The lake lies on the coastal plain of the Caspian Sea, c.12 km north of Langarud, fed by springs and local run-off; at high water levels, it drains north through a small stream into the Caspian. It is a rather deep, permanent, freshwater lake with rich growth of floating and submergent vegetation, extensive beds of Typha and Phragmites and some Salix thickets. The open areas of the lake support abundant submerged and floating vegetation including Nelumbium, Lemna, Potamogeton, Hydrilla, Myriophyllum and Ceratophyllum. Surrounding areas are largely cultivated with rice. The lake is important for duck hunting and provides water for irrigation. Land ownership is public.
See box for key species. A very important wintering area for diving ducks, notably Netta rufina, and for Fulica atra and Phalacrocorax pygmeus. Up to 20 Circus aeruginosus are present in winter. Rallus aquaticus and Carduelis spinus also winter. A pair of Haliaeetus albicilla nested close to the lake in the 1970s and may still do so. At least 101 species have been recorded in the reserve.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The lake and marshes were designated a Protected Region in 1970 and upgraded to Wildlife Refuge (1,230 ha) in 1971. This area was designated a Ramsar Site in 1975. Prior to its designation as a Wildlife Refuge, the lake had been an important waterfowl hunting area for local villagers, who employed a traditional clap-netting technique to trap ducks and coots for the market. During the revolution, local villagers burned down the Department of the Environment's Game Guard Station and Watch Tower, and re-assumed control of the lake. Duck-trapping has re-commenced, and it is reported that there are currently c.60 teams of netters operating at the lake. Thus, although Amirkelayeh Lake remains a Wildlife Refuge and Ramsar Site on paper, it is no longer under the control of the Department of the Environment. However, it appears that the ecological character of the site has remained unchanged. The lake is sufficiently high above the level of the Caspian Sea to have have been unaffected by the recent rise in sea-level.
The Department of the Environment should seek to re-establish its authority at the site. The best solution might be for the Department to downgrade the reserve to Protected Area, thereby allowing hunting to take place, and to enter into a management agreement with the local people whereby they are permitted to continue their hunting activities on a rational basis.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Amirkelayeh lake. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/02/2020.