Lake Maharlu

Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
A large, shallow, saline lake at 1,480 m in the Shiraz basin of the southern Zagros. The lake is fed by the run-off from numerous small ephemeral wadis, by the Pul-i-Fasa stream in the west, and by numerous small springs around the shore, and covers 21,600 ha at maximum extent of flooding. Much the largest perennial springs are at Barmishur at the north-west corner and at Ab-e Paravan in the north, both creating pools c.2 m deep which overflow into extensive permanent marshes with Phragmites and Typha as well as feeding open marsh communities dominated by sedges, rushes and Chara. At maximum extent, the Barmishur marshes cover c.150 ha and Ab-e Paravan 250 ha. Water level varies widely with rainfall, and in prolonged droughts the entire lake dries out except for the pools at Barmishur and Ab-e Paravan. The lake shores support salt-tolerant plant communities dominated by Tamarix, Suaeda and Salicornia. The lake is bounded by limestone hills to the north and dry steppe to east and south. Land to the west (towards Shiraz) is largely under irrigated cultivation for rice, wheat, barley, melons, cotton and sugar beet. The lake is used for salt production and there are numerous large salt pans, particularly in the eastern portion. There is some livestock grazing and reed-cutting in the Barmishur and Ab-e Paravan marshes.

Key biodiversity
See boxes for key species. Lake Maharlu is important for a wide variety of resident and migratory waterfowl, notably surface-feeding ducks, geese, flamingos, cranes and some shorebirds. Other breeding species include Porzana pusilla, Himantopus himantopus, Vanellus leucurus and Sterna albifrons. Wintering waterfowl have included especially Pelecanus onocrotalus, Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, Anas crecca, M. angustirostris, Grus grus, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta and Vanellus leucurus. In good numbers on passage are Phoenicopterus ruber, T. ferruginea and A. crecca, and several Aquila clanga winter.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
There is no legal protection. Pollution is reported to be a problem. The Soltanabad Marshes, c.15 km west of Lake Maharlu, formerly covered c.700 ha and provided important feeding habitat for wintering wildfowl which used Lake Maharlu as a day roost. The marshes also supported a small breeding population of Marmaronetta angustirostris. However, these marshes were completely drained for agricultural purposes in the 1980s. No conservation measures are known to have been proposed.

Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Maharlu. Downloaded from on 08/08/2022.