Lake Abe wetland system

Country/territory: Ethiopia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4iii (1996)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 44,000 ha

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description
The Awash river ends in a chain of saline lakes of which the largest are Gamari, Afambo, Bario and Abe. These all lie to the east of Asaita, the regional capital. Lake Afambo is about 30 km east of Asaita, and Lake Abe is on the eastern border with Djibouti, 600 km north-east of Addis Ababa. On the ground it is difficult to distinguish Lake Abe from Lake Afambo. Lake Abe comprises 34,000 ha of open water and 11,000 ha of the surrounding saltflats that can extend for 10 km from the edge of the water. Records give a maximum depth of 37 m (mean 8.6 m). However, the water-level is gradually dropping due to droughts and abstraction of water upstream. The Awash enters Lakes Abe and Afambo on their north-western shores and is the only source of fresh water for these lakes. Very little is known of the vegetation except that the surrounding shrubs and bushes are all highly salt-tolerant.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. Only a small percentage of the site has been properly surveyed, but good numbers of many congregatory wetland species are known to use the area, including Dendrocygna viduata, Pelecanus onocrotalus, Ardeola ralloides, Bubulcus ibis, Egretta garzetta and Leptoptilos crumeniferus. The site is also an important staging point on the migration route to and from the Arabian peninsula, and thus is used by many Palearctic species both in spring and autumn. Such species include Acrocephalus griseldis, although its current status at the site is unknown. This area is known to support populations of a number of the Somali–Masai biome species

Non-bird biodiversity: Gazella spekei (VU), Gazella dorcas (VU) and Dorcatragus megalotis (VU) all occur in the Lakes Abe and Afambo area.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Abe wetland system. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023.