|Central coordinates||61o 48.00' East 31o 36.00' North|
|IBA criteria||A1, A3, A4i, A4iii|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information This is the most important wetland in Afghanistan and of major international importance, estimated to hold up to one million wildfowl in winter. A total of 357,000 birds was counted in January 1976 during an aerial survey organized jointly with the Iranian government: see box for key species. Other wintering species in the 1970s included Tadorna tadorna (211), Circus aeruginosus (51) and Porphyrio porphyrio. Little is known of breeding or passage species as most visits have been in mid-winter; former breeding species included Phoenicopterus ruber, Anser anser, Cygnus olor, Netta rufina (possibly), and currently may still include Picus squamatus flavirostris (although possibly now extinct in Seistan through destruction of trees), Caprimulgus mahrattensis (reported as common by Cumming 1905 but not found subsequently, even by Paludan in 1949) and C. aegyptiacus (probable).
Site description A very large, permanent, shallow, fresh to brackish lake, lying in the Seistan desert in extreme south-west Afghanistan at 500 m, and surrounded by vast Phragmites reedbeds. It derives its waters from the Khashrud river, which is dry in summer but in spring carries meltwater from the central highlands of Afghanistan; formerly the Helmand river was also important but since construction of Kajaki Dam this river has carried little water into the Puzak. The wetland has always been subject to wide fluctuations in size according to variations in rainfall and snowfall in the mountains. About a third of the swampland is in Iran but by far the most permanent wetland is in Afghanistan, where at least formerly the habitat probably never dried out completely, even in the driest years. The wetland is fringed by Tamarix scrub, and surrounding desert is dominated by Artemisia steppe. In the 1970s the human population was relatively small (a total of c.1,000 in several villages).
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus||winter||1965||unknown [units unknown]||-||A1||Vulnerable|
|Greylag Goose Anser anser||winter||1976||3,150 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Gadwall Anas strepera||winter||1976||12,050 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope||winter||1976||11,050 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Mallard Anas platyrhynchos||winter||1976||21,326 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata||winter||1976||10,100 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Northern Pintail Anas acuta||winter||1976||15,600 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Common Teal Anas crecca||winter||1976||27,220 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris||breeding||1971||200 breeding pairs||poor||A1, A4i||Vulnerable|
|Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris||winter||1971||63 individuals||poor||A1, A4i||Vulnerable|
|Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina||winter||1976||2,500 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Common Pochard Aythya ferina||winter||1976||50,000 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca||winter||1976||100 individuals||poor||A4i||Near Threatened|
|White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala||breeding||1971||300 breeding pairs||poor||A1, A4i||Endangered|
|White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala||winter||1976||10 individuals||poor||A1, A4i||Endangered|
|Grey Heron Ardea cinerea||winter||1971||425 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Great Egret Casmerodius albus||winter||1971||1,826 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus||winter||1975||1,260 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus||winter||1976||350 individuals||poor||A1, A4i||Vulnerable|
|White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla||winter||1975||11 individuals||poor||A1||Least Concern|
|Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca||winter||1975||7 individuals||poor||A1||Vulnerable|
|Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata||resident||1975||unknown [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Vulnerable|
|Common Coot Fulica atra||winter||1971||175,000 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta||winter||1975||232 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa||winter||1971||895 individuals||poor||A4i||Near Threatened|
|Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius||breeding||1949||unknown [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Sykes's Nightjar Caprimulgus mahrattensis||resident||1904-1905||common [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus||breeding||1975||unknown [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus||resident||1975||uncommon [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|A4iii Species group - waterbirds||winter||1976||357,000-3,570,000 individuals||good||A4iii|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Hamun-i-Puzak||Waterfowl Sanctuary||35,000||is identical to site||35,000|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Artificial landscapes (terrestrial)||Arable land||minor|
|Desert||Desert & semi-desert - clay; Desert & semi-desert - salty||major|
|Wetlands (inland)||Rivers & streams; Standing brackish & salt water; Standing fresh water; Temporary water bodies; Water-fringe vegetation||major|
|Shrubland||Low bushes; Scrub||minor|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|Notes: cattle (fed with cut reeds)|
Other biodiversity Mammals: Canis lupus (V) is said to be common. The entire Seistan area is a unique ecosystem, but is very poorly known.
Management considerations No formal conservation measures are known to have been taken, and no part of the area is legally protected for nature conservation despite its ecological uniqueness and global importance. Extensive dam-building, water diversion and irrigation schemes in Afghanistan and Iran extract water from the feeder rivers, especially the Helmand, in an unregulated way (contrary to the nature of existing bilateral agreements dating from the previous century) and have reduced the flow of water into the lake. In severe periods of drought, its area can contract alarmingly, although in the drought years of the mid- to late 1980s, when the Iranian wetlands dried out completely, satellite imagery showed that the Afghani sector still remained flooded with vast reedbeds. In addition, 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 Helmand in Afghanistan, so for the present there seems to be no problems of water supply in the Helmand river-though there is apparently a proposal to build a new dam in Afghanistan (the Kamal Khan Dam). Phragmites beds are used extensively for fuel, fodder and house and boat construction and are also widely burnt (to encourage regeneration), affecting breeding bird populations. A critical threat in the future may be a proposal (first made in 1976) to construct a paper factory in adjacent Helmand Province which would use reeds from Seistan; the impact of such a scheme on the functioning of the ecosystem is unknown but potentially very severe. In the 1970s wildfowl hunting was uncontrolled but only practised by local people, and was therefore sustainable. Without the creation of protected areas, expansion and commercialization of hunting might pose a major threat however. The site was proposed as a National Park before 1979.
Acknowledgements A total of 16 IBAs have been identified in Afghanistan. Responsibility for maintenance and update of the IBA information in WBDB is held by BirdLife Secretariat. The baseline survey of IBAs took place during 1991-1993 and was published in Evans (1994). The site accounts and introduction were compiled from information supplied by S. C. Madge, who acknowledges the impressive series of detailed reports compiled principally by Dr R. G. Petocz and Dr J. A. Sayer, team leaders of the National Parks and Wildlife Management Project, which was initiated at the request of the Government of Afghanistan and administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization under the United Nations Development Programme, and which ran from 1972 to 1980, although most ornithological data were collected in the latter years. Waterfowl counts are based mostly on data collected for the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, chiefly by F. J. Koning, during brief winter and early spring visits in 1970–1972. A. Jamil carried out a survey of Ab-i-Istada for this project, with invaluable assistance from A. Fitzherbert and J. Harris (International Crane Foundation). E. Smith supplied valuable information for the site accounts, and Dr K. Habibi reviewed the first draft of the inventory.
References Green (1993), Petocz, Rodenburg and Habibi (1976).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Hamun-i-Puzak. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/05/2013
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