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Location Saudi Arabia, Ash Sharqiyah
Central coordinates 50o 29.30' East  25o 24.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2, B3
Area 62,500 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Saudi Wildlife Commission (Affiliate)

Site description The western sector of a shallow, enclosed bay between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, from al-'Uqair south to Salwah on the border with Qatar (c.100 km of coastline). It is bordered by a generally well-vegetated sandy coast where the high level of groundwater allows the growth of date palms and reedbeds at the edge of the sea, with reeds Phragmites often extending into the seawater. The area contains large sabkhahs and elevated peninsulas surrounded by shallow, hypersaline lagoons, and the intertidal zone consists largely of flats of sand and sand-rock. Marine substrates are sand and rock supporting extensive seagrass beds. Elevated parts have been isolated by the present water level, forming islands close to the coast (e.g. Zakhnuniyah, Samamik, Judhaym). These are often muddier than the mainland, support a good growth of salt-tolerant vegetation, and seabird colonies are found on sandier parts. Unaybir, a small island at the southern tip of the gulf, consists of elevated fossil coral rock. Small-scale traditional fishing occurs, with a small fishing settlement on Zakhnuniyah. The mainland supports major rock quarrying operations and is used for camel grazing. The ruins of al-'Uqair are of considerable historical value.

Key Biodiversity See box for key species. The gulf holds the main breeding sites in Saudi Arabia of Phalacrocorax nigrogularis (see box). There are important breeding numbers of three species of tern (see box), as well as the only known breeding Sterna caspia on the Saudi Arabian Gulf coast (3-5 pairs). There are many wintering Larus ichthyaetus (189 in January 1993) and L. cachinnans/L. argentatus, largely associated with breeding colonies of P. nigrogularis. Other winter counts include 1,260 Larus genei.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Dugong dugon (V; globally important population).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus winter  1992  1,086 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis winter  1992  2,378 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Egretta gularis resident  1992  100 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Egretta gularis winter  1992  130-486 individuals  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis breeding  1992  11,000 breeding pairs  good  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Larus cachinnans winter  1992  560-2,500 individuals  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis breeding  1992  2,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa breeding  1992  2,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i, B3  Least Concern 
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus breeding  1992  1,000 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - seabirds breeding  1993  16,100 breeding pairs  good  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 low not assessed negligible

Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management planning has taken place  Not assessed  negligible 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Sea   major
Coastline   minor
Desert   major

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
urban/industrial/transport major
fisheries/aquaculture minor
rangeland/pastureland minor
tourism/recreation minor
other minor
Notes: Chicks from the Phalacrocorax nigrogularis colonies are occasionally harvested by people from the Hofuf and Dammam areas.

Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by P. Symens, A. Suhaibani and M. Werner.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Gulf of Salwah. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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