A 40-km strip of land c.2 km wide on the west (Iranian) bank of the Hari Rud river up to the point where it leaves Iranian territory c.10 km north of the town of Sarrakhs. The river meanders down a wide valley in gently undulating sandy steppe at the southern edge of the Kara Kum desert, one of only two places in north-east Iran where the border with Turkmenistan extends down from the hills to incorporate a section of these plains. The river floods in winter and spring, but by late summer surface water may be reduced to a series of large pools in the deepest parts of the bed. A group of fishponds has recently been constructed near Sarrakhs and provides permanent wetland habitat. There are extensive riverine thickets along the Turkmenistan bank, but only one small patch of Salix and Tamarix woodland (c.4 ha) remains on the Iranian side, c.26 km south of Sarrakhs. There are patches of Phragmites along the river, sandy plains with steppic vegetation in the south, and irrigated cultivation (mainly wheat) and Populus groves around Sarrakhs in the north. Other plants include Euphorbia charolepsis and Heliotropum khorasanecum. There is public land ownership.
See box for key species. The riverine thickets along the Hari Rud are the only known locality for Phasianus colchicus principalis in Iran, and one of only two localities for Parus bokharensis. This is also the best area in Iran for Columba eversmanni: up to 100 have been observed in September and the species probably breeds. There is a breeding colony of Falco naumanni (at least 20 pairs) in sandy cliffs in the south of the area. Other notable species include Cursorius cursor, Glareola pratincola, Alauda gulgula, Saxicola caprata, Acrocephalus stentoreus, Hippolais rama, Emberiza bruniceps and Rhodopechys obsoleta. Lanius vittatus and Sturnus roseus have been observed in summer, and may breed. Phylloscopus trochiloides nitidus has been recorded on autumn passage. Small numbers of ducks have been recorded at the fishponds near Sarrakhs.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
There is no legal protection and no conservation measures are known to have been proposed. Only one small patch of forest remained by the mid-1970s, and this, if it still exists, is threatened by cutting for timber and fuelwood.
Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Hari Rud valley near Sarrakhs. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 20/08/2022.