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Site description (1994 baseline)
The site comprises the Arjan Protected Area lying 40-80 km west of Shiraz and incorporating a wide spectrum of Zagros habitats from spectacular high peaks at over 3,000 m, through rolling uplands, and down through the Quercus forest zone to the Acacia woodlands and date gardens of Iran’s southern coastal zone. Two very important wetlands are included, Dasht-e Arjan (29°37'N 51°59'E) at 2,000 m and Lake Parishan (29°31'N 51°48'E) at 850 m, only c.15 km apart. The physiography of the region is of great interest. Oligo-miocene ('Asmari') limestones form spectacular escarpments, generally aligned as parallel ridges enclosing broad valleys with open Quercus brantii woodland. The lower slopes are partially covered with steppic forest of Amygdalus, Crataegus, Celtis, etc. In much of the area, the shrub-like tree Amygdalus erioclada is conspicuous.
Dasht-e Arjan is a shallow freshwater lake with extensive Phragmites and Typha. The lake lies in an enclosed basin and drains through swallow-holes at its south-east corner. It reaches c.2,200 ha after wet winters but may shrink to several hundred hectares in drought years. Most of the basin dries out in summer, but two large springs on the west side maintain some permanent marsh. Much of the wetland freezes in winter, and deep snow is not unusual. Good rainfall in recent years has considerably expanded the area covered by tall reeds. Much of the surrounding plain has been overgrazed.
Lake Parishan, fed by permanent springs and seasonal watercourses, lies in an enclosed drainage basin in a broad valley and is brackish to saline, the salinity varying widely with the size of the lake. At maximum extent (c.4,000 ha), the lake is almost fresh. During the early 1970s, water levels were low, the lake was brackish to saline, marsh vegetation was confined to the western and eastern ends near freshwater inflow, and there were large areas of bare saltflats in the south-west bay. In recent years, however, water has remained high and is now almost fresh, and there is very extensive Phragmites and Typha in many parts. Salt-tolerant vegetation (principally Chenopodiaceae) is predominant around the lake and large areas of grassland are now under wheat. There is some reed-cutting at both wetlands, and the Department of the Environment plans to establish a Guest House and Visitor Centre overlooking Lake Parishan. Land ownership is public.
See boxes for key species. The great range of habitats supports almost the full range of species typical of the montane steppe, Pistacia-Amygdalus forest, Quercus forest and wetland systems of the central and southern Zagros, as well as some species more typical of the Persian Gulf coastal lowlands. At least 263 species have been recorded in the reserve. The region is one of the best in the country for Hippolais languida.
Both Lake Parishan and Dasht-e Arjan are extremely important for a wide variety of wintering waterfowl and also for breeding waterfowl (notably Pelecanus crispus and Oxyura leucocephala), especially in wet years. The numbers of ducks and Fulica atra at Lake Parishan in recent years have been well below the numbers in the 1970s (an average of 25,000 ducks and 120,000 F. atra in the four winters 1972/73-1975/76). This decline may be due to the greatly increased disturbance from fishermen in high-speed motor boats. Numbers of Oxyura leucocephala also appear to have fallen, with a maximum of 25 in recent years compared with as many as 90 in the 1970s. However, improved agriculture to the south of the lake now provides better feeding habitat for Anser anser and Grus grus, and numbers of both have recently been much higher than in the 1970s. There are high winter counts of Circus aeruginosus (up to 40) and Aquila clanga (up to five). The extensive reedbeds now support large colonies of herons, egrets, Plegadis falcinellus and Platalea leucorodia, and the small resident population of Pelecanus crispus has shown a slight increase. Porphyrio porphyrio colonized the area in the 1980s and is now common.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V), Ursus arctos (rare), Caracal caracal (rare), Panthera pardus (rare), Gazella subgutturosa (rare), Capra hircus aegagrus (rare) and Ovis ammon (rare). Panthera leo persica is known to have survived until c.1940.
Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Arjan Protected Area. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/arjan-protected-area-iba-iran-islamic-republic-of on 29/02/2024.