email a friend
printable version
Location Iran, Islamic Republic of, Khuzestan
Central coordinates 48o 25.00' East  31o 45.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, B1i, B2, B3
Area 19,021 ha
Altitude 30 - 90m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Site description A 55-km stretch of the Karkheh river and adjacent marshy plains (3,500 ha of wetlands), c.35-90 km north-north-west of Ahwaz. The river flows in a deep channel with steep earth banks. Dense riverine forest of Tamarix and Populus euphraticus, up to several hundred metres wide, lines the river banks. The adjacent plains, largely cultivated with wheat, are dotted with shallow marshy depressions and meandering creeks which flood in winter.

Key Biodiversity See box for key species. The riverine forest supports a typical Mesopotamian bird fauna including large breeding populations of Hypocolius ampelinus and Passer moabiticus. The river and adjacent flood-plain are of some importance for wintering Pelecanus crispus and surface-feeding ducks. Other notable species are Ceryle rudis, Halcyon smyrnensis and Petronia xanthocollis.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: a tiny population of Dama mesopotamica (E) still survived along the Karkheh river until the early 1970s, but apparently became extinct in the mid- or late 1970s, leaving the population along the Dez river to the east as the only one known in the wild. Other species include Gazella subgutturosa (rare).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus resident  1977  common  B2  Least Concern 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris winter  1977  250 individuals  good  A1, A4i, B1i  Vulnerable 
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus winter  1977  62 individuals  good  A1  Vulnerable 
Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus breeding  1977  10 breeding pairs  good  B3  Least Concern 
Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus resident  1977  4 breeding pairs  good  B3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Karkheh Protected Area 13,995 protected area contained by site 9,427  
Karkheh Wildlife Refuge 5,026 protected area contained by site 3,600  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   major
Forest   minor
Wetlands (inland)   23%
Shrubland   major

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture major
rangeland/pastureland major
forestry minor
hunting major
nature conservation and research 87%

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

References Firouz et al. (1970), Scott (1976a,b,c, 1980), Summers et al. (1987).

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Karkheh river marshes. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife