|Location||Iraq, Al-Basrah,Dhi Qar,Maysan|
|Central coordinates||46o 59.33' East 30o 57.53' North|
|IBA criteria||A1, A2, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2|
|Altitude||0 - 6m|
|Year of IBA assessment||1994|
Summary 2014 updates. Historically, the Central Marshes comprised a vast complex of mostly permanent freshwater marshes, with scattered areas of open water, located to the west of the River Tigris and north of the River Euphrates (within Basra, Thi-Qar, and Missan provinces) and represented many diverse habitats from seasonal to permanent marshes. Evans (1994) listed it as an Important Bird Area (IBA038) fed by both rivers but today, even after re-flooding of some areas many of the connections from the Tigris remain severed. The Central Marshes are now restricted to two areas: Chibaish Marshes, north of the city of Chibaish, and Abu Zirig Marsh to the northwest; the two areas are still connected and the geology of both areas is Mesopotamian alluvium, mainly silts.
Site description The Central Marshes comprise a vast complex of mostly permanent freshwater marshes with scattered areas of open water, to the west of the River Tigris and to the north of the River Euphrates (30°50'N--31°30'N, 46°45'E--47°25'E). The marshes are fed by both rivers, and at maximum flooding in late spring they cover an area of about 3,000 km2. Almost the entire area is covered in tall reedbeds of Phragmites and Typha. Large portions of the marshes are difficult of access, and have seldom been visited by biologists. To the north, between the marshes and the Tigris, lies extensive cultivation, including rice fields and huge sugar-cane polders. The Ma'dan or Marsh Arabs have lived in these marshes for at least 5,000 years, but the majority have now been displaced by massive habitat destruction (see 'Conservation issues').
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris||breeding||1997||50-249 individuals||poor||A1, A4i, B1i, B2||Vulnerable|
|Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus||winter||1975-1979||140-413 individuals||poor||A4i||Least Concern|
|Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus||winter||1975-1979||7-72 individuals||poor||A1, B2||Vulnerable|
|Pygmy Cormorant Microcarbo pygmaeus||winter||1985||31 individuals||poor||A1, B2||Least Concern|
|Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca||winter||1985||3 individuals||poor||B2||Vulnerable|
|Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris||winter||1917||< 50 individuals||poor||A1, A4i||Critically Endangered|
|Larus michahellis||winter||1979||503 individuals||poor||A4i, B1i||Not Recognised|
|Basra Reed-warbler Acrocephalus griseldis||breeding||1985||present||-||A2||Endangered|
|Iraq Babbler Turdoides altirostris||resident||1985||present||-||A2||Least Concern|
|A4iii Species group - waterbirds||winter||1979||20,000-49,999 individuals||poor||A4iii|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Mesopotamian National Park||Protected Area||100,000||protected area overlaps with site||95,000|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Artificial - aquatic||minor|
|Artificial - terrestrial||minor|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
Other biodiversity Mammals: Lutra perspicillata (K; the subspecies L. p. maxwelli is endemic to the marshes and endangered), Gerbillus mesopotamiae (endemic), Erythronesokia bunnii (endemic).
Protection status 2014 updates. This site, especially the proposed National Park area (NEPIWR 2010), is a key part of the southern marshes complex and needs a stable and adequate water supply and effective protection from hunting and disturbance to maintain its value. In July of 2013, the Iraq Council of Ministers approved the designation of a portion of the Central Marshes as Iraq’s first National Park. Key to protection of the area will be the full implementation of the management plan for the area.
Acknowledgements Information compiled by Dr D. A. Scott and D. J. Brooks, reviewed by Dr Khalid Y. Al-Dabbagh and Dr Hanna Y. Siman.
References Georg and Vielliard (1968, 1970), Koning and Dijksen (1954), North (1993), Pearce (1993), Prentice (1993), Savage (1968), Scott and Carp (1982), Thesiger (1954). 2014 updates. Al-Sheikhly, O.F. and Nader, I.A. (2013). The status of the Iraqi smooth-coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata, Hayman 1956 and Eurasian otter Lutra lutra, Linnaeus 1758 in Iraq. IUCN Otter SG Bulletin 30(1): 18-30. Coad B. W. (2010). Freshwater Fishes of Iraq. PENSOFT Publishers, Sofia-Moscow.No.93. Evans, M. I. (1994). Important Bird Areas in the Middle East. Birdlife Conservation Series No. 2. Freshwater Fishes of Iraq www.briancoad.com NEPIWR (2010). Mesopotamia Marshland National Park Management Plan. Vol 1. Site Description & Vol 2. Strategies and Objectives. The New Eden Project for Integrated Water Resources. Omer, S.A., Wronski, T., Alwash, A., Maha H.E., Mohammed, O.B., Lerp, H. (2012). Evidence for persistence and a major range extension of the Arabian Smooth-coated Otter, Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli (Mustelidae, Carnivora) in Iraq. Folia Zoologica.
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Central Marshes. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/10/2014
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