|Central coordinates||36o 51.21' East 31o 51.22' North|
|IBA criteria||A1, A3, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2|
|Altitude||500 - 520m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2000|
Site description The only permanent, natural wetland in the Jordanian desert, 85 km east of Amman, and one of very few such sites in the Arabian peninsula. A (formerly) permanent, spring-fed marshland near the village of South Azraq (Azraq Wetland Reserve, 31°50'N 36°50'E, 1,255 ha) with a large, adjacent, seasonal playa-lake to the south-east (Qa al Azraq, 30°50'N 36°53'E, c.6,000 ha). The site also includes some artesian pools with associated marshland (31°51'N 36°50'E, 50 ha) and fishpools (31°49'N 36°48'E, 100 ha).
Until heavily degraded in recent years (see 'Conservation issues'), the Azraq Wetland Reserve was a flat area of pools, marshes, water meadows and silt dunes. Plant cover was very varied, including dense stands of Juncus, Carex, Typha, Scirpus, Cyperus and Arundo in the wetland, and bushes of Nitraria and Tamarix on the silt dunes. Similar marshland also formerly occurred around the springs at the village of North Azraq.
Qa al Azraq is a low-lying, enclosed basin which is seasonally flooded by c.10 wadis after winter rains over a catchment area of c.13,000 km2. A temporary, shallow, freshwater lake (max. depth 1.25 m) is formed, with a flat, muddy margin of up to 35 km circumference and scattered islands (the mounds of dry-season saltworkings). The water never overspills into the adjacent freshwater marsh of the Wetland Reserve, and the lake does not drain into and re-charge the underlying aquifer, instead remaining for several months (good aquatic invertebrate populations develop during this time) while becoming increasingly brackish as it dries out to form a siltflat, usually by mid-May. The basin is barren of vegetation when dry, except for salt-tolerant herbs (Halopeplis, Halocnemum) around the edges.
The artesian pools are an variable area of standing water of variable extent, fed by a small artesian borehole drilled in 1963 and still flowing. There is a small area of Tamarix bushes surrounded by damp to wet meadow/marshland with grass and other low vegetation. The fishpools were recently excavated in low-relief, silt desert on the edge of Qa al Azraq, with muddy shore and islands, fringed with reeds Phragmites when water levels are not high.
The oasis is a major crossroads for highways running between Amman, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and Iraq, and the level of human activity is high, there being two large settlements, North Azraq (formerly called Druze) and South Azraq (formerly Shishan), as well as a military base. The oasis is a major social and economic resource to Jordan, being one of the largest and most exploited sources of water for human consumption in the country. Cultivation is extensive in former silt desert surrounding the wetlands, irrigated from private wells. Qa al Azraq supports a substantial salt industry; regulated wildfowl hunting occurs in winter. Large numbers of sheep, goats and camels are watered and grazed in the remains of the marshland at Azraq Wetland Reserve and the artesian pools. Small-scale fish farming occurs at the fishpools.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna||winter||1991-1992||3,490 individuals||good||A4i, B1i||Least Concern|
|Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca||winter||1993||3 individuals||medium||B2||Vulnerable|
|Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata||resident||1975||-||poor||A1||Vulnerable|
|Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo||winter||1993||60 individuals||poor||A4i, B1i||Least Concern|
|Common Crane Grus grus||winter||1991-1993||2,000-2,500 individuals||good||A4i, B1i||Least Concern|
|Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus||breeding||1993||300-465 breeding pairs||good||A4i, B1i||Least Concern|
|Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta||breeding||1993||60-300 individuals||good||B1i||Least Concern|
|Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus||breeding||1993||2,000 individuals||good||A4i, B1i||Least Concern|
|Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii||breeding||1993||-||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus||resident||1993||-||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius||breeding||1993||-||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Thick-billed Lark Rhamphocoris clotbey||resident||1993||-||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha||resident||1993||-||-||A3||Least Concern|
|A4iii Species group - waterbirds||winter||1991-1992||20,000 individuals||poor||A4iii|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Azraq Oasis||Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar)||7,372||protected area contained by site||7,372|
|Azraq Wetland||Wetland Reserve||1,200||protected area contained by site||1,200|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Artificial - terrestrial||2%|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||major|
|Notes: Wildlife conservation/research|
|Notes: Other: Small-scale salt-extraction|
Other biodiversity Mammals: Canis lupus (V); Caracal caracal (rare) and Gazella gazella (V) are thought to be recently extinct. Reptiles: Varanus griseus (rare) occurred in the surrounding desert, at least formerly. Formerly the Wetland Reserve supported a relatively rich fauna and flora, including important and highly isolated or endemic populations of fish, invertebrate and plant species; many species may not have survived the ongoing degradation of the marsh.
Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by Ian J. Andrews.
References Andrews (1991), Conder (1981a,b, 1982), Jones and Clarke (1990), Mountfort (1965), Nelson (1973, 1985), Wallace (1982, 1983).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Azraq. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 16/03/2014
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