Gharraf River

Site description (1994 baseline):

Site location and context
A series of small ponds and seasonal wetlands along the 125+ km of the Shatt Al Gharraf waterway between Kut and Shatra, from 32°30'N 45°50'E to 31°25'N 46°10'E. 2014 updates. Now, the majority of these ponds have been turned into agricultural farms and orchards, and very few of them remain on either side of the main motorway between Kut and Shatra. The geology of the area is Mesopotamian alluvium, mainly silts. Four sub-sites were visited at various times during the survey effort

Key biodiversity
The area has only received one documented survey in recent years, in January 1979 (Scott and Carp 1982).

Non-bird biodiversity: No information available to BirdLife International.

2014 updates. Additional Important Bird Observations: During the surveys, 34 bird species were observed. In addition to those listed in the table, Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca and Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (both Vulnerable) were found wintering, as were two Near Threatened species, Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus and Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa (passage and winter), all in sub-IBA threshold numbers. The site also held breeding populations of five Sahara-Sindian Desert biome-restricted species but these did not trigger inclusion under criterion A3. The Iraqi race of Little Grebe Tachibaptus ruficollis iraquensis and Iraqi race of Hooded Crow, Corvus cornix capellanus (Mesopotamian Crow) were found breeding. Other Important Fauna: The main stem of the river and its branches provide good habitat for the Endangered Rafetus euphraticus where it resides and breeds. Being a permanent water body, this area might have served as a refuge for the Vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata during the droughts in other areas of the southern marshes. Some mammal species were found or reported frequently by the locals and hunters during the KBA surveys, such as Golden Jackal Canis aureus and Jungle/Wild Cat Felis chaus/silvestris. Fish: Sixteen species were recorded. Significant species, according to Coad (2010), were: Leuciscus vorax, Carasobarbus luteus, Carassius auratus, Ctenopharyngodon idella, Cyprinus carpio, Heteropneustes fossilis, Liza abu, Luciobarbus xanthopterus, Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi, Tor grypus and Silurus triostegus. The conservation status of two species, Mastacembelus mastacembelus and Mystus pelusius, is unknown in Iraq. Ablennes hians, Eleutheronema tetradactylum, and Nemipterus bleekeri were observed marine fish species

Habitat and land use
2014 updates. The trunk of the Gharraf River that branched from the Kut regulator consists of some ‘unused’ strips that still include good shelter (mainly reed beds) for birds and mammals, while the river itself contains considerable diversity of fish and other water-related flora and fauna. Habitats at the site include the submerged vegetation of the river itself; floating vegetation and emergent marsh vegetation such as Phragmites australis and Typha domingensis along the margins; also riparian vegetation and lastly shrub woodlands with species such as Capparis spinosa, Tamrix sp., Suaeda sp, and Prosopis farcta.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
No conservation measures are known to have been taken. There is no information on the current status of the site, but the ‘Third River’ canal passes through this area and may pose a threat through facilitating the expansion of irrigated cultivation and attendant drainage schemes. No conservation measures are known to have been proposed. 2014 updates. Two kinds of threats were ranked very high: agricultural expansion, specifically the dense, continuous agricultural activities along both sides of the river, and disturbance caused by the various human activities. Five threats were rated high: residential and commercial development, due to the continuous housing and urban expansion into natural areas; road construction; over-exploitation of species through hunting and fishing; and natural systems modification caused by water management in the area, mainly for agricultural activities and pollution.

Information compiled by Dr D. A. Scott and D. J. Brooks, reviewed by Dr Khalid Y. Al-Dabbagh and Dr Hanna Y. Siman.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Gharraf River. Downloaded from on 09/12/2023.