Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone, du 19 au 24 julliet 2010


CONSERVING BIODIVERSITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST - 5/5: Impacts on Aquatic Biodiversity in the Mesopotamian Marshes and the Gulf (164) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Marine Science Center, Basrah (Iraq) / Centre for Middle Eastern Plants (CMEP) / Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (UK) / California State University, Sacramento (USA)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Prof. Adil Yousif Al-Handal, Matthew Hall and Dr. Michelle Stevens

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel point out the profound impact from loss of biodiversity, water quantity and water quality in the marshes on the northern Gulf. As demonstrated by participants in the ROPME Sea Area, the sediment plume and increased salinity from the Shat al Arab and loss of marshes is having a negative impact on the biodiversity and productivity of the entire Gulf. Shrimp and fish production, a multi-million dollar industry to Gulf countries, is being severely depleted. The most productive area in the Gulf is this northern region where the Shatt al Arab discharges into the sea.

Chair: Malik H. Ali (Marine Science Center, Basrah)

Discussant: Michelle Stevens (California State University, Sacramento)

Paper presenter: Salman D. Salman , Mohamed F. Abbas & Anfas N. Akaash (Marine Science Center / University of Basrah), “Distribution and abundance of Cladocera in the Southern Iraqi marshes”
The Cladocera play an important role in the ecosystems of the southern Iraqi marshes; they form a major constituent of the zooplankton in the region. Cladocerans range in density, from one to 17,701 ind./ m3. Al-Hammar marshes exhibited the highest number of Cladocera followed by Al-Chibayish and then Al-Hawaizah marshes. Peaks of abundance in Al-Hammar marshes occurred in March, May, August, and October 2006. In the Al- Hawaziah marshes there was only one peak of abundance which occurred in February / March 2006. The exception is a peak that occurred in August at the Um Al-Naage open-water station; this peak consisted mainly of Moina species. In Al- Chibayish marshes, two peaks were recorded in February /March 2006 and in September / October of the same year.

Paper presenter: Abdulridah A. Alwan Al-mayah (Dept. Biology, University of Basrah), “The deterioration of the aquatic macrophtyes of southren Iraq”
Al-Safeya preserves as an example Al-Safeya preserve lies in Al-Hawaiza marsh about 125km north east of Basrah on the Iraq-Iran border. This area is selected as a case study for monitoring biodiversity changes in the wetlands of southern Iraq. Two main stations were selected for monthly monitoring and sampling; one station is in the northern preserve and on is located in the southern part of the preserve. Thirty two wetland plant species were collected and identified during the year 2008 & 2009, of which twelve species were aquatic macrophytes. The dominant species was the reed Phragmites australis, with the cattail Typha domengensis sub-dominant. The Hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum was the dominant species in the submerged macrophyte communities. After one year of monitoring during a shortage of waters, all submerged macrophytes had disappeared, the lake became dry, and most emergent vegetation was desiccated and drought-stressed.

Paper presenter: Mustafa A. Al-Mukhtar & Kadhim H. Younis (Marine Science Center,University of Basrah), “The Effect of Environmental Changes on Ichthyofauna in the Inland waters of Basrah governorate”
Aquatic ecosystems in southern Iraq within the Basrah governorate are characterized by high species diversity, especially in Ichthyo fauna. Fish species are residents, migratory and introduced species. It was found that the salinity of the inland waters is the most important factor in the distribution of fish species, and it is now the limiting factor affecting the changes in fish biodiversity. Many others man-made factors are playing an important role in reduction of fish diversity in Basrah: these include the destruction of the Shatt Al-Basrah controlling dam as a joint canal between marshes and marine environment;, drying of the marshes; reduction in the Karoon River discharge; decline in water discharge of Tigris-Euphrates basin; and increasing water salinity. During previous years the Shatt Al-Arab Estuary had the highest number of fish species (47 species), followed by the marshes (31 species), from all the important fish categories. Recently the lower part of Shatt Al-Arab and marshes are experiencing dramatic fluctuations and reduction in fish diversity. Many fish species are now critically endangered endangered, near threatened or vulnerable. Integrating freshwater usage and ensuring adequate water supply from the Tigris-Euphrates basin is the best way to overcome the effect of reduced water quantity and quality on fish biodiversity.

Paper presenter: Adil Yousef Al Handal (Marine Science Center, Basrah), "Sustaining Eden: A Synthesis of the cultural, ecological and social justice aspects of restoring the Mesopotamian Marshes of Southern Iraq"
Authors: Dr. Michelle Stevens & Adil Yousef Al Handal
This paper will synthesize the results of papers presented on the diminishing biodiversity and cultural resources of the Tigris-Euphrates Delta, Shatt al Arab, and Northern Gulf. Given drought and upstream water withdrawals, the critical question is to determine minimal water flows to sustain ecosystem structure and function of the Iraqi wetlands. Key technical challenges include establishing flow-through hydrologic conditions in marshes to stem rising salinity levels, providing refugia for 22 globally endangered species, re-establishing food chain support, fish and wildlife habitat, and providing a sustainable livelihood to Marsh Arabs who returned to their marshland home. As of result of a 5,000 year history of human management, the marshes are a culturalized landscape, formed over thousands of years by agricultural and traditional management practices. These intermediate-scale disturbances have long been the key to ecosystem structure and function. Understanding the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of the Marsh Dwellers, and including this knowledge in marsh restoration, will support conservation biology, ecological restoration and sustainable development. Thus, maintaining the integrity, identity, and culture of the Marsh Arab society must be pre-eminent in restoration planning, and this must include encouraging the sustainable livelihoods of Marsh Arabs who have returned to the area. Now the Mesopotamian Marshes are once again drying up, and the Iraqi people who depend on them are desperate to maintain their marshes and traditional lifestyle. The picture is grim: less than 30% of the marshes remained hydrated in February, 2009; the Tigris and Euphrates River water levels continue to drop; marshes recede; and the fish, reeds, and water buffalo that embody the marshes die. With their marsh homeland disappearing into a salt-encrusted wasteland, the Marsh people are once again a people dispossessed. The Ma’dan are now becoming urban refugee squatting on lands they do not have ownership or rights to, attempting to eke out an existence with their water buffalo. What seems apparent is that without intervention from powerful outside countries to broker water rights in the Tigris-Euphrates watershed, the marshes will continue to die and the people will be dispossessed of their lifestyle, their cultural heritage, and their beloved marshes.