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Location Iran, Islamic Republic of, Esfahan
Central coordinates 52o 47.00' East  32o 20.00' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii, B1i
Area 63,300 ha
Altitude 1,470 m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Site description Gavekhoni lake is a large (c.13,000 ha), shallow, saline lake in an enclosed drainage basin at 1,470 m on the western edge of the deserts of Iran's Central Plateau, c.40-100 km east-south-east of the city of Isfahan. The lake is fed almost entirely by the Zaindeh Rud, a large river rising in the Zagros. Flooding occurs in winter and spring, but the extent varies widely and the lake is often almost completely dry by the end of summer. There are Phragmites marshes with some Tamarix scrub at the mouth of the river, but the lake is otherwise largely devoid of vegetation except algae; plant growth elsewhere around the lake is very sparse and halophytic. The marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud, fed by flooding from the river itself and by several irrigation canals, comprise a c.60 km chain of freshwater marshes and flood-plain wetlands ending at Gavekhoni lake, covering c.30,000 ha or more. Very little natural marsh vegetation remains (now mainly Phragmites and Typha), the main flooding now occurring over degraded steppe and land under wheat and rice. The lake is relatively inaccessible and undisturbed, although there is some grazing, hunting and cutting of wood for fuel in the marshes at the river mouth. Land ownership is public.

Key Biodiversity See boxes for key species. An important wintering area for a variety of waterfowl, notably Phoenicopterus ruber (1,720 recorded), Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, surface-feeding ducks and some shorebirds. Mid-winter waterfowl counts in the 1970s seldom exceeded 10,000 birds in total, but numbers have been much higher in recent years.

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  1977-1992  110-13,250 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greylag Goose Anser anser winter  1987-1992  1,740 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea winter  1977-1992  530-3,280 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna winter  1977-1992  1,090-11,300 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Gadwall Mareca strepera winter  1987-1992  6,600 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope winter  1987-1992  4,560 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos winter  1977-1992  5,100-7,960 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata winter  1987-1992  8,370 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Teal Anas crecca winter  1977-1992  7,600-41,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Himantopus himantopus winter  1987-1992  286 individuals  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  1987-1992  146 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus winter  1977-1992  35-1,214 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1977-1992  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

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

Pollution domestic & urban waste water - type unknown/unrecorded 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)  
Gavkhouni Lake and marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 43,000 protected area contained by site 43,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   major
Wetlands (inland)   21%
Shrubland   minor
Artificial - aquatic   major
Desert   minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture major
rangeland/pastureland minor
nature conservation and research 68%
hunting minor
other minor
Notes: cutting of fuelwood

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

References Carp (1980), Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993), Scott (1976a,c, 1980).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Gavekhoni lake, and marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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