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Location Iran, Islamic Republic of, Khuzestan
Central coordinates 48o 40.00' East  30o 10.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2
Area 425,140 ha
Altitude 0 - 15m
Year of IBA assessment 1994





Site description Lying at the head of the Persian Gulf near Abadan, the site comprises the southern portion of the extensive flood-plain and delta system of the Karun, Dez and several other major rivers which rise in the north-west Zagros Mountains. The better-drained areas in the north support fresh to brackish sedge marshes dominated by Scirpus which give way to salt-tolerant vegetation in the central flood-plain and bare, dry mudflats in the south, dominated by Tamarix (Shadegan Marshes, 30°20'N 48°20'E, 282,500 ha). The coastal zone comprises extensive intertidal mudflats, creeks, sandbanks and low muddy islands (Khor-al Amaya, 30°00'N 48°40'E, 19,200 ha; Khor Musa, 30°10'N 49°00'E, 123,440 ha). Autumn and winter rains in the high Zagros cause extensive flooding, creating a vast complex of shallow lagoons which may dry out completely by the end of the summer. The Ahwaz-Abadan road passes along the west side of the site, while the main highway from Abadan to the port of Bandar-e Shahpur runs west to east across the southern edge of the marshes. Summer temperatures are extremely high, with means of over 45°C in July and over 7°C in January; frosts are rare. Precipitation is largely in winter, with an abrupt onset in November and terminating more gradually in April-May. Run-off peaks in late winter, when discharge from the Karun river may be ten times greater than in late summer. The wetland is bordered by barren flats to the north, east and north-west, but there is a large area of rice fields, date gardens and human settlement to the north-east. The land is publicly owned.

Key Biodiversity See boxes for key species. The area is extremely important for a wide variety of wintering waterfowl, especially dabbling ducks, and also a very important breeding and migration staging area. Shadegan Marshes are the most important site in the world for Marmaronetta angustirostris, regularly supporting 30-60% of the world population in winter. There are also notable wintering concentrations of Pelecanus crispus, Ciconia ciconia, Anser anser, dabbling ducks (over 500,000, mainly Anas crecca and A. acuta) and gulls (over 15,000, mainly Larus ridibundus and L. genei). The mudflats at the head of the Persian Gulf hold many thousands of shorebirds, including large numbers of Haematopus ostralegus, Limosa lapponica, Numenius arquata and Tringa totanus. Aquila heliaca winters more commonly here than anywhere else in Iran, and Circus aeruginosus (up to 70) and Aquila clanga (up to nine) also winter in good numbers. Breeding birds include various herons and egrets, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca, Circus aeruginosus (25-50 pairs), various shorebirds, Larus genei and five species of terns. A variety of landbirds typical of the Persian Gulf coastal plain occur in the surrounding scrub and date gardens, including Hypocolius ampelinus, while the sedge marshes are the stronghold of Cisticola juncidis in Iran. At least 149 species have been recorded in the reserve.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Northern Pintail Anas acuta winter  1970-1977  237,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greylag Goose Anser anser winter  1977-1992  2,080-3,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna winter  1977-1992  80-3,720 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Gadwall Mareca strepera winter  1977-1992  9,050-10,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope winter  1970-1977  9,050 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos winter  1977-1992  4,800-9,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata winter  1970-1977  16,980 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Garganey Spatula querquedula passage  1977  12,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Teal Anas crecca winter  1970-1977  348,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris winter  1970-1977  15,000-20,000 individuals  good  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Common Pochard Aythya ferina winter  1977-1992  110-10,050 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca breeding  1977  4 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Near Threatened 
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca winter  1970-1977  10 individuals  good  B1i  Near Threatened 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1977-1992  1,650-8,260 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
White Stork Ciconia ciconia winter  1970-1977  1,340 individuals  good  A4i, B1i, B2  Least Concern 
African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus winter  1972-1977  8 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Egretta garzetta breeding  1977  100 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Egretta garzetta winter  1987-1992  350 individuals  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris breeding  1977  6 breeding pairs  good  B2  Least Concern 
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides breeding  1977  100 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea winter  1970-1977  670 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus winter  1977  75 individuals  good  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  1977  9 individuals  good  B2  Vulnerable 
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca winter  1977  10-19 individuals  good  A1, B2  Vulnerable 
Haematopus ostralegus winter  1970-1977  1,820 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Himantopus himantopus resident  1977  60 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Himantopus himantopus winter  1970-1977  800 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  1977-1992  172-883 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus winter  1970-1977  320 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus winter  1970-1977  1,260 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa winter  1970-1977  750 individuals  good  B1i  Near Threatened 
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica winter  1970-1977  2,120 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata winter  1970-1977  950 individuals  good  B1i  Near Threatened 
Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans winter  1977  3,000 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Sterna nilotica breeding  1977  100-200 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Sterna nilotica winter  1970-1977  1,820 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus winter  1970-1977  12,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei breeding  1977  400-800 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei winter  1970-1977  5,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Little Tern Sternula albifrons breeding  1977  150-250 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida winter  1977  270 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1970-1977  500,000-999,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

1994 high not assessed not assessed
unset
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Human intrusions and disturbance war, civil unrest and military exercises past (and unlikely to return) and no longer limiting some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (agricultural use) happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Shadegan Wildlife Refuge 327,765 protected area contained by site 296,000  
Shadegan Marshes and mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 400,000 protected area contained by site 400,000  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   minor
Wetlands (inland)   36%
Coastline   34%
Desert   minor
Artificial - aquatic   minor
Shrubland   minor
Sea   minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 70%
agriculture minor

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

References Carp (1980), IUCN (1991), Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993), Scott (1972c, 1975b, 1976a,c, 1978a, 1991, in press), Scott and Carp (1972), Summers et al. (1987).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Shadegan marshes and tidal mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/12/2014

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