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Location Iran, Islamic Republic of, West Azarbaijan
Central coordinates 45o 30.00' East  37o 30.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2
Area 483,000 ha
Altitude 1,280 m
Year of IBA assessment 1994





Site description Lake Uromiyeh lies at 1,280 m in an inland drainage basin in western Azarbayjan, 60 km south-west of Tabriz. At c.140 km long (from north-west to south-east) and up to 55 km wide near the southern end, it is a vast hypersaline lake of great scenic beauty with extensive salt-encrusted flats and shingle beaches. The average depth is c.5 m, the level fluctuating by c.1–2 m depending on winter rains. The bottom is mud or silt, often covered by salt crystals. Salinities range from 80 to 280 p.p.t. and the water temperature from 3 to 30°C. There are several large areas of fresh to brackish marsh 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 in the south at the mouth of the Jogatu Chay river. The lake includes 56, mostly small, uninhabited islands. The largest, Kabudan (Ghoyoon Daghi), comprises 3,125 ha of hilly steppe with scattered trees. The climate is semi-arid, with very hot summers and extremely cold winters (temperatures below -25°C). The lake supports an abundant growth of the alga Enteromorpha and there is a very rich algal bloom and build up of brine shrimp Artemia salina between early June and the end of September, but the lake itself is too saline to support any other plants or animals. The marshes and shorelines have typical saltmarsh plant communities of Suaeda, Atriplex and Frankenia with Juncus, some Phragmites at river mouths, and occasional stands of Tamarix. Remnant stands of Pistacia forest survive on the larger islands, notably Kabudan and Ashk, together with Rhamnus bushes and Artemisia shrubs. There are rolling wheat-lands to the west and south, and semi-arid steppe and hills to the north and east. There are villages on the shore, with small steamer ferries operating between them. 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.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons passage  1977  265 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greylag Goose Anser anser winter  1977-1992  80-4,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus winter  1970-1977  63 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea resident  1977  300-500 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea winter  1977-1992  224-3,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna passage  1977  35,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna resident  1977  4,000-5,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna winter  1977-1992  16,140-64,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Garganey Spatula querquedula passage  1977  21,200 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca breeding  1977  4 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Near Threatened 
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis passage  1977  8,225 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus breeding  1977  15,000-25,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1970-1977  19,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
White Stork Ciconia ciconia breeding  1977  common  B2  Least Concern 
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus breeding  1977  100 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia breeding  1977  50-100 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Egretta garzetta breeding  1977  90 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus breeding  1977  1,000-1,600 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus breeding  1977  5 breeding pairs  good  B2  Least Concern 
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus breeding  1977  10 breeding pairs  good  B2  Endangered 
Great Bustard Otis tarda non-breeding  1977  19 individuals  A1  Vulnerable 
Himantopus himantopus breeding  1977  300-500 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta breeding  1977  1,500-2,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta passage  1977  13,600 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus breeding  1977  500-1,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus passage  1977  3,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus breeding  1977  2,000-3,000 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus passage  1977  8,330 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus winter  1970-1977  7,080 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis passage  1977  1,395 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Little Stint Calidris minuta passage  1977  10,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Ruff Calidris pugnax passage  1977  9,440 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola breeding  1977  50-100 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Larus michahellis breeding  1977  4,000-5,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei breeding  1977  3,000-4,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei passage  1977  19,565 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida breeding  1977  100-200 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1977-1992  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   
A4iii Species group - waterbirds passage  1977-1992  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Lake Urmia [or Orumiyeh] UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve 463,600 protected area contained by site 463,600  
Lake Urmia [or Orumiyeh] Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 483,000 is identical to site 483,000  
Urumieh lake National Park 464,056 protected area contained by site 463,600  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland)   96%
Grassland   minor
Artificial - terrestrial   minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 96%
tourism/recreation minor

Other biodiversity Mammals: Ovis ammon of the western red race have been introduced to Kabudan Island (estimated 1,150 in 1973/74), and Dama mesopotamica (E) to Ashk Island. Panthera pardus (rare) was introduced to Kabudan in about 1970 in an attempt to control Ovis numbers; it is known to have bred there, but is believed to have died out towards the end of the decade.

Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.

References Carp (1980), Cornwallis (1976), Firouz (1974), Firouz et al. (1970), Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993), Savage (1964), Scott (1973b, 1975c, 1976a,b,c, 1991, in press), Summers et al. (1987).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Uromiyeh. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/07/2014

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