Sunday, June 8, 2008

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Mesopotamia Marshlands

Iraq, Iran (Islamic Republic of)
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Located at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Mesopotamian marshlands are one of the world's great wetlands covering an estimated original area of 15 000 - 20 000 km2 (5 792 - 7 722 square miles) The marshlands are an important center of biodiversity, play a vital role in the intercontinental migration of birds, and have long supported unique human communities. Upstream damming as well as drainage activities in the marshlands themselves have significantly reduced the quantity of water entering the marshes. Together these factors have led to the collapse of the ecosystem. Restoration of the marshlands, mainly through reflooding by breaching of dykes and drainage canals has begun. As a result of these activities, vegetation and wildlife have returned to some parts of the marshes.

Remote sensing images provide a synoptic illustration of these changes. In 1973 the original marshlands were largely undisturbed. The 2000 image reveals the area after being drained, with most of the wetlands having disappeared. On the other hand, the 2004 image illustrates recovery in progress with major portions in the central and western sections having been restored to some extent.
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