In the 1970s, the Gomishan wetlands consisted of a chain of narrow, brackish lagoons behind the Caspian Sea beach, stretching from 2 km north of the town of Gomishan north to the Turkmenistan border (and beyond). In the east, the wetland bordered on a vast area of low-lying plains with salt-tolerant vegetation. The recent 1.8 m rise in the level of the Caspian has resulted in extensive flooding of these plains, so that the Gomishan Marshes now comprise a large area of shallow, brackish lagoons and marshes covering c.4,850 ha. The wetland lies at the western edge of the Turkoman Steppes, a vast region of grass-covered plains and rolling hills extending for over 100 km to the east in Iran and even further to the north in Turkmenistan; much of the natural grassland near Gomishan Marshes has been converted to arable land. The main wetland area contains saltmarsh vegetation and seasonally-inundated flats of Salicornia mixed with Halostachys and Halocnemum grasses. The site is bounded in the west by low coastal dunes with typical sand-dune vegetation, and in the east extends onto the short-grass plains of the Turkoman Steppes, large areas of which are under cultivation for wheat and cotton. Land ownership is public. Livestock grazing (mainly sheep and goats) and waterfowl hunting occur.
See box for key species. In the 1970s, when the permanent wetland area was restricted to a chain of narrow, brackish lagoons behind the Caspian beach, the area was primarily important for breeding Himantopus himantopus and terns (c.500 pairs of four species), and wintering geese (including Anser erythropus), Vanellus vanellus and Pterocles alchata (up to 50,000). Syrrhaptes paradoxus may be a regular winter visitor, as small numbers were found amongst the large flocks of P. alchata in December 1970. In recent years, the rise in level of the Caspian has flooded large areas of former Salicornia flats, creating large lagoons which have rapidly become of great importance for wintering waterfowl of many species, notably Pelecanus crispus, Phoenicopterus ruber, Anser anser, dabbling ducks (regularly over 50,000), Fulica atra and Himantopus himantopus.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Part of the wetland has recently been designated a No-hunting Area, and there are plans to upgrade this to Protected Area within five years. In recent years there has been intensive shooting in winter. Large areas of natural grassland in the east have been converted to agricultural land. It has been proposed that Gomishan Marshes be designated a Ramsar Site.
Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Gomishan marshes and Turkoman steppes. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/01/2023.