Golestan wetlands grappling with drought, mismanagement

February 13, 2022 - 17:55

TEHRAN - Alagol, Almagol, and Ajigol – the three major wetlands in the northern province of Gilan – have been facing drought and mismanagement over the past couple of years.

Insufficient intake of water and irregular exploitation of the wetlands are now threatening these valuable biodiversity reserves.

Covering an area of 3,000 hectares, Almagol and Ajigol are seasonally-filled freshwater lakes, fed by autumn and winter rains, which become desiccated in drought periods. Alagol is slightly saline and fringed by extensive reed and grass marshes.

Almagol is sparsely vegetated. There are several human settlements. The site supports Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans, etc.), flamingos, and nesting White-tailed Plover. 

Placed on the Montreux Record in 1993 due to high levels of disturbance from wildfowl hunters and the extraction of water for irrigation purposes, which has lowered lake levels considerably, especially during summer.

Recent rainfalls have eased the water shortage problem in the Caspian Sea province, however, wetlands have lost a lion’s share of their beauty and significance.

Wetlands are ecosystems saturated with water, either seasonally or permanently. They store water and ensure its quality, providing resilience against drought. They play a central role in sustainable development by supplying all our freshwater. More than 40 percent of freshwater fish are said to live in wetlands.

Wetlands play a major role in protecting the land against floods and the impacts of storms. They provide food and diverse habitats which support genetic, species, and ecosystem biodiversity. Wetlands play a key role in the life cycles of many species and in annual migration patterns.

Iran is rich in terms of having a variety of wetlands due to its climatic diversity. In Iran, 141 wetlands with ecological value with an area of over 3 million hectares have been identified, of which 25 wetlands are designated as wetlands of international importance (registered in the Ramsar Convention) covering more than 1.4 million hectares and four sites are biosphere reserves.

Of Iran’s 25 Ramsar sites about one-third are under pressure or in critical condition.

Unfortunately, wetlands are being degraded and lost due to pollution, overexploitation, climate change, and human population growth.

Concurrent with the adoption of the Ramsar Convention, World Wetlands Day was designated on February 22, emphasizing the importance of the wetlands and sustainable use of these valuable ecosystems.

The theme for this year's World Wetlands Day is 'Wetlands Action for People and Nature'. It aims to highlight the importance of actions to conserve and sustain wetlands.

MG

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