Khouran Straits

Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
The Khouran Straits lie in the southern Persian Gulf between the region of the Mehran and Kul/Rasul (Gol) deltas and the island of Gheshm (110 km from east to west and up to 20 km across). Within the straits, there are c.100,000 ha of low-lying islands, mangrove, mudflats and creeks which constitute much the largest of the mangrove/mudflat ecosystems in Iran. The mangrove forests reach their greatest development around a group of low-lying muddy islands in a large bay on the north shore of Gheshm Island, but there are also significant stands along the outer margins of the Mehran delta. In these areas and in the Kul/Rasul delta to the east, there are vast intertidal mudflats. Elsewhere along the Gheshm and mainland coasts, the shoreline consists of wide sandy beaches and sandflats. The mangrove forests are monospecific stands of Avicennia marina, here at the north-west limit of its distribution. Red and brown algae (Rhodophyceae, Phaeophyceae) are the other dominant vegetation in the shallow coastal waters. The adjacent coastal plains are mainly barren sandflats with scattered Acacia, Prosopis and other thorn trees. A few small settlements are scattered along the shore, with some small date gardens. Fishing (commercial and subsistence) is an important activity. Land ownership is public.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. The mangrove supports substantial breeding populations of egrets and herons as well as some shorebirds (notably Dromas ardeola and Burhinus recurvirostris) and terns. Ardea goliath has its only confirmed breeding site in Iran here, and there is a small colony of Casmerodius albus modestus (South Asian race), which probably reaches its western limit in this region. The site holds Iran's largest colony of Ardeola grayii (at least 30 pairs), and Butorides striatus may breed. The extensive mudflats are an extremely important staging and wintering area for shorebirds and gulls, along with smaller numbers of Pelecanus crispus, Platalea leucorodia, Phoenicopterus ruber and many other species. The adjacent desertic plains with scattered thorn trees and date gardens support a typical Baluchi avifauna with several primarily Indo-Malayan species. At least 93 species have been recorded in the reserve.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The main area of mangrove and mudflat (82,360 ha) was designated a Protected Region in 1972. This was later increased to 85,686 ha and upgraded to National Park (Hara National Park), but downgraded to Protected Area in the 1980s. The entire area of mangrove, mudflats and creeks in the Khouran Straits (100,000 ha) was designated a Ramsar Site in 1975, and the reserve (85,686 ha) was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1976. Some illegal cutting of mangrove for fuel and grazing by domestic livestock has been reported. The easternmost part of the site is not included within any legally protected area, and has been subject to logging of mangrove for charcoal production. A part of the area is at risk from the proposed development of a free port and tourist facilities on Gheshm. There may be some pollution from the nearby port of Bandar Abbas, and oil pollution is possible.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Khouran Straits. Downloaded from on 26/01/2022.