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Location Ethiopia, Afar
Central coordinates 41o 45.00' East  11o 16.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4iii
Area 44,000 ha
Altitude 240 m
Year of IBA assessment 1996

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description The Awash river ends in a chain of saline lakes of which the largest are Gamari, Afambo, Bario and Abe. These all lie to the east of Asaita, the regional capital. Lake Afambo is about 30 km east of Asaita, and Lake Abe is on the eastern border with Djibouti, 600 km north-east of Addis Ababa. On the ground it is difficult to distinguish Lake Abe from Lake Afambo. Lake Abe comprises 34,000 ha of open water and 11,000 ha of the surrounding saltflats that can extend for 10 km from the edge of the water. Records give a maximum depth of 37 m (mean 8.6 m). However, the water-level is gradually dropping due to droughts and abstraction of water upstream. The Awash enters Lakes Abe and Afambo on their north-western shores and is the only source of fresh water for these lakes. Very little is known of the vegetation except that the surrounding shrubs and bushes are all highly salt-tolerant.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. Only a small percentage of the site has been properly surveyed, but good numbers of many congregatory wetland species are known to use the area, including Dendrocygna viduata, Pelecanus onocrotalus, Ardeola ralloides, Bubulcus ibis, Egretta garzetta and Leptoptilos crumeniferus. The site is also an important staging point on the migration route to and from the Arabian peninsula, and thus is used by many Palearctic species both in spring and autumn. Such species include Acrocephalus griseldis, although its current status at the site is unknown. This area is known to support populations of a number of the Somali–Masai biome species

Non-bird biodiversity: Gazella spekei (VU), Gazella dorcas (VU) and Dorcatragus megalotis (VU) all occur in the Lakes Abe and Afambo area.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Basra Reed-warbler Acrocephalus griseldis passage  present  A1  Endangered 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland)   48%
Shrubland   1%
Rocky areas   40%
Grassland   3%
Desert   5%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
not utilised -

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lake Abe wetland system. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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