Sabkhat al-Fasl lagoons

Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
Evaporation lagoons on the south-west border of Jubail Industrial City. The site consists of a large sabkhah area surrounded by landfill and divided up by sand dams, fed by excess treated organic waste-water which produces a large biomass of microflora and -fauna. The water is very shallow (0-30 cm) and is influenced by wind, creating a tidal effect as wind direction changes. Rainwater is a secondary source of water; after heavy winter rains the water surface can be more than doubled, occasionally reaching 2,500 ha. Water is fed into the site only from October to May, and the lagoons can dry out from the end of July, but in years with good rains a water area of c.100-150 ha remains all summer. Three large concrete reservoirs (c.100 ha) are included in the site. These, and some parts of the edge of the sabkhah, are vegetated with reedbeds Phragmites and Tamarix scrub.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. Other breeding species include Phoenicopterus ruber (unsuccessful attempts) and Acrocephalus scirpaceus (suspected). Other wintering species include Phoenicopterus ruber (1,200) and more than 5,000 ducks, including Anas penelope, A. strepera, A. crecca, A. platyrhynchos, A. acuta and A. clypeata. The site is used by large numbers of waders on passage (see box), including Calidris alba (657, April-May) and Tringa stagnatilis (184, August-October), and Falco peregrinus is a regular passage migrant (max. seasonal total 20) and winter visitor (daily max. 1-3).

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
In the planning of Jubail Industrial City this area was mapped as a permanent buffer zone between the industrial and urban zones, and was included in the NCWCD System Plan for Protected Areas as part of a larger coastal reserve. At present it is a core area in the proposed Natural Reserve of Dawhat ad-Dafi and Dawhat al-Musallamiyah: the site had great value as a refuge for small waders (Charadrius and Calidris) after the oil pollution of adjacent intertidal areas during the 1991 Gulf War oil spills, and it is well placed for utilization in educational projects on the importance of the Gulf for waterfowl and on the importance of man-made wetlands. Declaration and establishment of the reserve are proceeding. As a man-made site the lagoons may be only temporary and are threatened by changes to their water supply. The effluent of the water treatment plant is normally used to irrigate urban plantations, and only the excess is fed into the site for evaporation, but the continuing expansion of Jubail city may mean that no excess water is available in the near future. Deliberate persecution of birds and falcon-trapping occur regularly.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sabkhat al-Fasl lagoons. Downloaded from on 26/01/2021.