Dalmaj Marsh

Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
A large, isolated haur to the west of the River Tigris, about 35 km south-west of Kut town. The haur receives overflow from irrigation canals and floodwater from the Tigris. 2014 updates. Dalmaj wetland contains both terrestrial habitats ranging from arid areas to true desert with sand dunes, and a large body of water that can be divided into an open-water lake reaching depths exceeding 2 m and true marshes with dense reedbeds and shallower water (less than 1 m). The geology of the area is Mesopotamian alluvium, mainly silts.

Key biodiversity
The site was listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980), but no specific ornithological information is available.

Non-bird biodiversity: No information available to BirdLife International.

2014 updates. Dalmaj is rich in biodiversity, being a wintering ground for numerous waterfowl and a main breeding area for Marbled Duck Marmaronettaangustirostris, Ferruginous Duck Aythyanyroca, and Red-crested PochardNettarufina, three of the four known breeding ducks in Iraq, and a major breeding site for the endemic Basra Reed Warbler Additional Important Bird Observations: A total of 140 species have been observed. In addition to those mentioned in the table the Vulnerable Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca and the Near Threatened Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquataare regularly seen on migration and in winter but in sub-IBA threshold numbers. The Irano-Turanian biome-restricted Menetries’s Warbler Sylvia mystaceais resident. The endemic race of Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis iraquensis and the Iraqi race of Hooded Crow Corvus cornix capellanus (also known as Mesopotamian Crow) both occur. This site boasts significant fauna diversity in comparison with other sites of similar area. Though mammals were not consistently the subject of the survey effort, 19 species were found or reported in Dalmaj including Honey Badger Mellivoracapensis, Caracal Caracal,StripedHyenaHyaenahyaena(Near Threatened), Ruppell’s Fox Vulpesrueppellii, Gray Wolf Canis lupus, Otter Lutralutra(Near Threatened), Wild Boar Susscrofa(in quite large herds) and wild cat (either Felissilvestrisor F. chaus). According to reports by locals and hunters, the last group of gazelles in Dalmaj was seen in the late 1990s. These were likely Goitered Gazelle Gazellasubgutturosa(Vulnerable). Due to the lack of observations, and increasing disturbance, the likelihood of gazelle presence in Dalmaj is now likely to be low. A notable reptile observed at Dalmaj was the Desert Monitor Varanus griseus. Dalmaj is one of the most important wetlands in Iraq for fish. The BunniMesopotamichthyssharpeyiin Dalmaj appears to be the last healthy stock found in southern Iraq and might be an important source for the re-introduction of this species into the southern marshes of Iraq. Fish data were collected from 2006 to 2009, when nine species were reported. According to Coad’s (2010), the following significant species were:Carassiusauratus, Cyprinuscarpio,Heteropneustesfossilis,Carasobarbusluteus, Leuciscusvorax, Liza abu, Mesopotamichthyssharpeyi and Silurustriostegus.Mastacembelusmastacembeluswasalso documented, which is of no economic importance but their conservation status in Iraq is unknown. Additionally, in recent years introduced Tilapiazilliihave become increasing reported by fishermen.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
No conservation measures are known to have been taken. There is no information on current threats to the site, but the site is likely to have suffered habitat degradation due to flood control measures on the Tigris and expanding irrigation schemes in the area. No conservation measures are known to have been proposed. 2014 updates. Additional high threats come from road construction, which is somewhat mitigated because of therelatively low scale of construction. There is also a high threat from commercial development. In addition, potentially problematic invasive species such as Telapia zellii and Namaqua Dove are present. The Dalmaj area faces several very high threats. A top one is hunting and poaching (large numbers of ducks, other waterfowl, and fish are poached each year through the use of clap-nets, shotguns, and fishing nets). Agriculture is also a very high threat as most of the dry land inside the site is used for wheat farming and very little remains untouched. Additional high threats come from road construction, which is somewhat mitigated because of the relatively low scale of construction. There is also a high threat from commercial development. In addition, potentially problematic invasive species such as Telapia zellii and Namaqua Dove are present.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
2014 updates. A local group (Friends of Dalmaj) is interested in protecting this area and they should be encouraged to involve younger members and develop their communication and networking abilities

Protected areas
2014 updates. Due to the biological diversity of the marsh and the many threats it faces, Dalmaj would particularly benefit from more formal protection and in 2013, this site was identified as a proposed protected area by the National Protected Area Committee (NPAC)

Habitat and land use
2014 updates. The aquatic areas are fed by and drain into the Main Outfall Drain (MOD), a large agricultural drainage canal, and the water level in Dalmaj is unstable because of the control of the Ministry of Water Resources over the flow of the MOD. Embankments surround the marsh to contain the body of water. The Ministry of Agriculture promotes fish farming in the marsh, giving management rights to local investors. Some have developed large enclosed pools near the edge of the lake, while others release fingerlings (particularly Bunni Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi) from a local hatchery. Dalmaj has one of the few hatcheries known to produce these species. The dominant farmed species is Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi, and there appears to be a relatively healthy population in the marsh due to protection and the absence of unsustainable fishing methods such as electrofishing and poison. Large numbers of this fish are released after they hatch. The southern section of Dalmaj is mainly mudflats, featuring Phragmites and Typhareedbeds in addition to submerged plantswith occasional dry ground scattered with bushes and terrestrial species. Many waders and waterfowl were observed at the site in large numbers in addition to passerines, most of which were observed breeding. The eastern part of the site includes much of the open and deeper Dalmaj Lake that lies within the embankment, which is a favorable habitat for gulls, terns, and fish. To the east of the embankment there are shallow, salty marshes with a strip of dense reedbeds and Tamarix bushes. The freshwater marshes in the northern part of the site are defined by rich plant cover, such as Phragmites and Typhareedbeds and Tamarixin drier areas. These marshes have clear, transparent waters and submerged plants, which provide excellent protection for juvenile fish and offer high oxygen production.

Information compiled by Dr D. A. Scott and D. J. Brooks, reviewed by Dr Khalid Y. Al-Dabbagh and Dr Hanna Y. Siman.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Dalmaj Marsh. Downloaded from on 10/08/2022.