- Tigris-Euphrates river system
name = Tigris-Euphrates river system
Flooded grasslands and savannas
climate = subtropical, hot and arid
surface = 35 600 km²
seas = none
Tigris, Euphrates, Thartharlake
IraqThe Tigris-Euphrates river system is part of the Tigris-Euphrates alluvial salt marsh ecoregionof the Middle East, and is characterized by two large rivers, the Tigrisand Euphrates. The rivers have several small tributaries which feed into shallow freshwater lakes, swamps, and marshes, all surrounded by desert. The hydrologyof these vast marshes is extremely important to the ecologyof the entire upper Persian Gulf, in an area called the Cradle of Civilizationdue to its ancient history.
In the 1980s this ecoregion was put in grave danger as the
Iran–Iraq Warraged within its boundaries. It also faced one of the massive economic-environmental crimes in modern history: the destruction of Iraq's wetlands.
The general climate is subtropical, hot and arid. At the northern end of the Persian Gulf is the vast floodplain of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Karun Rivers, featuring 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
rodentspecies, antelopes and gazelles and small animals such as the jerboaand several other mammals.
Arabic is the main local language. It is estimated that fewer than 10,000 of the indigenous
Iraq suffers from
desertificationand soil salinationdue in large part to thousands of years of agricultural activity. Water is scarce and plant-life sparse. Saddam Hussein's 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 wildlifepopulations. There are also inadequate supplies of potable water. 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 Saddam Hussein's 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 damwas 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.
The drying 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.
Conservation status : critical/endangered
Protected area :
Endemic species : Basra Reed Warbler ("Acrocephalus griseldis"), Iraq Babbler ("Turdoides altirostris")
Threatened species : Basra Reed Warbler ("Acrocephalus griseldis") - ENDANGERED
Extinct species : subspecies of
ratand another of otter
Dawn of the World", film, 2008.
*"Zaman, The Man From The Reeds", film, 2003
* [http://veimages.gsfc.nasa.gov//2256/PersianGulf.A2001305_250m.jpgPersian Gulf image]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5295044.stm BBC: Iraq marshes' recovery 'in doubt']
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