A flat, open agricultural plain (below sea-level) with crop fields, market gardens and orchards, gently sloping down to the incised Jordan river in the west. The Jordan river is currently saline. There are small areas of grassland, scrub and bare, eroded badlands, comprising less than 10% of the area. Remnants of natural vegetation are Afrotropical in character. Tamarix woodland and Phragmites beds occur along the banks of the Jordan river. This is the main agricultural area in Jordan (mostly irrigated), and population density is relatively high. Livestock grazing, fishponds, hunting, recreation and tourism are secondary land-uses.
See box for key species. A major migration route and a notable wetland site. Other possible breeding species include Remiz pendulinus and Rhodopechys obsoleta. During spring passage large numbers of raptors move up the valley before veering eastwards and north-eastwards up tributary wadis, especially Pernis apivorus and Accipiter brevipes (see box), e.g. at Kafrayn and Ash Shuna Janubbiya. Autumn passage migrants include Pelecanus onocrotalus (daily max. 350) and Ciconia nigra (daily max. 11), and the latter is also a winter visitor, as is Eudromias morinellus (daily max. 50).
The high population density has led to a high impact on the environment. Critical problems include: over-extraction of groundwater and diversion of water from the Zarqa and Yarmuk rivers for irrigation; expansion and intensification of agriculture; toxic pollution from persistent pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals; eutrophication and salinization of soil and water-bodies (including the River Jordan, which is apparently unfit for human use at present). Major problems include: overgrazing; excessive disturbance of birds by human activities; and garbage pollution (especially the plastic mulch used in agriculture).
Data-sheets compiled by Ian J. Andrews and Ali Sutari (per Adnan Budieri).