Gavekhoni lake is a large (c.13,000 ha), shallow, saline lake in an enclosed drainage basin at 1,470 m on the western edge of the deserts of Iran's Central Plateau, c.40-100 km east-south-east of the city of Isfahan. The lake is fed almost entirely by the Zaindeh Rud, a large river rising in the Zagros. Flooding occurs in winter and spring, but the extent varies widely and the lake is often almost completely dry by the end of summer. There are Phragmites marshes with some Tamarix scrub at the mouth of the river, but the lake is otherwise largely devoid of vegetation except algae; plant growth elsewhere around the lake is very sparse and halophytic. The marshes of the lower Zaindeh Rud, fed by flooding from the river itself and by several irrigation canals, comprise a c.60 km chain of freshwater marshes and flood-plain wetlands ending at Gavekhoni lake, covering c.30,000 ha or more. Very little natural marsh vegetation remains (now mainly Phragmites and Typha), the main flooding now occurring over degraded steppe and land under wheat and rice. The lake is relatively inaccessible and undisturbed, although there is some grazing, hunting and cutting of wood for fuel in the marshes at the river mouth. Land ownership is public.
See boxes for key species. An important wintering area for a variety of waterfowl, notably Phoenicopterus ruber (1,720 recorded), Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, T. tadorna, surface-feeding ducks and some shorebirds. Mid-winter waterfowl counts in the 1970s seldom exceeded 10,000 birds in total, but numbers have been much higher in recent years.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
There is no legal protection, though the whole area was designated a Ramsar Site in 1975. The principal threat is water-borne pollution from the city of Isfahan and other urban centres upstream along the Zaindeh Rud.
Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.