The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Tigris-Euphrates river system

ecoregion : Tigris-Euphrates alluvial salt marsh (Ref PA0906).

Name in Arabic  :



Ecozone : Palearctic
Biome : Flooded grasslands and savannas
Climate type : subtropical, hot and arid
Soil types :
Surface : 35 600 kmē
Conservation status : critical/endangered
Global 200 :

Oceans or seas (borders) : none
Rivers : Tigris, Euphrates, Tharthar lake
Countries : Iraq

The ecoregion is characterized by shallow freshwater lakes, swamps, and marshes, all surrounded by desert. The hydrology of these vast marshes is extremely important to the ecology the entire upper Persian Gulf.
This area represent of a the most important wintering areas for migratory birds. The area has been a fruitful land that has fostered civilization from the dawn of modern man, until Saddam Hussein government and decades of war and infrastructure building destroyed the once great Fertile Crescent.

General description


Type : subtropical, hot and arid
Detailed description :

Geologic and pedologic features

picture needed
Detailed geological features :

Ecology and natural ressources

At the northern end of the Persian Gulf is the vast floodplain of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Karun Rivers. This features huge permanent lakes, marshes, and forest. The aquatic vegetation includes reeds, rushes, and papyrus, which support numerous species. Areas around the Tigris and the Euphrates are very fertile. Marshy land is home to water birds, some stopping here while migrating, and some spending the winter in these marshes living off the lizards, snakes, frogs, and fish. Other animals found in these marshes are water buffalo, two endemic rodent species, antelopes and gazelles and small animals such as the jerboa and several other mammals.


Ecoregion and political borders

Countries : Iraq.

People, languages and culture

Arabic is the main language.
Of the initial 500 000 Marsh Arabs, it is estimated that less than 10,000 of the indigenous people remain. Some took refuge in Iran, other are dispersed as political refugees all over the world.

Ecological threats

Iraq suffers from desertification and salination of the soil. Water is scarce and plant-life sparse. Government water control projects have drained most of the inhabited marsh areas east of An Nasiriyah by drying up or diverting streams and rivers. Population of Shi'a Muslims have been displaced. The destruction of the natural habitat poses serious threats to the area's wildlife populations. There are also inadequate supplies of potable water.

This ecoregion faced one of the massive economic-environmental crimes in modern history : the destruction of Iraq's wetlands.

Marshlands were a fine and extensive natural wetlands ecosystem. They developed over thousands of years in the Tigris-Euphrates basin and once covered 15-20,000 square kilometers. According to the United Nations Environmental Program and the AMAR Charitable Foundation, between 84% and 90% of the marshes have been destroyed since the 70s. In 1994, 60 percent of the wetlands were destroyed by the Iraqi regime. They were drained to permit military access and greater political control of the native Marsh Arabs. Canals, dykes and dams were built routing the water of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers around the marshes, instead of allowing water to move slowly through the marshland. After part of the Euphrates was dried up due to re-routing its water to the sea, a dam was built so water could not back up from the Tigris and sustain the former marshland. Some marshlands were burned and buried pipes underground helped to carry away water for quicker drying up.

The drying up of the marshes lead to the disappearance of the salt-tolerant vegetation , the plankton rich waters that fertilized surrounding soils, 52 native fish species, the wild boar, Red Fox, buffalo and water birds of the marsh habitat.

In the 1980s this ecoregion was put in grave danger as the Iran-Iraq War raged within its boundaries.


Pictures needed.

Conservation status : critical/endangered
Protected area :
Endemic species :
Introduced species :
Threatened species :
Extinct species : subspecies of rat and another of otter
protected areas :

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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04