetation. The surrounding plains are almost entirely under cultivation.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None.

Land use: A water storage reservoir, used for irrigation.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for grebes and ducks, and a staging area for shorebirds. Wintering birds include up to 63 Podiceps cristatus, 40 Egretta alba, 550 Anas crecca, 1,660 A. platyrhynchos, 340 Netta rufina, 770 Aythya ferina, 250 A. fuligula, 15 A. nyroca, 11 Bucephala clangula, 340 Mergellus albellus, 430 Recurvirostra avosetta and 200 Larus ridibundus. A few Pelecanus crispus have also been recorded. Peak counts of shorebirds during autumn migration have included 53 Charadrius dubius, 350 C. alexandrinus, 110 Calidris minuta, 420 C. ferruginea, 200 Philomachus pugnax and 20 Tringa ochropus. About 15 pairs of Chlidonias hybridus and 40 pairs of Sterna albifrons breed around the dam. Buteo lagopus and Falco columbarius are occasional winter visitors.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1972, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Voshmigir Dam supports small numbers of Aythya nyroca, a globally threatened species, and regularly supports over 1% of the regional wintering populations of Mergellus albellus and Recurvirostra avosetta.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Bibishervan and Lake Eymar (25)

Location: Lake Bibishervan 3709'N, 5452'E; Lake Eymar 3708'N, 5452'E; on the southern edge of the Turkoman Steppes, 30 km west-southwest of Gonbad-e Qaboos, Mazandaran.

Area: 550 ha (Bibishervan 300 ha; Eymar 250 ha).

Altitude: 25 m.

Overview: Two small, rather isolated, freshwater lakes and marshes at the southern edge of the Turkoman Steppes, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Two shallow freshwater lakes, Lake Bibishervan (Byby Shirvan) and Lake Eymar, with fringing reed-beds and sedge marshes. The lakes are surrounded by cultivated plains of the Turkoman Steppes.

Ecological features: Freshwater lakes and marshes with some Phragmites reed-beds; in a region of cultivated plains.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The lakes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for a wide variety of waterfowl including up to 52 Cygnus olor, 400 Anas crecca, 2,000 A. platyrhynchos, 200 A. acuta, 740 Netta rufina, 900 Aythya ferina, 210 A. fuligula, 1,845 Fulica atra, 3,000 Vanellus vanellus, 70 Larus minutus and 150 L. canus. Cygnus cygnus (maximum 8), Mergellus albellus (maximum 11), Oxyura leucocephala (maximum 6) and Calidris temminckii (maximum 8) have also occurred in winter. Breeding birds include a few pairs of Ixobrychus minutus, 10 pairs of Himantopus himantopus, about 75 pairs of Glareola pratincola, at least one pair of Vanellus leucurus, 150 pairs of Chlidonias hybridus, and many Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. arundinaceus. Tetrax tetrax was probably a regular winter visitor to the area in the 1970s, with a flock of 430 on the plains by the lakes in February 1972. Buteo lagopus, Falco columbarius and Panurus biarmicus have been recorded in winter, and up to 10 Aquila clanga have been observed on autumn migration. Passer hispaniolensis is a very common resident, with concentrations of over 1,000 recorded during the winter months.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1969, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1976c).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a (possibly also 2a). Lakes Bibishervan and Eymar are good representative examples of natural freshwater lakes characteristic of the vast plains to the east of the Caspian Sea. One threatened species of waterfowl, Oxyura leucocephala, has occurred in small numbers.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

Lake Zaribar (26)

Location: 3532'N, 4607'E; in the foothills of the western Zagros Mountains near the Iraq border, 3 km west of the town of Marivan and 85 km west-northwest of Sanandaj, Kurdistan.

Area: 1,550 ha.

Altitude: 1,285 m.

Overview: A relatively deep, freshwater lake with extensive fringing marshes in the western Zagros Mountains, very important as a breeding area for waterfowl, notably Oxyura leucocephala, and also important as a wintering area for a wide variety of Anatidae including Mergus merganser. Unprotected.

Physical features: Lake Zaribar is a relatively deep, permanent freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds and sedge marshes at its northern and southern ends, set in a broad valley in the Western Zagros. The water is very clear, with an average depth of about 3.5 m and maximum depth of 6 m. The lake receives most of its water from springs, especially a large spring at the northeast corner, and there are only a few small streams entering the lake. The annual fluctuation in water level is about 1.5 m; at high levels, the lake overflows into a small river at its south end. It is often frozen over during mid-winter. Soils are lomy clay and silt. The plains to the north and south of the lake are intensively cultivated, while the steep hillsides to the east and west are covered in oak woodland and scrub.

The climate is characterized by hot dry summers and cold winters, with an average annual rainfall of 78 mm and a mean annual temperature of 13C.

Ecological features: The extensive marshes at the north and south ends of the lake are dominated by Phragmites australis, Typha sp., Juncus spp. and Cyperus sp., with scattered clumps of Salix sp. and Populus sp. Other common aquatic plants include Nymphaea alba, Hippuris vulgaris, Ranunculus lingua, Utricularia vulgaris, Alisma lanceolatum, Botumis umbellatus, Lemna sp. and Veronica sp. Wet meadows adjoin the marshes, while the surrounding plains are mainly arable land (principally wheat), with orchards and poplar groves. Nearby stony hillsides support heavily grazed oak scrub on the lower slopes and taller, less disturbed oak forest on the upper slopes.

Land tenure: Public (Government); surrounding areas are in private ownership.

Conservation measures taken: None. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing and waterfowl hunting at the lake; agriculture and livestock grazing in surrounding areas. Some reeds are harvested for construction purposes and fuel. There is a small resort area at the southeast corner of the lake.

Possible changes in land use: Increasing development for tourism and outdoor recreation.

Disturbances and threats: Some of the peripheral marshes have been drained for agriculture, and drainage channels have been constructed near the lake. A government organization has recently introduced three exotic fish species into the lake. The exotic fish Pseudorasbora parva has also recently colonized the lake and become extremely abundant, possibly to the detriment of native species. The lake was badly affected during the prolonged Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s because of hits by missiles and rockets. Some of the reed-beds were destroyed, and parts of the lake became deeper while other parts dried out. The lake is also reported to have been damaged by chemical warfare during this war (Ashtiani-Zarandi, 1990). Oak forest on the lower slopes around the lake has been badly degraded by overgrazing and cutting for fuelwood.

Hydrological and biophysical values: Flood control and maintenance of water quality.

Social and cultural values: Outdoor recreation in summer.

Noteworthy fauna: The extensive marshes around the lake are important for breeding waterfowl, including 50-100 pairs of Podiceps cristatus, at least 25 pairs of Tachybaptus ruficollis, many Ixobrychus minutus, at least ten pairs of Ardea purpurea, several pairs of Anser anser, 20-50 pairs of Aythya nyroca, several pairs of Oxyura leucocephala, many Rallus aquaticus and 50 pairs of Vanellus vanellus, along with five pairs of Circus aeruginosus and many Acrocephalus melanopogon, A. arundinaceus and Remiz pendulinus. At least eight adult O. leucocephala and six chicks were present in July 1974, along with a total of 250 A. nyroca. There is an exceptionally large breeding colony of Ciconia ciconia (about 120 pairs) in a patch of forest to the north of the lake, and the marshes provide important feeding habitat for the birds from this colony. The lake is also of some importance for wintering waterfowl, especially diving ducks, and is the most important wintering site for Mergus merganser in Iran (maximum 35). The wintering waterfowl include up to 20 Anser albifrons, 110 A. anser, 360 Anas strepera, 455 A. crecca, 2,060 A. platyrhynchos, 30 Netta rufina, 3,000 Aythya ferina, 4,000 A. fuligula, 150 Mergellus albellus, 16,000 Fulica atra, 450 Vanellus vanellus and 50 Gallinago gallinago. Three Marmaronetta angustirostris were present in January 1975, and Phoenicopterus ruber has occurred (9 in February 1994). Passage migrants have included up to 13 Plegadis falcinellus and 35 Tringa glareola.

Ten species of fish have been recorded in the lake, although only three of these are indigenous: Capoeta buhsei and Leuciscus cephalus (Cyprinidae) and Mastacembelus mastacembelus (Mastacembelidae). The introduced species are Ctenopharyngodon idella, Cyprinus carpio (two varieties), Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, H. nobilis, Pseudorasbora parva, Alburnus charusni and Gambusia affinis.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1970, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. Investigations have also been carried out on the fish fauna. Little work was possible in the area in the 1980s because of the conflict with Iraq.

Recreation and tourism: A resort hotel is being constructed beside the lake, and efforts are being made to promote tourism and outdoor recreation in the area.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Scott (1976a, 1976c).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d, 2a, 2b & 3c. Lake Zaribar is a good example of a relatively deep freshwater lake at medium elevation in the uplands of western Iran, and one of the few such lakes in this part of the Middle East. It supports a rich and varied wetland fauna and flora, and thus plays a significant role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The lake is an important breeding area for two globally threatened species of waterfowl: Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala. In winter, it regularly supports over 1% of the regional population of Aythya fuligula.

Source: Mohammad Nosrati and Derek A. Scott.

_______

Hashelan Marsh (27)

Location: 3433'N, 4655'E; in a broad intermontane basin in the western Zagros Mountains about 20-30 km northwest of Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province.

Area: 400 ha.

Altitude: c.1,500 m.

Overview: A complex of permanent spring-fed pools and marshes in an area of cultivated plains in the uplands of western Iran, important both for breeding and wintering waterfowl, notably Aythya nyroca. Unprotected.

Physical features: Hashelan Marsh is a small area of permanent freshwater pools and marshes fed by a group of large springs, at the northern end of a very flat cultivated plain which extends to the region of Doh Tappeh about 10 km to the south. The wetland is bordered to the north, east and west by hill ranges. There are several small villages in the area.

Ecological features: Freshwater pools with abundant submerged and floating aquatic vegetation, and extensive emergent marshes dominated by sedges and rushes. The adjacent plains support heavily-grazed pastureland and cultivation (mainly cereals); adjacent rocky hillsides support semi-arid steppic vegetation.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The marshes, along with a large area of the surrounding plains, have has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The establishment of a reserve encompassing the wetlands and an area of plains to the south was proposed in the 1970s, but this was never implemented.

Land use: Agriculture, livestock grazing and some wildfowl hunting.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There is a considerable amount of duck-hunting at the marsh. The plains are densely populated and disturbance levels are high. However, recent reports indicate that the wetland remains in reasonably good condition.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Hashelan Marsh supports breeding populations of Tachybaptus ruficollis (at least 20 pairs), Ardea purpurea (several pairs), Aythya nyroca (several pairs), Rallus aquaticus, Vanellus vanellus (at least 25 pairs) and Acrocephalus melanopogon. Ciconia ciconia is a common summer visitor, with about 15-20 pairs breeding in the area. The marsh is also of some importance for wintering waterfowl, with up to 100 Tachybaptus ruficollis, 50 Egretta alba, 800 Anas platyrhynchos, 130 Aythya nyroca, 620 Fulica atra and 20 Gallinago gallinago. Waterfowl recorded on passage include up to 20 Ardeola ralloides, 250 Anas querquedula, 12 Tringa ochropus and 80 Chlidonias leucopterus. Circus aeruginosus is a regular winter visitor to the marsh (maximum 6), and Neophron percnopterus is a regular summer visitor to the area. The Great Bustard Otis tarda was a summer visitor to the plains near Doh Tappeh, about 10 km south of the wetland, in the 1970s. Between five and 10 females were thought to nest in the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1970, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. The wetland is currently being investigated by the Department of the Environment.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b & 3c. Hashelan Marsh is a good representative example of natural spring-fed wetland characteristic of the uplands of western Iran. It supports a rich and varied fauna and flora, and thus plays a significant role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. In winter, it regularly supports over 1% of the regional population of Aythya nyroca, a globally threatened species.

Source: Derek A. Scott.


A Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East



 [Appendix


Islamic Republic of Iran (part 3)

____________________________________________________________________________

Dez Dam (28)

Location: 32°38'N, 48°28'E; on the Dez River in the southwestern foothills of the Zagros Mountains, about 15 km northeast of the city of Dezful, Khuzestan.

Area: 1,500 ha.

Altitude: c.230 m.

Overview: A large water storage reservoir on the Dez River in the arid foothills of the southwestern Zagros Mountains, northeast of the town of Dezful; important for wintering waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: No information.

Ecological features: No information.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Water storage for domestic and industrial supply and irrigation.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important site for wintering waterfowl, notably Egretta alba (maximum 300), E. garzetta (maximum 300), Ardea cinerea (maximum 190), Anser anser (maximum 4,500) and Grus grus (maximum 1,125). Up to 70 Marmaronetta angustirostris have been recorded at the site in mid-winter.

Noteworthy flora: None known.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since the late 1970s.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Dez Dam provides wintering habitat for Marmaronetta angustirostris (a threatened species), and regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser and Grus grus in winter.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Karkheh River Marshes (29)

Location: 31°45'N, 48°25'E; along the Karkheh River on the plains of Khuzestan, about 35-90 km north-northwest of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: c.15,000 ha (3,500 ha of permanent wetlands).

Altitude: c.30-90 m.

Overview: Riverine marshes and riparian woodland along the Karkheh River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for wintering waterfowl and breeding Marmaronetta angustirostris. The greater part of the site is protected in a Wildlife Refuge and Protected Area.

Physical features: The site comprises a 55 km stretch of the Karkheh River north of the city of Ahwaz, and the adjacent marshy plains. Dense riparian forest up to several hundred metres in width lines the river banks. The river flows in a deep channel with steep earthen banks. The adjacent plains, which are largely under cultivation, are dotted with shallow marshy depressions and meandering creeks which flood in winter.

Ecological features: Dense riverine forest of Tamarix spp. and Populus euphraticus, cultivated plains (mainly wheat), and marshy depressions subject to winter flooding.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: A Protected Region of 18,125 ha was established in November 1960 to protect the dwindling habitat of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica). The reserve was reduced in size to 13,027 ha in the early 1970s, and re-notified partly as a Wildlife Refuge (3,600 ha) and partly as a Protected Area (9,427 ha). The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock and illegal cutting of firewood in the reserve; agriculture on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Much of the riparian forest has been degraded as a result of grazing by domestic livestock and the cutting of fuelwood. The cultivated plains are subject to high levels of disturbance from farming activities and hunters.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The river and adjacent floodplain are of some importance for wintering Pelecanus crispus, ducks and coots. Peak counts have included 62 P. crispus, 300 Anas strepera, 2,050 A. crecca, 605 A. platyrhynchos, 650 A. clypeata, 150 Aythya ferina and 2,500 Fulica atra. A few pairs of Marmaronetta angustirostris probably breed in the reserve, and up to 250 have been recorded in winter. Other wintering waterfowl have included up to 40 Egretta alba, 13 Ciconia ciconia, 10 Anas querquedula and three Aythya nyroca. Ardeola ralloides is common on passage (maximum 60). The riverine forest supports a typical Mesopotamian bird fauna including large breeding populations of Hypocolius ampelinus and Passer moabiticus. Other breeding species include Francolinus francolinus, Ceryle rudis, Halcyon smyrnensis, Acrocephalus melanopogon, A. stentoreus, Sylvia mystacea, Passer hispaniolensis and Petronia xanthocollis.

A tiny population of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) still survived in the riparian forests along the Karkheh River until the early 1970s, but this population apparently became extinct in the mid- or late 1970s, leaving the population along the Dez River to the east as the only known extant population in the wild. Other mammals which still occur in the area include Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Jackal (Canis aureus), Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica).

Noteworthy flora: The reserve contains one of the few remaining relatively undisturbed stands of native Populus euphraticus riverine forest, once widespread in southwestern Iran and neighbouring southern Iraq.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz et al. (1970); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1980).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d & 2a. The Karkheh River marshes contain significant stands of native riparian woodland, a habitat type which was once widespread in the lowlands of southwestern Iran and neighbouring Iraq, but is now extremely rare outside protected areas. As recently as the late 1970s, this woodland was one of only two remaining localities with wild populations of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer Dama dama mesopotamica. The marshes support a significant breeding population of Marmaronetta angustirostris and a wintering population of Pelecanus crispus (both threatened species).

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Dez River Marshes and Plains (30)

Location: 31°50'N, 48°38'E; along the Dez River on the plains of Khuzestan, about 35-90 km north of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: c.20,000 ha (8,000 ha of permanent wetlands).

Altitude: 30-90 m.

Overview: Riverine marshes, riparian woodland and marshy plains along the Dez River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica), wintering waterfowl and breeding Marmaronetta angustirostris. The greater part of the site is protected in a Wildlife Refuge and Protected Area.

Physical features: The site comprises a 55 km stretch of the Dez River, several associated oxbow lakes, and the adjacent marshy plains of Deh Noh and Ahu Dasht, north of the city of Ahwaz. Dense riparian forest up to several hundred metres in width lines the river banks and surrounds the oxbow lakes. The river flows in a deep channel with steep earthen banks. The adjacent plains, which are largely under cultivation for wheat and other crops, are dotted with shallow marshy depressions and meandering creeks which flood in winter.

Ecological features: Dense riparian forest of Tamarix spp. and Populus euphraticus; cultivated plains (mainly wheat), and marshy depressions subject to winter flooding. There are some stands of Phragmites reed-beds around the oxbow lakes.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: A Protected Region of 18,812 ha was established in November 1960 to protect the dwindling habitat of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica). Some 3,837 ha of this reserve were re-notified as a Wildlife Park in January 1970. The reserve was reduced in size to 15,873 ha in the early 1970s, and re-notified partly as a Wildlife Refuge (5,240 ha) and partly as a Protected Area (10,633 ha). Since then, the status has remained unchanged. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock and illegal cutting of firewood in the reserve; agriculture on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Parts of the riparian forest have been degraded as a result of grazing by domestic livestock and the cutting of fuelwood. The cultivated plains are subject to high levels of disturbance from farming activities and hunters, and the wetlands are reported to have become very polluted in recent years.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetlands are very important for wintering cormorants, herons, egrets, geese (including up to 190 Anser erythropus), surface-feeding ducks and some shorebirds (see Table 15). Pelecanus crispus is a regular winter visitor, usually with about 30 present but occasionally as many as 160. The marshy plain is one of the best areas in Iran for Threskiornis aethiopicus; the species is a regular winter visitor to the area, with peak counts of 26 in January 1972, 23 in January 1973, 25 in January 1974 and 41 in January 1975. Aythya nyroca is a regular winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 11), and some 10-20 pairs of Marmaronetta angustirostris breed around the oxbow lakes. Other breeding species include Vanellus indicus and V. leucurus. The stretch of river is the only known haunt of Anhinga rufa in Iran. This species was a very scarce winter visitor in the 1970s, presumably from breeding areas in the Mesopotamian Marshes of neighbouring southern Iraq; three individuals were observed in January 1973, one in November 1973, and one in December 1974 and January 1975. Other scarce winter visitors have included Botaurus stellaris, Branta ruficollis (one in February 1971), Tetrax tetrax and Chlamydotis undulata. The reed-beds around the oxbow lakes are one of the very few sites in Iran where Turdoides altirostris is known to occur. Wintering raptors include Circus aeruginosus (maximum 10), Aquila heliaca (maximum 3) and A. clanga (maximum 2). Eudromias morinellus has been recorded on passage in autumn (maximum 8). The riverine thickets support a typical Mesopotamian bird fauna, with large breeding populations of Streptopelia turtur (over 1,000 birds in June 1974), Hypocolius ampelinus and Passer moabiticus, but also several species, such as Columba palumbus, Turdus merula and Parus major, which are more typical of Zagros oak forest. Other breeding species include Francolinus francolinus, Tyto alba, Ceryle rudis, Halcyon smyrnensis, Acrocephalus melanopogon, A. stentoreus, Sylvia mystacea, Passer hispaniolensis and Petronia xanthocollis. Luscinia svecica is a fairly common winter visitor. At least 133 species of birds have been recorded in the area.

A tiny population of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) still survives in the riparian forests along the Dez River. This population, which numbers a few tens of individuals, is the only known truly wild population. Other mammals include Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Jackal (Canis aureus), Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica).

Noteworthy flora: The reserve contains one of the few remaining relatively undisturbed stands of native Populus euphraticus riverine forest, once widespread in southwestern Iran and neighbouring southern Iraq.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Evans (1994); Firouz et al. (1970); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1980); Scott & Carp (1972).

Reasons for inclusion: 1d, 2a, 2b & 3c. The Dez River marshes contain significant stands of native riparian woodland, a habitat type which was once widespread in the lowlands of southwestern Iran and neighbouring Iraq, but is now extremely rare outside protected areas. The woodland supports the only population of the endangered Mesopotamian Fallow Deer Dama dama mesopotamica still surviving in the wild, as well as a number of bird species with very restricted distributions in the Middle East. The wetland thus plays a significant role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The marshes support a significant breeding population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and regular wintering populations of Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca (all threatened species). Wintering waterfowl include over 1% of the regional populations of Threskiornis aethiopicus, Anser albifrons and Anas platyrhynchos.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Karun River Marshes (31)

Location: 31°45'N, 48°54'E; near the Karun River on the plains of Khuzestan, about 30 km south of Shushtar and 55 km north-northeast of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 2,500 ha.

Altitude: c.90 m.

Overview: Seasonally flooded arable land with small areas of permanent marsh along the Karun River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for wintering waterfowl, especially geese (Anser spp.) and Grus grus. Unprotected.

Physical features: The Karun River Marshes comprise an area of about 25 sq.km of seasonally flooded arable land on the east bank of the Karun River, with scattered ponds and permanent marshy areas. Most of the area dries out completely in summer, but a few of the deeper pools and meandering watercourses remain wet and provide some breeding habitat for waterfowl.

Ecological features: Seasonally flooded arable land (mainly wheat), small freshwater ponds and freshwater marshes.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Agriculture.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The area is subject to high levels of disturbance from farming activities and hunters.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important wintering area for geese, Tadorna ferruginea, surface-feeding ducks, Grus grus and several shorebirds. Peak counts have included 1,730 Anser albifrons, 590 A. erythropus, 10,050 A. anser, 400 T. ferruginea, 15,000 A. crecca, 3,000 A. clypeata, 1,350 G. grus, 150 Vanellus leucurus and 2,000 Limosa limosa (see Table 15). Up to 3,500 A. albifrons and 1,500 T. ferruginea have been recorded in November. Small numbers of Pelecanus crispus (maximum 6), Threskiornis aethiopicus (maximum 12), Marmaronetta angustirostris (maximum 12) and Aythya nyroca (maximum 4) occur in winter, and Botaurus stellaris and Branta ruficollis have been recorded, the latter in February 1971 (two). M. angustirostris probably also breeds in the area, as up to 34 have been observed in summer. Other breeding birds include Francolinus francolinus, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis and Passer hispaniolensis. Passage migrants have included up to 42 Ardeola ralloides and 32 Eudromias morinellus. Wintering raptors include small numbers of Aquila heliaca, Falco cherrug and Falco columbarius. Huge flocks of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata appear in winter (maximum 11,000), while wintering passerines include Motacilla citreola and Luscinia svecica.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1980); Scott & Carp (1972).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a, 3a & 3c. The Karun River marshes support wintering populations of five threatened species: Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca. The marshes regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Threskiornis aethiopicus, Anser albifrons, A. anser, Anas crecca, Grus grus and Limosa limosa.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Horeh Bamdej (Sadi Shavour Marshes) (32)

Location: 31°45'N, 48°36'E; on the plains of Khuzestan between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers, 45 km north-northwest of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 12,000 ha.

Altitude: c.45 m.

Overview: A permanent, freshwater marsh with extensive reed-beds in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, very important for breeding and wintering waterfowl, especially Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: Horeh Bamdej (or Sadi Shavour Marshes) is a large permanent freshwater marsh with extensive reed-beds and relatively little open water, in an inter-fluvial depression between the Dez and Karkheh Rivers. Surrounding agricultural land is subject to seasonal flooding.

Ecological features: Permanent freshwater marshes dominated by Phragmites and Typha, with a surrounding belt of seasonally inundated sedge marshes and arable land. Open water areas support an abundant growth of floating and submerged aquatic vegetation.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Some grazing by domestic livestock; agriculture in surrounding areas.

Possible changes in land use: Conversion of wetland to agricultural land.

Disturbances and threats: Parts of the wetland are currently being drained for agriculture.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Horeh Bamdej and the Sadeh Shavour Marshes are an important breeding area for a wide variety of waterfowl including Ixobrychus minutus, Nycticorax nycticorax (30 pairs), Ardeola ralloides (60 pairs), Bubulcus ibis (40 pairs), Egretta garzetta (50 pairs), Ardea purpurea (60 pairs), Marmaronetta angustirostris (at least 20 pairs), Circus aeruginosus (10+ pairs), Porphyrio porphyrio, Himantopus himantopus (100-150 pairs), Glareola pratincola (150-200 pairs), Vanellus leucurus (at least 100 pairs) and Sterna albifrons (15 pairs). Other common breeding birds include Francolinus francolinus, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. The site is also very important for wintering Pelecanus crispus (up to 51), herons and egrets, Platalea leucorodia (up to 120), Anser anser (up to 2,500), surface-feeding ducks (regularly over 20,000 including up to 1,000 M. angustirostris), Grus grus (up to 3,000), Fulica atra (up to 23,000), Himantopus himantopus (up to 620), Vanellus leucurus (up to 390) and Limosa limosa (up to 980). As many as 50 Threskiornis aethiopicus have occurred in winter, and small numbers (apparently non-breeders) have been observed in summer, along with up to 230 Ciconia ciconia. Other notable species recorded at the site include Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (one in January 1975), Aythya nyroca (maximum 7), Haliaeetus albicilla, Falco cherrug and Pterocles alchata (up to 600 in winter). Peak counts of wintering waterfowl are given in Table 15.

Noteworthy flora: The wetland supports the most extensive permanent freshwater marshes with tall reed-beds (Phragmites and Typha) in Khuzestan.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1978a); Scott & Carp (1972).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. The Horeh Bamdej Marshes are a good representative example of a permanent freshwater reed marsh characteristic of the lowlands of southwestern Iran and neighbouring Iraq. They support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play a significant role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. They support a substantial breeding and wintering population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and wintering populations of two other threatened species of waterfowl: Pelecanus crispus and Aythya nyroca. The marshes regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Threskiornis aethiopicus, Anser anser, five species of ducks, Fulica atra and Grus grus. The marshes are also important breeding habitat for Himantopus himantopus, supporting over 1% of the regional population.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Hamidieh Plains (33)

Location: 31°20'N, 48°20'E; on the plains of Khuzestan about 30 km west-northwest of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 20,000 ha.

Altitude: c.15 m.

Overview: Seasonally flooded semi-desertic plains and arable land along the Karkheh River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for wintering waterfowl and breeding Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: The Hamidieh (or Omidiyeh) Plains comprise an area of about 200 sq.km of semi-desertic plains and arable land subject to winter flooding on the floodplain of the Karkheh River northwest of Ahwaz. At peak winter flooding, the maximum depth of water is about 30 cm. The site includes Hamidieh Lake - an old oxbow lake of the Karkheh River about 3 ha in area and with extensive reed-beds.

Ecological features: Seasonally inundated plains with semi-desertic steppe vegetation and irrigated agricultural land; also a small permanent freshwater lake with extensive fringing reed-beds of Phragmites and Typha.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock and agriculture.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The floodplain wetlands are an important wintering area for Anser anser (maximum 9,700), Tadorna tadorna (maximum 1,320) and surface-feeding ducks, notably Anas penelope (maximum 3,835), A. strepera (maximum 6,440) and A. clypeata (maximum 4,900). Other common winter visitors include Egretta alba (up to 110), Ardea cinerea (up to 110), Fulica atra (up to 500), Grus grus (up to 100), Himantopus himantopus (up to 650) and Recurvirostra avosetta (up to 290). About 15-20 pairs of Marmaronetta angustirostris breed at Hamidieh Lake, and small numbers have been recorded on the floodplain wetlands in winter (maximum 20). Several pairs of Turdoides altirostris are resident in the reed-beds; Hypocolius ampelinus is a fairly common summer visitor to the scrub around the lake, and Passer moabiticus is probably resident in the area. Other breeding species include Ixobrychus minutus, Vanellus leucurus, Sterna albifrons, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis and Acrocephalus stentoreus. Porzana porzana and Glareola pratincola have been recorded in summer and may breed. Up to 50 Ardeola ralloides have been recorded during migration. Aquila heliaca has been recorded in winter.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 2a & 3c. Hamidieh Plains support a significant breeding and wintering population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, as well as wintering Aquila heliaca (both threatened species). In winter, the wetlands regularly support over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser, Tadorna tadorna, Anas penelope, A. strepera, A. clypeata, Himantopus himantopus and Recurvirostra avosetta.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Susangerd Marshes (34)

Location: 31°45'N, 47°55'E; near the border with Iraq, at the extreme eastern edge of the Hoor Al Azim marshes, 60-90 km west-northwest of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: c.30,000 ha.

Altitude: c.15 m.

Overview: Permanent and seasonal marshes and seasonally flooded arable land on the floodplain of the Karkheh River in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran, important for wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: The Susangerd Marshes (or Horeh Sosangerd) comprise a complex of permanent and seasonal, freshwater to brackish marshes and seasonally flooded arable land on the floodplain of the Karkheh River near the Iraqi border. These wetlands constitute the northeastern extremity of the vast Hoor Al Azim marshes, the great bulk of which lies over the border in Iraq.

Ecological features: Permanent and seasonal fresh to brackish marshes and seasonally inundated arable land adjacent to semi-desertic plains with sparse steppic vegetation.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Fishing, reed-cutting and grazing by domestic livestock; irrigated agriculture on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Parts of the wetland are reported to have been damaged during the Iran/Iraq war.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for geese, surface-feeding ducks and shorebirds. Peak counts have included 1,995 Anser anser, 1,755 Anas strepera, 8,500 A. crecca, 140 Himantopus himantopus, 50 Recurvirostra avosetta, 72 Vanellus indicus and 52 V. leucurus. Breeding birds include Francolinus francolinus, Halcyon smyrnensis and Ceryle rudis. Up to 20 Calidris temminckii and 250 Limosa limosa have been recorded on passage, and 60 Marmaronetta angustirostris were present in November 1973. Other notable species have included Botaurus stellaris (two records in winter), Haliaeetus albicilla (one record in winter) and Hypocolius ampelinus.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 3a & 3c (possibly also 2a). Susangerd Marshes are a good representative example of permanent and seasonal wetlands characteristic of the lowlands of southwestern Iran and neighbouring Iraq. Marmaronetta angustirostris (a globally threatened species) has occurred in the area, and is probably regular. The marshes regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser and Anas strepera.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Shadegan Marshes and Tidal Mudflats of Khor-al Amaya

and Khor Musa (35)

Location: Shadegan Marshes 30°20'N, 48°20'E; Khor-al Amaya 30°00'N, 48°40'E; Khor Musa 30°10'N, 49°00'E; at the head of the Persian Gulf near Abadan, 50-150 km south of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 425,140 ha (Shadegan Marshes 282,500 ha; Khor-al Amaya 19,200 ha; Khor Musa 123,440 ha). Ramsar Site 400,000 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to 15 m.

Overview: The largely seasonal floodplain wetlands of the Dez and Karun Rivers and the adjacent tidal mudflats at the head of the Persian Gulf in the Khuzestan lowlands of southwestern Iran; extremely important for wintering waterfowl, especially Marmaronetta angustirostris, and also for breeding and passage waterfowl of a wide variety of species. The greater part of the site is protected in a Wildlife Refuge and has been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: The wetland comprises the southern portion of the extensive floodplain and delta system of the Karun, Dez and several other major rivers which rise in the northwest Zagros Mountains of western Iran. The better-drained areas in the north support fresh to brackish sedge marshes which give way to halophytic vegetation in the central floodplain and bare, dry mudflats in the south. Shoreline relief is typically a narrow or indistinct beach with vast silt or sandy tidal flats, up to 10 km wide in places. Numerous small islands exist, and additional islands are forming as a result of deposition from the Karun River and Shatt Al Arab. Autumn and winter rains in the high Zagros cause extensive flooding throughout the delta, creating a vast complex of shallow lagoons with extensive sedge marshes. These dry out gradually through the long, hot summer, and the entire area may be completely dry by the end of the summer. The main highway from Ahwaz to Abadan passes along the west side of the site, while the main highway from Abadan to the port of Bandar Shahpur runs from west to east across the southern edge of the marshes.

The region is characterized by its extremely high temperatures, with mean July temperatures in excess of 45°C and mean January temperatures in excess of 7°C. Frosts are rare. The average annual rainfall is 146 mm, 92% of which falls as winter precipitation, with an abrupt onset in November and a more gradual termination in April or May. Run-off is at its maximum in late winter, when discharge from the Karun River may increase tenfold over late summer levels.

Ecological features: The extensive seasonal freshwater marshes in the north are dominated by Schoenoplectus sp., and there are only small areas of Phragmites australis and Typha sp. The brackish and saline areas further south are dominated by Salicornia sp. and other salt marsh species, with patches of tamarisk scrub (Tamarix sp.) on higher ground. The wetland is bordered by barren flats to the north, east and northwest, but there is a large area of rice fields, date gardens and human settlement to the northeast.

Land tenure: Mainly public (Government), with about 1,000 ha of privately-owned rice paddies in the north (Vahedi, 1982).

Conservation measures taken: A Wildlife Refuge of 296,000 ha, encompassing all the main wetland areas and the coastal mudflats in the south, was established in 1972 and has remained unchanged since then. The central and southern portions of Shadegan Marshes and the mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa (a total of 400,000 ha) were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Harrington (1976b) proposed that several of the islands between the Arvand River and Cape Bahrgan in the southeast should be appended to the Shadegan Wildlife Refuge. Most important among these are Bune and Dara Islands.

Land use: Reeds are harvested on a large scale in mid-summer to provide materials for thatching and weaving. There is also some grazing by domestic livestock and fishing. Part of the wetland is cultivated in privately owned rice paddies. A major oil terminal is located at Bandar Shahpur in the southeast, and there is a considerable amount of shipping traffic in the south, to and from the ports of Khorramshahr, Bandar Mashur and Bandar Shahpur. Large areas of mudflat in the south are extremely difficult of access and not used.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Shadegan Marshes are situated in a currently sensitive military zone close to the border with Iraq. The Iranian national reports to the Regina Conference in 1987 and Montreux Conference in 1990 indicated that wetlands in the border areas had been severely polluted by bombardment with chemical weapons during the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s. It was estimated that about 10% of Shadegan Marshes had been destroyed in this way (Ashtiani-Zarandi, 1990). The marshes may also have suffered some damage as a result of "acid rainfall" during the Gulf War in 1991. The principal long-term threat to the marshes is diminished water supply as a result of diversion of water for irrigation schemes further north. An irrigation scheme along the Karun River to the north has already reduced the inflow of freshwater into the marshes, and some of the area has been degraded to sterile silt flats by soil deterioration resulting from poorly managed irrigation schemes in the past. Some oil pollution has been reported on the beaches around Bandar Shahpur in the southeast. Illegal hunting occurs throughout the area, and there is little control by Department of the Environment personnel.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The harvest of reeds is of considerable importance in the local economy.

Noteworthy fauna: An extremely important wintering area for a wide variety of waterfowl, especially dabbling ducks, and also a very important breeding and staging area. Shadegan Marshes are the most important site in the world for Marmaronetta angustirostris, regularly supporting 10,000-20,000 in winter (30-60% of the world population). Peak counts have included 12,600 in January 1971, 10,000 in January 1972, 20,000 in January 1973 and 15,100 in January 1992. A few pairs probably breed (e.g. 10 birds in June 1974). Other noteworthy concentrations of wintering waterfowl have included 1,340 Ciconia ciconia, 2,080 Anser anser, in excess of 500,000 dabbling ducks (mainly Anas crecca and A. acuta) and over 15,000 gulls (mainly Larus ridibundus and L. genei). The wetland is also an important wintering area for Pelecanus crispus, with up to 75 birds present, and at least one pair bred near Bandar Shapur in 1975. Threskiornis aethiopicus is an occasional visitor in winter and spring, with a maximum of 8 in May 1972. The mudflats at the head of the Gulf hold many thousands of shorebirds in winter, including large numbers of Haematopus ostralegus, Limosa lapponica, Numenius arquata and Tringa totanus. Breeding waterfowl include various herons and egrets, a few pairs of Aythya nyroca, various shorebirds, 400-800 pairs of Larus genei and colonies of five species of terns. Botaurus stellaris presumably breeds, as at least six were booming in the marshes in May and June 1972. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 16. The vast sedge marshes are the stronghold of Cisticola juncidis in Iran. Raptors are abundant in winter, and have included up to 370 Milvus migrans, 70 Circus aeruginosus, 4 Haliaeetus albicilla, 19 Aquila heliaca and 9 A. clanga, as well as single Falco cherrug, F. peregrinus and F. columbarius. Pandion haliaetus is a regular passage migrant, with up to five present at one time. Circus aeruginosus is a common breeding bird, with some 25-50 pairs. Other breeding birds include Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis (maximum count of 550), Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. A variety of landbirds typical of the Gulf coastal plain occur in the surrounding scrub and date gardens, including Hypocolius ampelinus. At least 149 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) are common in the reserve.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1971 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Carp (1972, 1980); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Harrington (1976b); IUCN (1992); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1972b, 1975b, 1976a, 1976c, 1978a, 1993); Scott & Carp (1972); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. Shadegan Marshes and the tidal mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa are outstanding examples of floodplain wetlands and coastal mudflat ecosystems characteristic of the Persian Gulf, and play a significant hydrological and ecological role in the natural functioning of the northern Gulf. They support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The seasonal marshes and mudflats are important breeding and nursery grounds for various fish species, and support large breeding colonies of several species of birds. The marshes provide wintering habitat for some 30-60% of the world population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and appreciable numbers of three other threatened species: Pelecanus crispus, Aythya nyroca and Aquila heliaca. The wetlands regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl. During the breeding season, they support over 1% of the regional populations of Larus genei, Gelochelidon nilotica and Sterna albifrons; during the migration seasons, over 1% of the regional population of Anas querquedula; and in winter, over 1% of the regional populations of Ciconia ciconia, Phoenicopterus ruber, nine species of Anatidae, Haematopus ostralegus, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Izeh and Shiekho Lakes (36)

Location: 31°52'N, 49°54'E; in the southwestern foothills of the Zagros Mountains, 125 km east-northeast of Ahwaz, Khuzestan.

Area: 1,400 ha.

Altitude: c.90 m.

Overview: Two freshwater lakes with extensive marshes in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in southwestern Iran, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Lake Izeh and Lake Shiekho are small freshwater lakes situated in a broad valley in the foothills of the southwestern Zagros Mountains near the small town of Izeh. Shiekho, the larger of the two lakes, lies to the northwest of the town; it is a shallow freshwater lake almost entirely overgrown with emergent vegetation except around the edges where heavy grazing and trampling by cattle maintain some areas of open water. Izeh Lake, to the east of the town, is somewhat deeper, with much more open water. Both lakes are fed by local run-off and large springs at the base of the nearby hills. The plains around the lakes and to the south are under cultivation, mainly for wheat, and there are several small villages and seasonal nomad encampments in the general vicinity.

Ecological features: Shallow freshwater lakes with extensive sedge marshes, surrounded by cultivated plains (mainly wheat). Sparsely vegetated stony hillsides rise abruptly to the north.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The lakes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock in the marshes, and some fishing; wheat cultivation in surrounding areas. The lakes provide a source of water for irrigation during the dry summer months.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The emergent marsh vegetation is heavily grazed by cattle and sheep.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for herons, egrets, Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, surface-feeding ducks, diving ducks, Fulica atra and Grus grus. Several species of waterfowl breed in small numbers, including Podiceps cristatus, and about 40-50 pairs of Ciconia ciconia nest in the general area (including over 20 pairs on telegraph poles in Izeh town). Acrocephalus stentoreus is a common summer visitor to the reed-beds. Mid-winter waterfowl counts in the 1970s seldom exceeded 5,000, but numbers have been much higher in recent years, with up to 3,500 Anser anser, 750 Tadorna ferruginea, 400 Anas penelope, 4,150 A. strepera, 13,150 A. crecca, 6,200 A. platyrhynchos, 12,100 A. acuta, 5,860 A. clypeata, 9,360 Aythya ferina, 6,400 A. fuligula and 86,550 Fulica atra. The numbers of Grus grus appear to have remained stable at around 400. Other wintering waterfowl include very large numbers of Tachybaptus ruficollis and up to 330 Egretta alba, 400 E. garzetta, 260 Ardea cinerea, 400 Recurvirostra avosetta and 3,000 Vanellus vanellus.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1975, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1980).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 3a & 3c. The Izeh and Shiekho lakes are good examples of permanent freshwater lakes characteristic of southwestern Iran. They regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of six species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Grus grus and Recurvirostra avosetta.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Choghakor Marsh (37)

Location: 31°55'N, 50°54'E; in the upper drainage of the Karun River in the Zagros Mountains, about 95 km west of Shahreza, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari.

Area: 1,600 ha.

Altitude: c.2,100 .

Overview: A permanent freshwater marsh in the northern Zagros Mountains, important for passage and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Choghakor Marsh is a permanent freshwater marsh on a broad grassy plain in the highlands of the northern Zagros Mountains southwest of Esfahan. The marsh floods in winter and spring to a maximum depth of about 2 metres, but by late summer much of the wetland is dry and the remainder is almost entirely overgrown with emergent marsh vegetation. Large portions of the plains around the wetland are under cultivation for wheat.

Ecological features: Freshwater marshes with a central area of Phragmites and Typha reed-beds surrounded by sedge marshes. Grassy plains and wheat fields in surrounding areas.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: There is no formal protection, but the wetland is patrolled by Department of the Environment personnel. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The site has been proposed for Protected Area status, and has been recommended for designation as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known; recent reports indicate that the wetland remains in good condition.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Egretta alba (maximum 100), Anas platyrhynchos (maximum 6,700) and Aythya nyroca (maximum 103), and a feeding area for Ciconia ciconia during the summer months (maximum 62). Oxyura leucocephala has been recorded in recent years, and 57 Marmaronetta angustirostris were present in January 1992.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1971, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a & 3c. Choghakor Marsh is a good representative example of a freshwater marsh characteristic of the western uplands of Iran. The wetland regularly supports over 1% of the regional population of Aythya nyroca (a globally threatened species) in winter, and two other threatened species, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Oxyura leucocephala, have occurred.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Gandoman Marsh (38)

Location: 31°50'N, 51°07'E; in the upper drainage of the Karun River in the Zagros Mountains, about 25 km southwest of Borujen and 75 km west-southwest of Shahreza, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari.

Area: 1,500 ha.

Altitude: 2,250 m.

Overview: A largely seasonal freshwater marsh in the northern Zagros Mountains, important for passage and wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Gandoman Marsh is a largely seasonal freshwater marsh on a vast grassy plain in the highlands of the northern Zagros Mountains southwest of Isfahan. The wetland floods in winter and spring, but by late summer it is almost completely dry. There is some rice cultivation along the main stream through the centre of the wetland, and some wheat cultivation on the surrounding plains.

Ecological features: Freshwater marshes dominated by sedges with some areas of rice cultivation; grassy plains and wheat fields in surrounding areas.

Land tenure: A mixture of public (Government) and private.

Conservation measures taken: There is no formal protection, but the wetland is patrolled by Department of the Environment personnel. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: The site has been proposed for Protected Area status, and has been recommended for designation as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Grazing by domestic livestock.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: None known; recent reports indicate that the wetland remains in good condition.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Egretta alba (up to 70), Ardea cinerea (up to 70), Tadorna ferruginea (up to 750), Anas platyrhynchos (up to 5,000) and Aythya nyroca (up to 140). Other wintering waterfowl have included up to 30 Anser anser, 300 Anas crecca and 1,660 Fulica atra. Up to 600 Grus grus have been observed during the spring migration. Ciconia ciconia is a common breeding summer visitor in the area, and C. nigra has been recorded. Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila clanga have been recorded in winter.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1970, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a, 1976c); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a & 3c. Gandoman Marsh is a good representative example of a freshwater marsh characteristic of the western uplands of Iran. The wetland regularly supports over 1% of the regional population of Aythya nyroca (a globally threatened species) in winter, and over 1% of the regional population of Grus grus during the migration seasons.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Gavekhoni Lake and marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud (39)

Location: Gavekhoni Lake 32°20'N, 52°47'E; at the western edge of the Central Plateau, about 40-100 km east-southeast of the city of Isfahan, Isfahan Province.

Area: 63,300 ha (Gavekhoni Lake 13,000 ha, including about 1,000 ha of marsh). Ramsar Site 43,000 ha.

Altitude: 1,470 m.

Overview: A large salt lake with associated fresh to brackish marshes, and a chain of freshwater marshes and floodplain wetlands along the main river entering the lake, on the western edge of Iran's Central Plateau; important for wintering waterfowl. The wetlands have been designated as a Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: Gavekhoni (Gavkhouni) Lake is a large, shallow, saline lake in an enclosed drainage basin on the western edge of the deserts of Iran's Central Plateau. The lake is fed almost entirely by the Zaindeh Rud, a large river rising in the northern Zagros Mountains and passing through the city of Isfahan about 100 km upstream of the lake. Flooding occurs in winter and early spring, but the extent of flooding varies widely from year to year and the lake is often almost completely dry by the end of the summer. There are about 1,000 ha of "delta" marshes at the mouth of the river, but otherwise the lake is largely devoid of vegetation other than algae. The substrate is rich alluvial soil, silt and mud.

The marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud comprise a chain of freshwater marshes and floodplain wetlands stretching for about 60 km along both banks of the river and ending at the delta marshes at Gavekhoni Lake. These wetlands are fed both by flooding from the river itself and several irrigation canals. The flooded areas often freeze over in winter, and in most years, the marshes are almost completely dry by late spring or early summer. Very little natural marsh vegetation remains, the main flooding now occurring on degraded steppe and land cultivated for wheat and rice.

Ecological features: The marshes at the mouth of the Zaindeh Rud are dominated by Phragmites with some Tamarix scrub. Elsewhere around the lake, the vegetation is very sparse and confined to halophytic species. The remnants of natural marsh vegetation along the Zaindeh Rud are dominated by Phragmites and Typha. The adjacent land consists of degraded steppe and irrigated cultivation (rice and wheat).

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: No legal protection. Gavekhoni Lake and a large portion of the marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud (43,000 ha in total) were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Parts of the floodplain are used for agriculture, grazing of livestock and wildfowl hunting. The salt lake is relatively inaccessible and undisturbed, although there is some grazing, hunting and cutting of brushwood for fuel in the marshes at the mouth of the river.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The principal threats are water-borne pollution from the city of Isfahan and other urban centres upstream along the Zaindeh Rud, and diversion of river water for irrigation purposes and domestic and industrial supply. There is almost no control of the area by Department of the Environment personnel.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for a variety of waterfowl, notably Phoenicopterus ruber, Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, surface-feeding ducks and some shorebirds. Mid-winter waterfowl counts in the 1970s seldom exceeded 10,000 birds in total, but numbers have been much higher in recent years, with peak counts of Anatidae including 1,740 Anser anser, 3,280 T. ferruginea, 11,300 T. tadorna, 4,560 Anas penelope, 6,600 A. strepera, 41,500 A. crecca, 7,960 A. platyrhynchos, 13,250 A. acuta, 8,370 A. clypeata and 225 Aythya ferina. Other wintering waterfowl have included up to 35 Phalacrocorax carbo, 25 Egretta alba, 21 Ardea cinerea, 69 Platalea leucorodia, 1,720 Phoenicopterus ruber, 1,700 Fulica atra, 51 Grus grus, 286 Himantopus himantopus, 146 Recurvirostra avosetta, 115 Vanellus vanellus and 30 Gallinago gallinago. Ciconia nigra, Cygnus olor (maximum 6) and Ceryle rudis have occurred as scarce winter visitors. Most of the marshes dry out in summer and are of negligible importance for breeding waterfowl. Wintering raptors have included Haliaeetus albicilla (up to 5), Circus aeruginosus (up to 5), Aquila heliaca and Falco cherrug. Aegypius monachus regularly occurs in the area.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1969 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975).

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Evans (1994); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Scott (1976a, 1976c, 1980); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 3a & 3c. Gavekhoni Lake and the marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud are good representative examples of a shallow saline lake and seasonal riverine marshes characteristic of Iran's Central Plateau. The wetlands regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna and five species of dabbling ducks (Anas spp.).

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Dorudsan Dam (40)

Location: 30°15'N, 52°20'E; on the Kur River about 70 km north-northwest of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: Unknown.

Altitude: c.1,800 m.

Overview: A reservoir in the central Zagros Mountains, important for wintering waterfowl. Unprotected.

Physical features: Dorudsan (Dorodzan) Dam is a large water storage reservoir on the Kur River in the Zagros Mountains north of Shiraz. The reservoir is situated in a broad valley, and is surrounded by arable land.

Ecological features: No information.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The site has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: Water supply for domestic, industrial and irrigation purposes.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for grebes, ducks and coots, with up to 1,200 Podiceps cristatus, 7,400 Anas platyrhynchos, 10,000 Anas acuta, 600 Aythya ferina, 1,820 A. fuligula and 670 Fulica atra.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1972.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994).

Reasons for inclusion: 3c. Dorudsan Dam regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Podiceps cristatus and Anas acuta in winter.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Kaftar Lake (41)

Location: 30°34'N, 52°47'E; on the north slope of the Zagros Mountains, about 105 km north-northeast of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: 4,700 ha.

Altitude: c.2,300 m.

Overview: A semi-permanent freshwater lake in the central Zagros Mountains, important primarily as a staging area for migratory waterfowl during spring and autumn. Unprotected.

Physical features: Kaftar Lake is a shallow, freshwater lake at high altitude in the Zagros Mountains north of Shiraz. The lake is generally frozen over during the winter months, and can dry out completely during dry summers. It is situated in a region of high rolling steppic plains.

Ecological features: Marshy areas on the eastern side of the lake are dominated by Butomus umbellatus and Sparganium sp.; grasses are predominant on the western side of the lake. The natural vegetation of the surrounding plains is Artemisia steppe, but large areas have now been converted to wheat cultivation.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: Kaftar Lake has been proposed for designation as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: A proposal by the Ministry of Jihad to utilize the waters of the lake for irrigation purposes was blocked by the Department of the Environment, because of the importance of the site as a staging area for migratory waterfowl. However, there is now a new proposal to build an earthen dam which would result in a loss of half the surface area of the lake. In recent years, large-scale die-offs of waterfowl have been reported during the breeding and migration seasons. In some years, the mortality may be as high as 10,000. The reason for the die-offs is unknown, but disease (perhaps botulism) has been suspected.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: A very important staging area for geese, ducks and Grus grus, and occasionally also a very important wintering area, but usually frozen over during mid-winter. In mild winters e.g. 1975/76, large numbers of birds remain throughout the winter; peak counts have then included 1,000 Anas strepera, 10,000 A. crecca, 8,000 A. platyrhynchos, 15,000 A. acuta, 30,000 A. clypeata, 6,000 Aythya fuligula and 1,200 Grus grus. Haliaeetus albicilla has occurred in winter. During the spring and autumn migration seasons, the lake can hold as many as 120,000 migratory waterfowl, including up to 12,000 Phoenicopterus ruber (in August) and 2,000-3,000 Grus grus, as well as smaller numbers of Pelecanus onocrotalus. The lake occasionally dries out in summer and appears to be of relatively little importance for breeding waterbirds.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1975, and several ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994); Scott (1976a); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 3a & 3c. Kaftar Lake is a good representative example of a freshwater lake characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. The lake regularly holds over 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Phoenicopterus ruber, Anas acuta, A. clypeata, Aythya fuligula and Grus grus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Haft Barm (42)

Location: 29°40'N, 52°10'E; in the rolling uplands of the high Zagros Mountains about 65 km west-northwest of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: 70 ha.

Altitude: 2,200 m.

Overview: A group of small freshwater lakes set in rolling uplands in the southern Zagros Mountains, of some importance for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: The Haft Barm (Seven Lakes) are a group of seven small, slightly saline lakes some 2-3 metres deep, lying in hollows in broken undulating country to the east of Kuh-i Anar. The lakes are fed by local run-off, principally in the form of snow-melt in spring, and are generally frozen over for some weeks in mid-winter. The southern five lakes generally dry out completely during the summer months.

Ecological features: The two largest lakes (in the north) are surrounded by belts of Phragmites reeds with patches of the flowering rush Butomus sp.; the other smaller lakes are almost barren of vegetation except for green algae and some small patches of Butomus. The surrounding rolling uplands support tragacanthic steppe communities and some dry wheat farming.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The lakes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The lakes are used by the local nomadic tribes for watering their flocks, washing and reed-cutting.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: There is a considerable amount of human disturbance at the lakes.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Up to 200 Marmaronetta angustirostris have been recorded in summer (in 1971), and the species has probably bred at the lakes. Oxyura leucocephala has been recorded in winter (36 in January 1986). Up to 630 Tadorna ferruginea and 5,000 Fulica atra have been recorded on passage in autumn. The lakes are usually frozen over in winter and are of little importance for wintering birds. Peak counts in mild winters have included over 34,000 Anas crecca, 400 A. platyrhynchos, 150 A. clypeata, 50 Netta rufina, 500 Aythya fuligula and 850 Fulica atra. Tachybaptus ruficollis, Anas platyrhynchos and Tringa totanus probably breed at the lakes. Haliaeetus albicilla has occurred in winter.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, on a number of occasions since 1975, and several ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Anstey (1989); Cornwallis (1968b); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Scott (1976a).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a & 2a (possibly also 3a). The Haft Barm (Seven Lakes) are good examples of small spring-fed lakes characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. Two threatened species of waterfowl occur at the lakes, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Oxyura leucocephala, and the former probably breeds. The lakes occasionally hold over 20,000 waterfowl in autumn and winter.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Dasht-e Arjan and Lake Parishan (43)

Location: Dasht-e Arjan 29°37'N, 51°59'E; Lake Parishan 29°31'N, 51°48 'E; in the Zagros Mountains, 40-80 km west of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: Dasht-e Arjan 2,200 ha; Lake Parishan 4,000 ha. Ramsar Site 6,600 ha (Dasht-e Arjan 2,400 ha; Lake Parishan 4,200 ha).

Altitude: Dasht-e Arjan 2,000 m; Lake Parishan 853 m.

Overview: A largely seasonal freshwater lake and marsh at 2,000 m elevation in the Zagros Mountains (Dasht-e Arjan), and a permanent brackish to saline lake at 853 m in the Zagros foothills (Lake Parishan); extremely important for breeding and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species, including Pelecanus crispus, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Oxyura leucocephala. Both lakes are protected within the Arjan Protected Area, and have been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: Dasht-e Arjan and Lake Parishan are two very different wetlands situated only about 15 km apart within the Arjan Protected Area in the Zagros Mountains west of Shiraz. Dasht-e Arjan is a shallow, eutrophic, freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds. The lake lies in an enclosed basin and is fed by two large springs on its western side and local run-off from winter rainfall and snow-melt. It is unusual in that it drains out through a group of swallow-holes at its southeast corner. The wetland varies widely in size from year to year depending on rainfall, reaching about 2,400 ha after wet winters and decreasing to only a few hundred ha in years of drought. Most of the basin dries out in summer, but two large springs on the west side maintain some permanent marsh throughout the year. Much of the wetland freezes over in winter, and deep snow cover is not unusual. Good rainfall in recent years has resulted in a considerable expansion in the area covered by tall reeds.

Lake Parishan is a shallow, oligotrophic, brackish to saline lake surrounded by eutrophic marshes with halophytic vegetation. It lies in an enclosed drainage basin of 29,000 ha in a broad valley between Zagros ranges, and is fed by a number of permanent springs and several seasonal watercourses. The salinity varies widely according to the size of the lake. At maximum extent, the lake covers about 4,200 ha and is then almost fresh. During the dry years of the early 1970s, water levels were low, the lake was brackish to saline, marsh vegetation was confined to the western and eastern ends of the lake, near freshwater inflow, and there were large areas of bare salt flats in the southwest bay. Throughout much of the 1980s and in the early 1990s, however, water levels have remained high; the water is now almost fresh and there are very extensive reed-beds of Phragmites and Typha in many parts of the lake.

The physiography of the region is of great interest. Oligo-miocene ("Asmari") limestones form spectacular escarpments, generally aligned as parallel ridges enclosing broad valleys with open oak woodland. The climate is characterized by hot dry summers and mild or distinctly cold winters, depending on altitude. The average annual rainfall is in the range 400-500 mm, falling mainly in winter and largely as snow on high ground. Temperatures at Lake Parishan range from 22 to 40°C in summer and 5 to 15°C in winter; at Dasht-e Arjan, from 15 to 35°C in summer and -10 to +15°C in winter.

Ecological features: The permanent marshes at Dasht-e Arjan comprise extensive reed-beds of Phragmites australis and Typha sp. with fringing areas of Juncus spp. and other aquatic plants. The surrounding flat lands are usually covered by terrestrial grasses or remain as bare baked mud, but in wet years sedges (Carex sp.) predominate. Lake Parishan also supports extensive reed-beds of Phragmites australis and Typha sp, as well as halophytic vegetation dominated by species of Salsola, Kochia, Camphorosma and Halocnemum. Large areas of the semi-arid steppe around Lake Parishan have been converted to wheat fields. Nearby mountain sides are still covered with forests of oak (Quercus brantii), while the lower slopes are partially covered with steppic forest of almonds, hawthorn, hackberry etc. In much of the area, the shrub-like "Arjan" tree (Amygdalus erioclada) is conspicuous. The Arjan Protected Area incorporates a wide spectrum of Zagros habitats from high peaks at over 3,200 m and rolling uplands down through the Zagros oak forest zone to the acacia woodlands and date gardens of Iran's southern coastal zone.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: A National Park of 65,750 ha was established in March 1972. The original plans to establish the reserve as an international park (under the control of an international committee) were never implemented, and following the revolution, the reserve was downgraded to Protected Area and reduced in size to 52,800 ha. Lake Parishan and Dasht-e Arjan were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The Ramsar Site is in two parts and comprises only the wetland areas: Lake Parishan (4,200 ha) and Dasht-e Arjan (2,400 ha). The area of the original National Park (65,750 ha) was designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in June 1976. The Arjan Protected Area has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to the wetlands in January 1992 made the following recommendations (Scott & Smart, 1992):

(i) Both portions of the Ramsar Site (Lake Parishan and Dasht-e-Arjan) should be clearly demarcated on the ground, with some publicity given to the fact that they are Ramsar wetlands (e.g. by conspicuous sign-boards).

(ii) Both portions of the Ramsar Site and other appropriate sections of the Arjan Protected Area should be upgraded to the status of Wildlife Refuge.

(iii) Any further drainage of marshes at Lake Parishan should be strictly prohibited, and the possible negative impacts of the present drainage ditch from the northwest corner of the lake should be investigated.

(iv) Studies should be carried out on the changes which are taking place in the aquatic vegetation at Lake Parishan.

(v) The problem of increased disturbance from fishing activities at Lake Parishan should be investigated. A possible solution might be the establishment of one or more no-fishing zones.

(vi) The location of the Game Guard Station on a peninsula overlooking the western part of Lake Parishan would be an ideal site for a Visitor Centre for day visitors to the lake.

(vii) The possibility of re-routing the high-tension power lines across the Ramsar Site at Dasht-e-Arjan should be investigated, as these severely compromise the scenic beauty and "naturalness" of the area, and may cause considerably mortality to waterfowl.

Land use: There is some reed-cutting at both wetlands, and the marshy plain at Dasht-e Arjan is extensively grazed by domestic livestock. Some fish ponds have been established at the west end of Lake Parishan. The plains to the south and west of Lake Parishan are cultivated for wheat and other crops, and there are several small settlements with orchards and gardens in the general area.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Lake Parishan is under considerable threat from a variety of sources, while Dasht-e-Arjan remains in reasonably good condition. Some 20 hectares of marsh at the extreme northwest corner of Lake Parishan were drained for agriculture by the Ministry of Jihad shortly after the revolution. Elsewhere around this lake, wet meadows have been replaced by cultivated fields which in places extend to the water's edge. A small area of fish ponds was established on the plains to the west of the lake in the early 1980s, and it is reported that three species of carp have been introduced into the lake. There has been a considerable increase in fishing activities, and the widespread use of outboard motor boats (instead of traditional reed boats) has resulted in much more disturbance to waterfowl populations. Poaching remains a problem, and there are reports that significant numbers of waterfowl are accidentally killed in fishing nets. Eutrophication may become a problem in the future, especially if this is being accelerated by inflow of domestic sewage and fertilizers, and some control of the spread of Phragmites may become necessary.

Poaching also remains a problem at Dasht-e Arjan, despite the presence of a small Game Guard Station in the nearby village of Dasht-e Arjan. It is estimated that some 500-1,000 birds are poached annually. Two sets of high-tension power lines have been constructed across the basin, both crossing over the western side of the marshes. Apart from being an eye-sore in an otherwise region of great scenic beauty, the power lines present a considerable hazard to waterfowl flighting into and out of the marshes. One of the power lines (from a nuclear power station under construction in Bushire) was erected in the late 1970s and is still not in use. The other transports electricity to Shiraz from a conventional power station in Khuzestan.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The region is renowned for is spectacular scenery.

Noteworthy fauna: Both Lake Parishan and Dasht-e Arjan are extremely important for wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species, and are also of considerable importance for breeding waterfowl, notably Pelecanus crispus, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala, especially in wet years. P. crispus is present year-round; 5-10 pairs breed at Lake Parishan and the species has bred at Dasht-e Arjan. There are usually about 60 in winter, but peak counts of 100 were recorded in the 1970s and 185 in recent years. There is a large breeding population of M. angustirostris at Lake Parishan in years when conditions are suitable, e.g. in 1976 and 1977, when there were thought to be some 200-300 pairs. The species also breeds in small numbers at Dasht-e Arjan in wet years. Large numbers winter at the wetlands, with up to 2,000 at Lake Parishan and 40 at Dasht-e Arjan in the 1970s, and up to 5,500 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Aythya nyroca occurs in small numbers year-round, with a few pairs breeding at Dasht-e Arjan in wet years. Oxyura leucocephala is also present year-round; several pairs breed at Lake Parishan, and up to 93 wintered on this lake in the 1970s, but after a high count of 455 in 1988, numbers have been low (maximum 25). The numbers of most other ducks and Fulica atra at Lake Parishan in recent years have also been well below the numbers in the 1970s (an average of 25,000 ducks and 120,000 F. atra in the four winters 1972/73 to 1975/76). This decline may be a result of the greatly increased disturbance from fishermen in high-speed motor boats. However, improved agriculture to the south of the lake now provides better feeding habitat for Anser anser and Grus grus, and numbers of both of these species have been much higher in recent years than in the 1970s, e.g. numbers of G. grus have increased from a maximum of 350 in the 1970s to a maximum of 2,200 in recent years. The extensive reed-beds now support large breeding colonies of herons, egrets, Plegadis falcinellus and Platalea leucorodia, and the small population of Pelecanus crispus has shown a slight increase. Porphyrio porphyrio colonized the area in the 1980s (presumably from the wetlands of Khuzestan), and is now common in the reed-beds. Breeding birds in the marshes at Dasht-i Arjan include Rallus aquaticus and Porzana pusilla, and in wet years, up to 20 pairs of Podiceps nigricollis have bred at this site. Botaurus stellaris is a regular winter visitor in small numbers, and may breed at Dasht-e Arjan. Anser erythropus, Eudromias morinellus and Gallinago media have occurred as scarce passage migrants. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 17.

Haliaeetus albicilla is a regular winter visitor, mainly to Dasht-e Arjan, where up to four have been recorded. Other wintering raptors include Circus aeruginosus (maximum 40), Aquila heliaca (maxima of 3 at Dasht-e Arjan and 4 at Lake Parishan), A. clanga (maximum 5), Falco cherrug and F. pelegrinoides. There is a breeding colony of 10-15 pairs of Falco naumanni at Dasht-e Arjan. Other breeding birds include Francolinus francolinus, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. Wintering passerines include Motacilla citreola and Luscinia svecica. The great range of habitats within the Protected Area supports almost the full range of species typical of the montane steppe, pistachio-almond forest, oak forest and wetland systems of the central and southern Zagros mountains, as well as some species more typical of the Gulf coastal lowlands. At least 263 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Forty-four species of mammals have been recorded in the reserve including Wolf (Canis lupus), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), Caracal (Lynx caracal), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Persian Ibex (Capra hircus aegagrus) and Wild Sheep (Ovis ammon). The Persian Lion (Panthera leo persica) is known to have survived in the area until about 1940.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1967 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year. A large number of herons, egrets, ibises and spoonbills were ringed at the breeding colonies in the mid-1970s, along with smaller numbers of other waterfowl. Over 180 wintering Grus grus were marked with wing-tags at Dasht-e Arjan in the late 1970s, in a joint project between the Department of the Environment and International Crane Foundation. Accommodation for visiting researchers is available at a small guest house maintained by the Department of the Environment at the Game Guard Station on a hill overlooking the western end of Lake Parishan.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Argyle (1975b); Carp (1972, 1980); Cornwallis (1968b); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Farhadpour (1987); Firouz (1974); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Green (1993); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1973c, 1976a, 1976c, 1978a, 1980); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a & 3c. Dasht-i Arjan and Lake Parishan are outstanding examples of freshwater and brackish to saline wetlands characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. They support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. Both wetlands support large breeding colonies of Ardeidae and Threskiornithidae, and regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl in winter. Five threatened species of birds occur in appreciable numbers: Pelecanus crispus, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca. During the breeding season, the wetlands support over 1% of the regional populations of Plegadis falcinellus and Platalea leucorodia; during the migration seasons, over 1% of the regional population of Podiceps nigricollis; and in winter, over 1% of the regional populations of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Phoenicopterus ruber, 11 species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Grus grus and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Lake Maharlu (44)

Location: 29°30'N, 52°48'E; in an intermontane basin in the Zagros Mountains about 20 km southeast of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: 21,600 ha at maximum extent of flooding.

Altitude: 1,480 m.

Overview: A large salt lake with extensive spring-fed marshes in a broad valley in the southern Zagros Mountains, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Unprotected.

Physical features: Lake Maharlu is a large, shallow, saline lake at the centre and lowest part of the Shiraz basin. The maximum depth is about 3 m. The lake is fed by run-off which enters the lake in numerous small ephemeral wadis, the Pul-i-Fasa stream which enters in the west, and numerous small springs around the shores of the lake. Much the largest perennial springs are at Barmishur at the northwest corner of the lake and at Ab-e Paravan on the north shore. Both of these springs create pools about 2 m deep which overflow into extensive permanent marshes. At maximum extent, the Barmishur marshes cover about 150 ha and those at Ab-e Paravan 250 ha. The level of the lake varies widely with the irregularities of the rainfall regime. During prolonged droughts, the entire lake dries out except for the small permanent spring-fed pools at Barmishur and Ab-e Paravan. The lake is bounded by limestone hills to the north and dry steppe to the east and south. Land to the west (towards Shiraz) is largely under irrigated cultivation for rice, wheat, barley, melons, cotton and sugar beet.

Ecological features: The shores of the lake support halophytic plant communities which include Tamarix, Suaeda and Salicornia as dominants. Freshwater and brackish marsh communities occur at points where fresh water enters the lake. The spring pools at Barmishur and Ab-e Paravan support reed-beds of Phragmites and Typha as well as open marsh communities dominated by sedges, rushes and Chara sp.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: None. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The lake is used for salt production and there are numerous large salt pans, particularly in the eastern portion of the lake. There is some livestock grazing and reed-cutting in the Barmishur and Ab-e Paravan marshes.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: Lying close to the city of Shiraz, the Barmishur Marshes are subjected to relatively heavy hunting pressure at weekends and holidays. Water-borne pollution from Shiraz is also reported to be a problem.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The lake is very important for salt production.

Noteworthy fauna: Lake Maharlu is important for a wide variety of resident and migratory waterfowl, notably surface-feeding ducks, geese, flamingos, cranes and some shorebirds. Breeding species include about 10 pairs of Marmaronetta angustirostris, a few pairs of Rallus aquaticus and Porzana pusilla, 25 pairs of Himantopus himantopus, 25 pairs of Vanellus leucurus and 10 pairs of Sterna albifrons, as well as Ceryle rudis, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. Wintering waterfowl have included up to 70 Pelecanus onocrotalus, 400 Anser anser, 570 Tadorna ferruginea, 460 T. tadorna, 6,500 Anas crecca, 37 M. angustirostris, 230 Grus grus, 260 Himantopus himantopus, 220 Recurvirostra avosetta and 160 Vanellus leucurus. Peak counts during the migration seasons have included 1,500 Phoenicopterus ruber, 2,200 T. ferruginea and 16,500 A. crecca. Anser erythropus was a regular winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 102) in the 1970s, and Pelecanus crispus, Botaurus stellaris, Anser albifrons and Oxyura leucocephala have been recorded in small numbers in winter. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 18. Two or three Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila heliaca are usually present in winter, along with up to six A. clanga and the occasional Falco cherrug and F. pelegrinoides. There is a small breeding colony of Falco naumanni on the cliffs to the north of the lake (about 20 birds), and up to 100 have been observed in the marshes during spring passage. Wintering passerines include Motacilla citreola and Luscinia svecica.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and many ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Carp (1972); Cornwallis (1968b); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Fotoohi & Scott (1975); Green (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1976a, 1976c).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a & 3c. Lake Maharlu is a good representative example of a saline lake with associated spring-fed marshes, characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. Two globally threatened species of birds occur in appreciable numbers, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Aquila heliaca, and three others, Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus and Oxyura leucocephala, have occurred in small numbers. In winter, the lake regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, Anas strepera, Grus grus, Himantopus himantopus and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Lake Bakhtegan, Lake Tashk and Kamjan Marshes (45)

Location: 29°40'N, 53°30'E (Kamjan Marshes 29°40'N, 53°05'E); in a large intermontane basin in the eastern Zagros Mountains, 50-160 km east of Shiraz, Fars.

Area: Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk 136,500 ha; Kamjan Marshes 5,250 ha. Ramsar Site 108,000 ha.

Altitude: Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk 1,525 m; Kamjan Marshes 1,540 m.

Overview: Two very large salt lakes in the southeastern Zagros Mountains, their extensive "delta" and spring-fed marshes, and a large area of permanent, freshwater marshes and seasonally flooded plains along the lower Kur River to the west (Kamjan Marshes); extremely important for breeding and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species, including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Both lakes are protected within the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge, but the Kamjan Marshes are unprotected; the lakes and Kamjan Marshes have been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: Lake Tashk and Lake Bakhtegan are highly astatic, salt lakes situated in an internal drainage basin (the Neiris, Niriz or Neyriz Basin) in the southeastern Zagros Mountains. The catchment area of 26,440 sq.km is formed where the folded ridges of the Zagros Mountains, which trend predominantly from northwest to southeast, impinge upon the buckled edge of the central plateau. Lake Tashk is fed by overflow from the Kamjan Marshes at the west end and a large permanent spring at Gumoon, in the northwest. Lake Bakhtegan receives the bulk of its water from the main channel of the Kur River, which enters at the west end. Only in winter and spring does any river water reach the lakes, since in summer this water is totally utilized for irrigation. Water levels in the lakes fluctuate widely according to rain and snow-fall in the Zagros. The two lakes are normally separated by narrow strips of land at their western and eastern extremities, but may become temporarily joined during very wet winters to form a single expanse of water over 70 km long and covering up to 181,000 ha. After a number of years of low rainfall, both lakes may dry out completely except in the vicinity of the main springs (Gumoon Spring at the northwest corner of Lake Tashk and Sahlabad Spring on the south shore of Lake Bakhtegan). This is known to have occurred in 1933/34 and again in 1971. The average depth of Lake Bakhtegan has been reported as 50 cm, and the maximum as 110 cm. In summer, water temperatures regularly exceed 30°C, and may reach 40°C in very shallow areas. Both lakes are noted for their extraordinary range of salinities, especially Lake Bakhtegan. In 1956, Cl- values in Lake Bakhtegan ranged from less than 10 gm/l in the west to over 70 gm/l in the east; in Lake Tashk, the extremes were 39 and 52 gm/l. At this time, Lake Bakhtegan was oligohaline at its western end and hypersaline in its eastern sector (Loffler, 1968). The lakes have comparatively low alkalinity values. The lake bottoms are covered by alluvial mud, sapropel, silt and some sand, deposited mainly by the river and flood waters.

Kamjan Marshes formerly comprised about 10,000 ha of permanent and seasonal, eutrophic, freshwater marshes, mainly reed-beds, along the lower Kur River. Drainage of wetlands for rice cultivation began as early as 1967, and much of this area has now been converted to agricultural land. However, although the marshes have been extensively modified by the drainage canals, much wetland habitat remains, including expanses of wet mudflats, stands of Phragmites and other emergent aquatic vegetation along canals and ditches, and large areas of rice fields. Furthermore, a large portion of the "reclaimed" land remains uncultivated, partly because of a shortage of water for irrigation, and partly because of the high salt content of the soils. Some of the irrigation canals are already becoming silted up, and parts of the drained land are reverting to marsh. In addition, new areas of marsh have developed at the mouths of the two main drainage canals where they enter the western end of Lake Tashk.

The climate is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild winters. The Neiris Basin lies to the east and in the rain shadow of the Zagros Mountains, and receives low winter rainfall which varies greatly from year to year, but is generally in the range 100-400 mm. The great bulk of the rain falls between December and February. Frosts are rare, and heavy snowfalls are exceptional.

Ecological features: The lakes are oligotrophic and support a dense submerged vegetation of Chara canescens, Lamprothamnium aragonensis, Ruppia maritima and Althenia filiformis, especially in areas with relatively low salinity. Amongst the abundant phytoplankton, diatoms are the most significant, with Nitzschia loffleri being the predominant species in hypersaline areas. The shoreline vegetation is dominated by species of Tamarix, Suaeda, Cressa and Salicornia. Kamjan Marshes support an emergent marsh vegetation dominated by sedges (Carex sp.), Phragmites reed-beds and species of Chenopodiaceae and grasses. This vegetation also occurs at the mouth of the Kur River in Lake Bakhtegan, and around Gumoon and Sahlabad springs. Parts of the Kamjan Marshes have been reclaimed for rice cultivation. On the adjacent plains of the lower Kur Valley, the land is either under cultivation for wheat, barley, cotton, sugar beet and fruit, or remains as heavily-grazed semi-desertic steppe. The area between the lakes consists of sparsely vegetated mountain ranges with some Pistacia-Amygdalus woodland and steppic plains dominated by Artemisia sp. and Astragalus sp.

Land tenure: Lakes Bakhtegan and Tashk are under public (Government) ownership; Kamjan Marshes are privately owned.

Conservation measures taken: Lake Bakhtegan, Lake Tashk and the intervening hill ranges were first protected as the Bakhtegan Protected Region (310,438 ha) established in December 1968. This reserve was given the status of Wildlife Refuge in the early 1970s, and increased in size to 327,820 ha. However, the reserve does not include either the Gumoon springs area or most of the marshes at the mouth of the Kur River. Kamjan Marshes are also unprotected. Both lakes and the Kamjan Marshes were designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The Ramsar Site (108,000 ha) includes the regularly flooded portions of the two lakes, the Gumoon area, all the marshes at the delta of the Kur River and Kamjan Marshes, but excludes the terrestrial portion of Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge between the lakes. The Iranian national reports to the Regina Conference in 1987 and Montreux Conference in 1990 reported that the Kamjan Marshes had been deleted from the Ramsar List, but neither the Convention Depository (UNESCO) nor the Convention Bureau received official notification of deletion, and the Kamjan Marshes have therefore remained as part of a Listed Site (Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1993). The entire Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge and Kamjan Marshes have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: A proposal to upgrade part of the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge to National Park has recently been approved by the relevant ministries, and is likely to be implemented in the near future. The National Park would include the greater portion of the two lakes and a range of hills to the north of Lake Bakhtegan.

A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission visited the wetlands in January 1992, and made the following recommendations (Scott & Smart, 1992):

(i) The boundaries of the Ramsar Site and Wildlife Refuge should be clearly demarcated on the ground, especially in the west where encroachment and poaching are most likely to cause a problem.

(ii) The proposal to construct an all-weather road through the Wildlife Refuge and Ramsar Site should be critically reviewed and alternative routings investigated, since the proposed road could affect the hydrology of the system and lead to increased encroachment and poaching in the reserve.

(iii) Studies should be carried out at Gumoon Marshes to determine to what extent these marshes have been destroyed by development, and whether or not any restoration might be possible. A decision should then be taken as to whether this small unprotected portion of the Ramsar Site should be maintained on the List and managed accordingly, or deleted.

(iv) The Kamjan Marshes should be retained on the Ramsar List, and restored and managed as a buffer zone for the Wildlife Refuge. The Department of the Environment should establish a presence in the marshes (e.g. by constructing a Game Guard Station on the isolated hill near the east end of the marshes), and should prepare a comprehensive management plan for the wetland in collaboration with local communities. While there might be no restrictions on sound agricultural development in the region, the use of fertilizers and pesticides should be carefully controlled, and all or part of the area closed to hunting. Parts of the marsh which prove unsuitable for agriculture, such as the large saline areas in the east, should as far as possible be restored to their former condition and might be given special protection, e.g. as part of an enlarged Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge. The Department of the Environment should negotiate with the Ministry of Power and local authorities to ensure that an adequate supply of water is available to maintain the most important areas of marsh during dry years.

Land use: Livestock grazing in Kamjan Marshes and around the margins of the lakes; rice-growing in Kamjan Marshes. The whole basin is used as grazing grounds by nomadic tribes, while the settled population lives in nucleated villages associated with agricultural areas.

Possible changes in land use: Conversion of wetland to agricultural land, especially in the Kamjan Marshes, and expansion of fish ponds at Lake Tashk. The construction of a paved road between Lake Tashk and Take Bakhtegan, as currently proposed, would be likely to accelerate agricultural development and settlement in the area.

Disturbances and threats: The construction of a large water storage reservoir on the Kur River (Dorudsan Dam) in the 1970s and various other irrigation projects in the upper reaches of the river have reduced the flow of water into the lakes. In 1981, the Ministry of Jihad embarked upon a major programme of drainage in the Kamjan Marshes and Kharameh Marshes (the marshy plain to the south of the Kur River) to provide land for agriculture, principally rice, wheat and cotton. Two large drainage canals were constructed through Kamjan Marshes, emptying into Lake Tashk, and one through Kharameh Marshes, emptying into Lake Bakhtegan. Both marshes are now criss-crossed with canals and ditches, and much of the permanent marsh vegetation has been destroyed. As much of the water entering Lake Tashk passes through Kamjan Marshes, agricultural activities in these marshes could have a profound effect on the quality of the water entering the lake. Most of the spring-fed marshes at Gumoon have also now been drained for agriculture or converted into aquaculture ponds.

There are plans to construct an all-weather road through the centre of the Wildlife Refuge linking villages to the east of Lake Tashk with the asphalt highway to Shiraz from the west end of Lake Bakhtegan. This would involve the construction of a causeway across the low-lying flats between the two lakes, and could have a significant effect upon the overall hydrology of the system. It would also greatly facilitate access to the central hilly portion of the Wildlife Refuge - an area which until now has remained remote and relatively undisturbed. Some poaching occurs at the west end of Lake Bakhtegan, and it is feared that with improved access to the interior of the Wildlife Refuge, this problem could become serious.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: Lake Tashk and Lake Bakhtegan regularly hold huge numbers of waterfowl in winter (e.g. 120,000-140,000 surface feeding ducks and 50,000 Phoenicopterus ruber in January 1992). The large wintering population of flamingos apparently constitutes the bulk of the Lake Uromiyeh breeding population. Flamingos apparently bred in the early 1960s, but do not appear to have done so since then. Other waterfowl occurring in large numbers in winter include Ciconia ciconia, Plegadis falcinellus, Anser anser, Tadorna tadorna, Grus grus and some shorebirds. Pelecanus crispus was an occasional winter visitor in the 1970s (maximum 3), but has become more frequent in recent years, with up to 67 present. Anser erythropus was a regular winter visitor in small numbers in the early 1970s, with a maximum of 90, but there have been no records of this species in recent years. Marmaronetta angustirostris is present year-round; good numbers breed in wet years (e.g. at least 100 pairs in 1970), and up to 5,000 are present in mid-winter. A wide variety of waterfowl occur on migration, and several species including Porzana pusilla, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta and Vanellus leucurus breed. Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus are common summer visitors to the marshes. Podiceps cristatus has bred at Lake Tashk. Pelecanus onocrotalus occasionally appears in large flocks, and is known to have bred in the 1960s. Botaurus stellaris and Rallus aquaticus are regular winter visitors in small numbers, and Cygnus cygnus has been recorded (maximum 4). Gallinago media has been observed on both spring and autumn migration. One or two Ciconia nigra often frequent the marshes during the summer months. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 19. There is at least one resident pair of Falco pelegrinoides breeding in the area, and as many as 15 Haliaeetus albicilla occur in winter around the lakes, along with up to 6 Circus aeruginosus, 2 Aquila heliaca and 6 A. clanga. Chlamydotis undulata is a regular non-breeding visitor to the lake margins in late summer and autumn, with a maximum of 30 in July 1974.

Despite the changes which have occurred at Kamjan Marshes, the area continues to provide ideal feeding habitat for a variety of waterfowl, notably Ciconia ciconia, Plegadis falcinellus and Limosa limosa. These marshes also constitute an important feeding area for large numbers of ducks which spend the day roosting on Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk.

At least 220 species of birds have been recorded in the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge, the hills and plains within the refuge supporting a breeding bird fauna typical of the semi-arid eastern Zagros.

The mammalian fauna of the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge includes Wolf (Canis lupus), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), Caracal (Lynx caracal), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Persian Ibex (Capra hircus aegagrus) and Wild Sheep (Ovis ammon).

Only one species of fish, Aphanias sophiae, has been recorded in the lakes; this occurs throughout both lakes and in the lower sections of the inflows. The zooplankton and invertebrate fauna of the lakes have been described by Loffler (1968). Zooplankton recorded in Lake Tashk include the ciliat Fabrea salina and the foraminifera Streblus beccarii. Flagellata probably constitute most of the nannoplankton. Brachionus plicatilis and Hexartha fennica are the most typical rotifers in both lakes, although there are many other species present. Crustaceans and copepods are abundant, their distribution showing a distinct correlation to salinity, while ostracods and nematodes form the bulk of the benthic fauna. Dominant species include Artemia salina, Apocyclops dengizicus, Diaptomus salinus and Eucypris inflata.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: A limnological study of the lakes was carried out in the late 1950s as part of the International Biological Programme (Loffler, 1959). Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1968 (with aerial surveys in 1973, 1974 and 1975), and numerous ornithological surveys have been undertaken at other times of the year. Cornwallis (1968a, 1968b) studied the avifauna of the lakes in the mid-1960s, and there was some ringing of waterfowl by the Biology Department at the University of Shiraz in the late 1960s. Accommodation is available for visiting researchers at the Game Guard Station in the centre of the Wildlife Refuge.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Carp (1980); Cornwallis (1968a, 1968b); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Firouz et al. (1970); Green (1993); Loffler (1959, 1968); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1973a, 1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1980, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk are outstanding examples of saline lakes with associated fresh to brackish marshes, characteristic of the highlands of western Iran. The two lakes and the adjoining Kamjan Marshes support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The wetlands support substantial breeding and wintering populations of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and two other globally threatened species, Anser erythropus and Aquila heliaca, occur in winter. The lakes regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Plegadis falcinellus, Phoenicopterus ruber, at least nine species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Grus grus, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta, Calidris alpina, Limosa limosa and Larus ridibundus.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Harm Lake (46)

Location: 28°10'N, 53°30'E; in an intermontane basin in the southern Zagros, about 35 km south-southeast of Jahrom, Fars.

Area: Unknown.

Altitude: c.900 m.

Overview: A small lake surrounded by cultivated plains in an intermontane basin in the southern Zagros Mountains, important for wintering waterfowl, especially Grus grus. Unprotected.

Physical features: No information.

Ecological features: No information.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: None. The lake has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: No information.

Disturbances and threats: No information.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for Tadorna ferruginea (maximum 1,800), Oxyura leucocephala (maximum 230 in January 1987) and Grus grus (maximum 3,246).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Several mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since the late 1970s.

Management authority and jurisdiction: No information.

References: Evans (1994).

Reasons for inclusion: 3c (possibly also 2a). Harm Lake regularly supports over 1% of the regional populations of Tadorna ferruginea and Grus grus in winter. Substantial numbers of Oxyura leucocephala (a threatened species) have been reported in recent years, and may be regular.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

 [Bottom

_______

 

Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand (47)

Location: Hamoun-i Sabari 31°20'N, 61°20'E; Hamoun-i Hirmand 30°10'N, 61°10'E; in the Sistan Basin, northwest, west and southwest of Zabol, Sistan/Baluchistan.

Area: c.170,000 ha (Hamoun-i Sabari 101,300 ha; Hamoun-i Hirmand 65,600 ha). Ramsar Site 50,000 ha.

Altitude: Hamoun-i Sabari 475 m; Hamoun-i Hirmand 470 m. The volcanic plug of Kuh Khvajeh rises to 609 m.

Overview: Two large, semi-permanent, fresh to brackish lakes with extensive marshes at the inland delta of the Hirmand (Helmand) River, in an internal drainage basin on the border between Iran and Afghanistan; extremely important for passage and wintering waterfowl, and also, in years of high water levels, for breeding waterfowl. Parts of the two lakes are protected in the Hamoun Protected Area, and have been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Physical features: The wetlands of the Sistan Basin, on the border between Iran and Afghanistan, comprise a complex of freshwater lakes with extensive reed-beds which at times of peak flooding can cover over 200,000 ha. These wetlands are unusual in that although the three main lakes, Hamoun-i Puzak (see site 48), Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand, lie within an internal drainage basin, they are predominantly freshwater. The system lies in an extremely arid region, and receives the great bulk of its water from the Hirmand River, Fara River and several smaller rivers rising in the highlands of central and northern Afghanistan. During long periods of drought, as occurred in the late 1960s and again in the mid-1980s, these rivers supply sufficient water to flood only the uppermost of the lakes, the Hamoun-i Puzak, which lies almost entirely within Afghanistan. However, during years of unusually heavy rainfall, as occurred in the late 1970s and again in 1989, 1990 and 1991, the floodwaters sweep through all three lakes and overflow into a vast salt waste to the southeast, flushing the salts out of the system in the process.

The Hamoun-i Sabari (about half of which lies in Iran) receives water from the Fara Rud, which enters in the northeast (in Afghanistan), and overflow from the Hamoun-i Puzak to the east. The Hamoun-i Hirmand receives water from the southern (Sistan) branch of the Hirmand River and overflow from the Hamoun-i Sabari to the north. During years of good rainfall, the lakes flood to an average depth of about 50 cm. Both lakes formerly supported extensive growths of Phragmites, Typha and various rushes and sedges during periods of flooding, but very little emergent vegetation has re-appeared since the prolonged drought of the early and mid-1980s. The water levels in the main wetlands of the Sistan Basin during the periods 1969/70 to 1977/78 and 1984/85 to 1991/92 are summarized in Table 20. Water levels have fallen again since 1992, and in the winter of 1994/95, most of the wetlands were dry.

The wetlands are bordered to the east and south by low-lying plains. Much of the land around the town of Zabol and its many satellite villages to the east of the Hamouns is under irrigated cultivation. The plains to the south consist of extensive bare salt flats and sparsely vegetated sandy plains with sand dunes areas and some tamarisk scrub. An isolated volcanic plug (Kuh Khvajeh) rises abruptly out of the marshes on the east side of Hamoun-i Hirmand, and has a very flat top about 140 m above the level of the surrounding plains. In the west, the Hamouns are bounded by a line of low earthen cliffs at the edge of a vast undulating desert plain which rises gradually away to the west.

The climate is hot and dry, with mean January temperatures of 15-20°C and mean July temperatures of 35-40°C. The average annual rainfall is about 100 mm, with most rain falling in winter.

Ecological features: Habitats include fresh to brackish lakes with extensive mudflats, reed-beds, sedge marshes and salt marshes, riverine Tamarix thickets, bare salt flats, and vast sparsely vegetated desertic plains. The marshes are predominantly eutrophic, with extensive reed-beds of Phragmites australis and Typha spp, and large areas of sedge marsh (Carex spp.) and tamarisk thicket (Tamarix spp.). In years of prolonged flooding, an abundant submerged aquatic vegetation develops on the floodplain. Halophytic vegetation fringes the wetland, and includes Halocnemum strobilaceum, Limonium carnosum, Salsola spp. and Atriplex verruciferum. Surrounding areas are desertic, with very few settlements and limited irrigated cultivation to the south and east.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The western half of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand and a large area of desert to the west were designated as a Protected Region (the Hamoun Protected Region) in August 1967. The boundaries were revised in August 1969, giving a total area of 201,062 ha. The reserve was reduced in size to 193,500 ha in the early 1970s, and upgraded to Wildlife Refuge. It has since been downgraded to Protected Area. This protected area includes only the main open water areas of the two lakes and their western shorelines, and excludes the important marshes in the east. The Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Sabari and the northern section of the Hamoun-i Hirmand were designated as a Ramsar Site of approximately 50,000 ha on 23 June 1975. Approximately 37,000 ha of the Ramsar Site lie within the Hamoun Protected Area. The wetlands have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: In the mid-1970s, a proposal was made to extend the boundaries of the Hamoun Wildlife Refuge eastwards to incorporate the whole of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand wetlands (including Kuh Khvajeh), as well as the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak. This would have enlarged the Wildlife Refuge to 329,000 ha. Considerable progress was made with this proposal, and indeed the proposed new boundaries have appeared on various Department of the Environment maps. However, these new boundaries have never been formally gazetted, and the Hamoun Protected Area remains in its original form (apart from a minor modification to the boundary in 1969).

The Action Programme for the Conservation of Wetlands in South and West Asia, drawn up in Karachi in 1991, includes a recommendation that "studies should be undertaken of the impact of dams on the Helmand River in Afghanistan on the flood regime in the wetlands of the Sistan Basin in Iran, with a view to resolving the long-standing dispute over the sharing of waters of this transboundary wetland and ensuring an adequate supply of water for the Ramsar Sites in Iran" (Anon, 1992).

A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission to the wetlands in January 1992 made the following recommendations (Scott & Smart 1992):

(i) The Hamoun Protected Area should be extended to incorporate important wetland habitat along the eastern edge of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand, and in the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak, as proposed in the mid-1970s. The new boundaries should follow those indicated on the official map of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand Ramsar Site deposited at UNESCO.

(ii) The boundaries of the Protected Area and Ramsar Site should be clearly demarcated on the ground, e.g. with concrete pillars set at a maximum of one kilometre apart and with conspicuous sign-posts at all major entry points.

(iii) An integrated management plan should be developed for all wetland and water resources in the Sistan Basin. The development and implementation of such a plan would require the involvement of all government agencies concerned with water resources in the basin (e.g. Department of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Jihad, Ministry of Power, Department of Fisheries), and would ultimately involve close cooperation with the relevant authorities in Afghanistan. The management plan would endeavour to rationalize the use of water resources in the basin of the Hirmand River by taking into account the needs of the various users (domestic and industrial water supply, agriculture, fisheries and wildlife). A "set-aside" policy would be developed to ensure that adequate supplies of water are provided to maintain the ecological character of the important natural wetland ecosystems. Mechanisms would be developed to ensure that in the design of any future dams and other water control structures on the Hirmand and Fara Rivers, due attention would be given to all possible downstream effects. In particular, full consideration would be given to the potential impact of any such projects on the ecological character of the two Ramsar Sites. This would involve close consultation and cooperation between all interested parties in Afghanistan and Iran.

(iv) A basic requisite for the development of an integrated management plan for the region would be a comprehensive ecological and socio-economic study of the wetlands and water resources of the basin. This study would include inter alia the following:

- a comprehensive hydrological study of the Sistan Basin, including a review of the changes in water level that have occurred during the past twenty years using satellite imagery and meteorological records;

- a comprehensive limnological study of the wetlands of the Sistan Basin, including studies on the physico-chemical characteristics of the water bodies, water quality, sedimentation rates etc.

- studies on the ecological and economic impact of fish introductions, with special attention to the impact of introduced herbivorous fishes on the aquatic vegetation and its consequences for animal husbandry and wildlife;

- a study of the effects of increased disturbance from fishing activities on wildlife populations;

- a detailed study of waterfowl populations in both summer and winter, including aerial censuses of wintering waterfowl (to provide information comparable with that obtained in the 1970s);

- studies on the problem of over-grazing of aquatic vegetation by domestic livestock and excessive harvesting of vegetation for fodder;

- a study of the exploitation of aquatic vegetation for fuel, and an investigation of alternative sources of fuel (e.g. fuelwood plantations);

- an investigation of the environmental impacts of the new highway between the Hamoun-i Sabari and the Hamoun-i Hirmand, the canal between the south end of the Hamoun-i Puzak and the Hamoun-i Sabari, and Chahnimeh Dam and other water control structures in Iran which may have had a pronounced effect on the hydrology and ecology of the Hamoun wetlands;

- a review of irrigation and agricultural practices in the basin, with special reference to the problem of increasing soil salinity.

Land use: Livestock grazing, reed-cutting and fishing. In recent years, the lakes have been stocked with Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella.

Possible changes in land use: A major project, the "Seistan Drainage and Irrigation Completion and Rehabilitation Project", is currently being developed for possible financing from World Bank. In November 1993, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supported a study of the possible negative environmental impacts of this project, with a view to designing mitigation plans.

Disturbances and threats: Irrigation schemes on the Hirmand River in both Afghanistan and Iran have reduced the flow of water into the Hamouns. As a consequence, the wetlands are completely filled only in very wet years and are more prone to drying out in summer. Many of the problems of drought in the Sistan Basin have been attributed to dam construction and water diversion schemes on the Hirmand River in Afghanistan. The Kajaki Dam, built some 40 years ago, was increased in capacity about 20 years ago and undoubtedly caused a considerable reduction in the amount of water reaching the Hamouns, especially during dry years. In an international agreement between the Government of Afghanistan and former Government of Iran, the Government of Afghanistan guaranteed to provide an average flow of 26 cubic metres of water per second in the Hirmand River entering Iran. It is reported, however, that the Afghani authorities chose to provide the allocated volume as a "lump sum" during the winter months, rather than as a continuous flow during the dry summer months when the water was most needed. In any event, it now seems that this agreement is no longer being honoured. However, according to recent reports from FAO in Islamabad, the exceptional floods of early 1991 destroyed the Kajaki Dam and damaged other irrigation systems on the Hirmand River in Afghanistan. Thus, for the time being at least, there would appear to be no problems of water supply in the Hirmand River. However, there is apparently in existence a proposal to build a new dam on the Hirmand River in Afghanistan (the Kamal Khan Dam).

Despite high water levels and prolonged flooding in the Hamoun-i Sabari and much of the Hamoun-i Hirmand in each year since 1989, there was still an almost complete absence of emergent aquatic vegetation by early 1992. This situation contrasts markedly with the situation in the early 1970s, when the aquatic vegetation recovered almost immediately after the severe drought of 1970/71 (when all of the wetlands on the Iranian side of the border were completely dry). Within two months of flooding (in March and April 1972), there had been a spectacular emergence of aquatic vegetation, and by the following year, large portions of the Sabari and Hirmand were covered in reed-beds. The reasons for the present lack of vegetation are unclear. It has been argued that the great duration of the drought in the early 1980s (with some parts of the Hamoun-i Hirmand remaining dry for six years) is the principal cause, the vegetation being unable to withstand such long periods of desiccation. The digging up of tubers by the local people for use as fuel may also have contributed to the problem. However, another possible cause may have been the massive stocking of the lakes in recent years with herbivorous fishes. Chinese Carp were introduced into the lakes about 20 years ago, but presumably died out during the prolonged drought in the 1980s. However, the even more voracious Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella was introduced about five years ago, and now supports a major fishery. Introductions continue, with some two million fishes being released into the Hamoun-i Hirmand near Kuh Khvajeh in early January 1992. It seems likely that these fishes are retarding if not preventing any natural regeneration of the emergent aquatic vegetation.

The lack of emergent vegetation is a cause of considerable concern to local pastoralists, who depend on the marsh vegetation as a source of grazing for their herds of cattle and water buffalo. Very few livestock are now present around the Hamoun-i Hirmand and Hamoun-i Sabari, the great majority having been moved to the Hamoun-i Puzak marshes on the Afghan border, where the population of livestock is reported to have increased from about 10,000 to 26,000.

Increasing soil salinity is becoming a very serious problem in the agricultural land bordering the wetlands, and is a cause of considerable concern to the agricultural sector. Much of the former agricultural land around Zabol has had to be abandoned because of salinity problems, and in many other areas, the intensively irrigated fields are now producing extremely low yields. Already there have been some problems of wind-blown salt during the summer months, and it now seems quite possible that the area could suffer the same fate as the region around the Aral Sea. At the same time, there has been a great increase in the human population of the basin during the past decade, not only as a result of the high natural population increase (about 4% per annum), but also because of the large influx of refugees from Afghanistan. At the last census in 1989, the population of the Iranian portion of the Sistan Basin was 370,000.

An asphalt highway is currently being constructed across the low-lying flats between the north end of the Hamoun-i Hirmand and the south end of the Hamoun-i Sabari. The road, which was started about five years ago and is now nearing completion, passes through the middle of the Ramsar Site and the Hamoun Protected Area. Although the road passes over several bridges, free flow of water between the two Hamouns has been impeded to some extent, with as yet unknown effects on the hydrology and ecological character of the two Hamouns. A canal, which has recently been constructed between the south end of the Hamoun-i Puzak and the Hamoun-i Sabari to accelerate the flow of water into the Sabari, will also have a major effect on the hydrology of the system.

Other recent developments in the Iranian portion of the Sistan Basin include the construction of a number of major irrigation canals taking water directly from the Hirmand River and its distributaries, and the construction of a large reservoir (Chahnimeh) in the desert east of Zabol, supplied by a feeder canal from the Parian branch of the Hirmand River. These structures clearly reduce the amount of water entering the wetlands, and must have some impact on the ecology of the system as a whole.

A major die-off of fish, pelicans, flamingos and shorebirds occurred in November 1994. Samples were taken from the corpses and analyzed in Tehran, but the cause of death could not be determined.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: There is a ruined settlement of considerable archaeological interest on Kuh Khvajeh. The reed-beds play a significant role in the economy of the local inhabitants who live in villages along the shoreline. The reeds are used for a number of purposes: as forage for domestic animals, for constructing boats ("tutans" - often likened to the reed boats of Lake Titicaca in the Andes), for fabricating wind-breaks for houses and gardens, and as a source of fuel for cooking and heating. Although primarily dependent on livestock breeding, the local people are increasingly taking advantage of the rich fishery to supplement their incomes.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetlands are extremely important as a staging and wintering area for a wide variety of waterbirds, notably pelicans, herons, dabbling ducks and shorebirds, and in years of high water level, are also an important breeding area for many species (see Table 21). Comprehensive ground and aerial censuses between 1969/70 and 1975/76 indicated that the numbers of Anatidae wintering in the Iranian portion of the Sistan wetlands varied from almost nil in exceptionally dry years (e.g. 1970/71) to over 700,000 in wet years (e.g. 1972/73). It was found that aerial surveys were essential to obtain adequate coverage of the wetlands and reliable counts of the waterfowl. As no aerial censuses have been possible since 1976, it is difficult to compare the counts of the mid-1970s with those of recent years. However, regular ground counts by personnel of the Department of the Environment between 1979/80 and 1990/91 have revealed a dramatic decline in numbers of wintering waterfowl, from about 250,000-300,000 in 1980-83 to less than 20,000 in 1988-1991. This has been attributed to the prolonged drought of the early and mid-1980s and large-scale degradation of the aquatic vegetation.

Peak counts of wintering birds have included 1,300 Pelecanus onocrotalus, 88 P. crispus, 2,150 Egretta alba, 208 Ardea cinerea, 2,600 Anser anser, 666 Tadorna ferruginea, 1,600 T. tadorna, over 220,000 Anas crecca, 300,000 A. acuta, 4,110 Aythya ferina, 84 Grus grus and 2,860 Larus ridibundus. Breeding birds in years with high water levels and extensive reed-beds have included up to 20-30 pairs of Botaurus stellaris, many Ixobrychus minutus, 120 pairs of Platalea leucorodia, 5-10 pairs of Aythya nyroca, 15 pairs of Circus aeruginosus, 100 pairs of Himantopus himantopus, 150-200 pairs of Larus genei, several pairs of Sterna caspia, 300-400 pairs of Chlidonias hybridus, and large numbers of Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. Marmaronetta angustirostris is probably a scarce resident; one was seen in June 1973 and thought to be breeding, and small numbers (maximum 7) have been observed in winter. Scarce winter visitors have included Cygnus cygnus (maximum 4), Nettapus coromandelianus (a female shot in January or February 1973 - the first record for Iran) and Lymnocryptes minimus.

Raptors are common in winter, and have included up to 70 Milvus migrans, 13 Haliaeetus albicilla, 22 Circus aeruginosus, 10 Aegypius monachus, 5 Aquila heliaca, 5 A. clanga, 4 A. nipalensis, and single Falco cherrug, F. peregrinus and F. pelegrinoides. Chlamydotis undulata is a regular winter visitor in small numbers to the plains around the lakes (maximum 6). Francolinus francolinus, Passer hispaniolensis and P. moabiticus are resident in the tamarisk scrub around the lakes, and Hypocolius ampelinus is a fairly common summer visitor to nearby cultivated areas. A pair of Bubo bubo is resident on Kuh Khvajeh. The lush "oasis" vegetation around the wetlands provides a staging area for large numbers of migratory land-birds, while the surrounding deserts support a typical desert avifauna. At least 170 species have been recorded in the area.

Mammals known to occur in the area include Wolf (Canis lupus), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), Caracal (Lynx caracal), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) and Jebeer Gazelle (Gazella dorcas fuscifrons).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1970 (with aerial surveys from 1972 to 1976), and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. A major ecological study of the wetlands of the Sistan Basin was undertaken by a group of experts from Tehran University during the mid-1980s. More recently, the Department of the Environment has embarked upon a study of the wetlands, as a part of its nationwide inventory of wetlands. A Government Committee has been established, including representatives of the Department of the Environment, Department of Agriculture and Department of Water, to coordinate studies and centralize the collection of information. Accommodation is available for visiting researchers at the Department of the Environment's office in Zabol.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Department of the Environment is responsible for the management of the western half of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand, as well as a large area of desert to the west. This Department is also responsible for the administration of the Ramsar Site.

References: Anon (1992); Anstey (1989); Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Firouz et al. (1970); IUCN (1992); Mansoori (1984); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1975a, 1976a, 1976b, 1976c, 1978a, 1978b, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 1c, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. The Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand are outstanding examples of semi-permanent and seasonal wetlands characteristic of the desert regions of Southwest Asia. Spanning the international border between Iran and Afghanistan, the wetlands play a substantial hydrological and ecological role in the natural functioning of a major river basin shared between two countries. They support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The wetlands are important for three or four globally threatened species of birds, supporting wintering populations of Pelecanus crispus and Aquila heliaca, a breeding population of Aythya nyroca, and probably also a small resident population of Marmaronetta angustirostris. The lakes regularly hold well in excess of 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Egretta alba, at least nine species of Anatidae, Fulica atra and Himantopus himantopus. When conditions are suitable for breeding, the wetlands can support over 1% of the regional population of Platalea leucorodia.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

South end of Hamoun-i Puzak (48)

Location: 31°20'N, 61°45'E; in the Sistan Basin, 40 km north-northeast of Zabol, on the Afghanistan border, Sistan/Baluchistan. (The main portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak lies to the north in Afghanistan).

Area: 14,900 ha. Ramsar Site 10,000 ha.

Altitude: 490 m.

Overview: The extensive permanent and seasonal freshwater lagoons and marshes comprising the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak, a large freshwater lake about two-thirds of which lies in Afghanistan; important for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl. The wetlands have been designated as a Ramsar Site, but are otherwise unprotected.

Physical features: The Hamoun-i Puzak is a large, perennial, freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds. Most of the lake, which covers about 35,000 ha, lies in Nimroz Province of southwestern Afghanistan, and is described elsewhere in this Directory, but about 14,900 ha in the southwest lie within Iranian territory. The entire lake is very shallow, with the maximum depth probably not exceeding four metres. The Iranian portion consists of a complex of open-water areas with rich submergent vegetation and extensive reed-beds, and includes the extensive marshes around Takht-e Edalat (formerly Takht-e Shah) and Mahmoodi. The Hamoun-i Puzak receives most of its water from the Khash Rud and the Parian branch of the Hirmand River, which enters the lake in two distributaries, one in the north and one in the east. The Puzak is the first of the three hamouns in the Sistan Basin to fill during periods of flooding, and probably never dries out completely, even during the severest droughts. In the early 1990s, following a series of wet years, the wetlands were in excellent condition, with clear water, rich submergent growth of aquatic vegetation, and extensive reed-beds. Water levels in the Hamoun-i Puzak and other wetlands of the Sistan Basin during the periods 1969/70 to 1977/78 and 1984/85 to 1991/92 are summarized in Table 20. Water levels have fallen again since 1992, and in the winter of 1994/95, most of the wetlands were dry.

The climate is hot and dry, with mean January temperatures of 15-20°C and mean July temperatures of 35-40°C. The average annual rainfall is about 100 mm, with most rain falling in winter.

Ecological features: Vast reed-beds of Phragmites australis cover much of the Hamoun-i Puzak, and there are only relatively small areas of open water. On the Iranian side of the border, Typha sp. now dominates, having replaced Phragmites since the 1970s, apparently as a result of heavy grazing by domestic livestock. Open-water areas support a very rich growth of submerged vegetation, principally Ceratophyllum demersum, while the margins of the wetland are fringed with Tamarix thickets. There are several small villages along the edge of the marsh, and the adjacent land is degraded steppe and irrigated cultivation.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The Hamoun-i Puzak marshes are not legally protected, although personnel of the Department of the Environment endeavour to maintain some control in the region, and have a small office at Gorgori near the wetland. The greater part of the wetland (10,000 ha) was designated as a Ramsar Site on 23 June 1975. The wetland has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: In the mid-1970s, the Division of Research and Development in the Department of the Environment recommended that the Hamoun Protected Area (see site 47) be extended eastwards to incorporate the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak, but this recommendation was never implemented. A Ramsar Monitoring Procedure Mission visited the site in January 1992 and confirmed the desirability of extending the Hamoun Protected Area eastwards to incorporate the Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak, as proposed in the 1970s (Scott & Smart, 1992). It was recommended that the new boundaries of the reserve should follow those indicated on the official map of the Hamoun-i Sabari and Hamoun-i Hirmand Ramsar Site deposited at UNESCO. The Mission also recommended that the boundaries of the Ramsar Site should be clearly demarcated on the ground, and that an integrated management plan should be developed for all wetland and water resources in the Sistan Basin (see also Site 47).

Land use: Livestock grazing, reed-cutting and fishing.

Possible changes in land use: A major project, the "Seistan Drainage and Irrigation Completion and Rehabilitation Project", is currently being developed for possible financing from World Bank. In November 1993, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supported a study of the possible negative environmental impacts of this project, with a view to designing mitigation plans.

Disturbances and threats: Irrigation schemes on the Hirmand River, both in Afghanistan and Iran, have cause some reduction in the flow of water into the Hamoun-i Puzak. Recent developments likely to affect the Hamoun-i Puzak wetlands include the construction of a number of major irrigation canals taking water directly from the Hirmand River and its distributaries, and the construction of a large reservoir (Chahnimeh) in the desert east of Zabol, supplied by a feeder canal from the Parian branch of the Hirmand River.

During the last decade, there has been a major change in the dominant vegetation of the reed-beds, with Typha having almost completely replaced Phragmites australis. The reasons for this change are unknown, although it is supposed that the severe drought of the 1980s and extremely heavy grazing of Phragmites by domestic livestock are responsible. Large numbers of livestock have been brought from the Hamoun-i Hirmand and Hamoun-i Sabari marshes to the Hamoun-i Puzak marshes, where the population of livestock is reported to have increased from about 10,000 to 26,000. The danger that this intensive grazing and the large-scale cutting of reeds for fodder could result in permanent damage to the marsh vegetation in this area is now a cause of some concern (Scott & Smart, 1992).

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: The reed-beds of the Hamoun-i Puzak play a significant role in the economy of the local inhabitants who live in villages along the shoreline. These Baluchi people use reeds for a number of purposes: as forage for domestic animals, for constructing boats ("tutans" - often likened to the reed boats of Lake Titicaca in the Andes), for fabricating wind-breaks for houses and gardens, and as a source of fuel for cooking and heating.

Noteworthy fauna: An important wintering area for ducks and coots and a staging area for a wide variety of species, including many shorebirds. In wet years, the wetlands may also be important for breeding waterfowl (see Table 22). Peak counts in winter have included up to 115 Pelecanus onocrotalus, 82 P. crispus, 1,200 Egretta alba, 200 Ardea cinerea, 2,450 Anser anser, 440 Tadorna tadorna, 58,000 Anas crecca, 12,000 A. platyrhynchos, 18,000 A. clypeata, 30 Aythya nyroca, 42 Oxyura leucocephala, 37,000 Fulica atra, 450 Grus grus, 130 Recurvirostra avosetta and 5,500 Limosa limosa. Cygnus cygnus has occurred as a rare straggler (maximum 2). Breeding species include Podiceps cristatus, Botaurus stellaris (three booming in June 1973), Ardea purpurea, Porphyrio porphyrio, Vanellus leucurus, Sterna albifrons, Chlidonias hybridus and Acrocephalus stentoreus. Marmaronetta angustirostris is probably a scarce resident in the marshes, although there has been only one recent record (a single bird in January 1977). Wintering birds of prey have included up to seven Haliaeetus albicilla, 45 Circus aeruginosus (which also breeds), five Aegypius monachus and five Aquila heliaca. Passer moabiticus is a scarce resident, breeding in the tamarisk scrub.

Mammals include Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa).

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Annual mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, since 1970 (with aerial surveys from 1972 to 1976), and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions. Petocz et al. (1976) have described the wetlands on the Afghani side of the border. A major ecological study of the wetlands of the Sistan Basin was undertaken by a group of experts from Tehran University during the mid-1980s. More recently, the Department of the Environment has embarked upon a study of the wetlands, as a part of its nationwide inventory of wetlands. A Government Committee has been established, including representatives of the Department of the Environment, Department of Agriculture and Department of Water, to coordinate studies and centralize the collection of information. Accommodation is available for visiting researchers at the Department of the Environment's office in Zabol.

Management authority and jurisdiction: The Ramsar Site is administered by the Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Ashtiani-Zarandi (1990); Carp (1980); Division of Research and Development (1972); Evans (1994); Firouz & Ferguson (1970b); Mansoori (1984); Petocz et al. (1976); Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993); Savage & Firouz (1968); Scott (1975a, 1976a, 1976c, 1978b, 1980, 1993); Scott & Smart (1992); Summers et al. (1987); Vahedi (1982); WCMC (1990).

Reasons for inclusion: 1c, 1d, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. The Iranian portion of the Hamoun-i Puzak is an excellent example of a large, permanent, freshwater lake with extensive reed-beds in an extremely arid desert region. Spanning the international border between Iran and Afghanistan, the wetland plays a substantial hydrological and ecological role in the natural functioning of a major river basin shared between two countries. It supports an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus plays an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The wetland supports wintering populations of four globally threatened species of birds, Pelecanus crispus, Aythya nyroca, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca, and probably also a small resident population of Marmaronetta angustirostris. The lake regularly holds over 20,000 waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, including over 1% of the regional populations of Egretta alba, at least six species of Anatidae, Fulica atra, Grus grus, Himantopus himantopus and Limosa limosa.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Kharku Island (49)

Location: 29°19'N, 50°21'E; in the northern Persian Gulf, 4 km north of the island of Kharg and 60 km northwest of Bushire.

Area: 312 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to 3 m.

Overview: A small sandy island with fringing coral reefs in the northern Persian Gulf, important for breeding terns (Sterna spp.). Protected in the Kharko Protected Area.

Physical features: Kharku (Kharko) Island is a low-lying, sandy island with a coral-rock substrate and fringing coral reefs, situated in the northern Persian Gulf about 30 km off the mainland coast and 60 km northwest of Bushire. Surface water is lacking, but there is a freshwater well near the south end of the island.

Ecological features: Most of the island is covered in sand-dune vegetation of grasses and low shrubs. It is fringed by a sandy beach with low strand vegetation. There are a few banyan trees near the south end of the island.

Land tenure: No information.

Conservation measures taken: Kharku Island and the nearby much larger island of Kharg (Khark) were designated as a Protected Region with a total area of 2,438 ha in May 1960. The reserve was upgraded to Wildlife Refuge in the early 1970s, but the Kharg portion was de-notified a few years later leaving only the island of Kharku protected in the Kharko Wildlife Refuge (312 ha). The island has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: None known.

Land use: The island was uninhabited until the late 1970s, when an airforce camp was built at the north end. The nearby island of Kharg is a major oil terminal.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: The island was visited by egg-collectors every year during the 1970s, and the breeding success of the terns was extremely low. An airforce camp was constructed at the north end of the island in the late 1970s. This involved the construction of a substantial landing stage and a number of permanent brick buildings. There is an ever-present threat of oil pollution from the major oil terminal on the nearby island of Kharg.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: An important site for breeding terns. Surveys in 1974 and 1977 indicated that about five pairs of Sterna bergii, 600 pairs of S. bengalensis, 2,500 pairs of S. repressa and 250-300 pairs of S. anaethetus were frequenting the island, but breeding success was minimal in both years because of egg-collecting by local fishermen.

Noteworthy flora: No information.

Scientific research and facilities: Sea-bird censuses have been carried out during the breeding season by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, and some sea-birds were ringed in 1977. Accommodation facilities are available on the neighbouring island of Kharg.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Argyle (1977a); Evans (1994); Firouz et al. (1970); Gallagher et al. (1984); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1975b, 1976a, 1976b).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2c & 3c. Kharku Island is a good representative example of a low-lying island with fringing coral reefs, characteristic of the Persian Gulf. The island supports an important breeding colony of terns (Sterna spp.), including over 1% of the regional population of Sterna bengalensis.

Source: Derek A. Scott.

_______

 

Delta of Helleh River (50)

Location: 29°10'N, 50°50'E; on the Persian Gulf coast, 35 km north-northwest of Bushire.

Area: 35,600 ha.

Altitude: Sea level to about 7 m.

Overview: A complex of fresh to brackish lagoons, marshes and inter-tidal mudflats in the delta of the Helleh Rud on the northern Persian Gulf coast, important for breeding and wintering waterfowl including Marmaronetta angustirostris. The wetlands are protected in the Helleh Protected Area.

Physical features: The delta of the Helleh (Hilleh or Halileh) Rud comprises a complex of permanent, fresh to brackish lagoons with extensive reed-beds and sedge marshes, and a large area of inter-tidal mudflats at the mouth of the river. A maximum water depth of 3.5 m has been recorded in the lagoons. The adjacent semi-desertic plains are subject to seasonal flooding. The wetland is of recent origin, having developed in the early 1970s with the blocking-off of the main river channel and diversion of river water onto the adjacent saline coastal plain.

Ecological features: Extensive reed-beds and sedge marshes, seasonally flooded plains with halophytic vegetation, and inter-tidal mudflats. The adjacent desertic plains are very sparsely vegetated.

Land tenure: Public (Government).

Conservation measures taken: The wetlands and a large area of surrounding desert (totalling 42,600 ha) were designated as the Helleh Wildlife Refuge in 1977. This was downgraded to Protected Area in the 1980s. (This Protected Area is not listed in IUCN, 1992). The entire reserve has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994).

Conservation measures proposed: It has been proposed that the Helleh Delta Marshes be designated as a Ramsar Site.

Land use: Some grazing of aquatic vegetation by domestic livestock. In recent years, water has been taken from the wetland to irrigate farmland on the adjacent plains.

Possible changes in land use: None known.

Disturbances and threats: In recent years, large quantities of water have been extracted from the marshes for irrigation purposes, and as a consequence the wetland may dry out completely during the summer months. This has resulted in a decline in the numbers of breeding birds.

Hydrological and biophysical values: No information.

Social and cultural values: No information.

Noteworthy fauna: The wetland supports large numbers of breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species, and is especially important for wintering Phalacrocorax carbo (maximum 3,060), herons and egrets, Platalea leucorodia (maximum 278), Phoenicopterus ruber (maximum 280), Anser anser (maximum 7,860), surface-feeding ducks, Grus grus (maximum 120) and shorebirds. Pelecanus crispus is a regular winter visitor in small numbers (maximum 10), and small flocks of Anser erythropus occurred on two occasions in the 1970s (maximum 37). Other scarce winter visitors have included Pelecanus onocrotalus (maximum 6), Ciconia nigra (maximum 5), Plegadis falcinellus (maximum 9) and Anser albifrons (maximum 10). Oxyura leucocephala was not recorded in the 1970s, but 173 were present in January 1988. The wetland is particularly important for Marmaronetta angustirostris; up to 1,000 have been recorded in winter, and about 15-20 pairs breed in the marshes. Other breeding species include Ixobrychus minutus, Nycticorax nycticorax, Ardea purpurea (10 pairs), Francolinus francolinus, Recurvirostra avosetta, Glareola pratincola (25 pairs), Charadrius alexandrinus (40-50 pairs), Vanellus indicus, V. leucurus, Gelochelidon nilotica (10-20 pairs), Sterna caspia (5-10 pairs), S. albifrons (40 pairs), Halcyon smyrnensis, Acrocephalus melanopogon and A. stentoreus. Ardeola ralloides and Rallus aquaticus have been recorded in summer and may breed. Peak counts of some waterfowl are given in Table 23.

Wintering birds of prey have included Haliaeetus albicilla, Circus aeruginosus (up to 15), Aquila heliaca and A. clanga (up to three). Pterocles alchata is a fairly common breeding bird on the adjacent plains. At least 111 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve.

Noteworthy flora: The wetland supports the most extensive freshwater marshes on the entire Persian Gulf coast of southern Iran.

Scientific research and facilities: Mid-winter waterfowl censuses have been carried out by the Ornithology Unit, Department of the Environment, in most years since 1974, and breeding-season surveys have been undertaken on several occasions.

Management authority and jurisdiction: Department of the Environment.

References: Anstey (1989); Evans (1994); Green (1993); Harrington (1976b); Scott (1975b, 1976a, 1976c, 1978a, 1980); Scott & Smart (1992).

Reasons for inclusion: 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3c. The delta marshes and mudflats of the Helleh River are a good example of a deltaic system characteristic of the northern shore of the Persian Gulf. The wetlands support an extremely diverse wetland fauna and flora, and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region. The marshes support a substantial breeding and wintering population of Marmaronetta angustirostris, and wintering populations of three other threatened species of birds: Anser erythropus, Oxyura leucocephala and Aquila heliaca. In winter, the wetlands regularly hold over 20,000 waterfowl, including over 1% of the regional populations of Phalacrocorax carbo, Platalea leucorodia, Anser anser, Tadorna tadorna, Anas pe