Lake Bakhtegan, Lake Tashk and Kamjan marshes

Country/territory: Iran, Islamic Republic of

IBA criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2 (1994)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 338,000 ha

IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
1994 not assessed high not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (1994 baseline)
The site lies in the eastern Zagros Mountains, 50-160 km east of Shiraz, and includes two very large salt-lakes, Tashk and Bakhtegan, in an internal drainage basin at 1,525 m, the intervening steppic plains and hills (to 2,597 m), and a large area of permanent freshwater marshes and seasonally flooded plains along the lower Kur river to the west (Kamjan Marshes). Lake Tashk is fed by overflow from the Kamjan Marshes at its west end and by a large permanent spring at Gumoon in the north-west. Lake Bakhtegan receives the bulk of its water from the main channel of the Kur which enters at the west. The two lakes are normally separated by narrow strips of land but may be joined during very wet winters to form a single expanse of water covering up to 136,500 ha. After several years of low rainfall, on the other hand, both lakes may dry out completely except in the vicinity of the main springs (e.g. Gumoon Spring at the north-west corner of Lake Tashk and Sahlabad Spring on the south shore of Lake Bakhtegan). Both lakes have an extraordinary range of salinities. In January 1992, the lakes were almost fully flooded, following several years of above-average rainfall. The lakes are oligotrophic and support a submerged vegetation of various algae, Chara, Ruppia and Althenia. Fringing vegetation consists of Tamarix, Suaeda, Cressa and Salicornia, and the area between the lakes comprises sparsely vegetated mountain ranges with some Pistacia woodland and steppic Artemisia plains.

Kamjan Marshes (29°40'N 53°05'E) formerly comprised c.10,000 ha of permanent and seasonal freshwater marshes, mainly reedbeds. Drainage of the wetland for rice farming began in 1967, and much has now been converted to agriculture. However, although the marshes have been extensively modified by the drainage canals, 5,250 ha of wetland remains, including expanses of wet mudflats, Phragmites and other emergent aquatic vegetation along canals, and large areas of rice fields. Furthermore, a large portion of the reclaimed land remains uncultivated because of a shortage of water for irrigation and because of the high salt content of the soils. Some irrigation canals are already silting up, and parts of the drained land are reverting to marsh. In addition, new marshes have developed at the mouths of the three main drainage canals where they enter the western ends of Lake Tashk and Lake Bakhtegan. The marshes are dominated by Carex, Phragmites, Chenopodiaceae and grasses. Livestock are grazed in the marshes and around the lake margins.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. The hills and plains support a breeding bird fauna typical of the semi-arid eastern Zagros, while Lake Tashk and Lake Bakhtegan regularly hold huge numbers of waterfowl in winter (e.g. 120,000-140,000 surface-feeding ducks and 50,000 Phoenicopterus ruber in January 1992). The large wintering population of P. ruber apparently constitutes the bulk of the Lake Uromiyeh breeding population. Several Aquila clanga are present in winter. A wide variety of waterfowl occur on migration, and several species breed, including Marmaronetta angustirostris. Pelecanus onocrotalus occasionally appears in large flocks, and is known to have bred in the 1960s.

Despite the changes which have occurred at Kamjan Marshes, the area continues to provide ideal feeding habitat for a variety of waterfowl, notably Ciconia ciconia, Plegadis falcinellus and Limosa limosa. These marshes also constitute an important feeding area for large numbers of ducks which roost by day on Lake Bakhtegan and Lake Tashk.

Other notable landbirds include Apus affinis, Melanocorypha bimaculata, Anthus similis, Phoenicurus erythronotus, Sylvia nana, Lanius isabellinus, Rhodopechys githaginea and R. obsoleta. At least 220 species have been recorded in the Bakhtegan Wildlife Refuge, which comprises almost the whole of the site except for Kamjan Marshes.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V), Ursus arctos (rare), Caracal caracal (rare), Panthera pardus (rare), Gazella subgutturosa (rare), Capra hircus aegagrus (rare) and Ovis ammon (rare).

Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Lake Bakhtegan, Lake Tashk and Kamjan marshes. Downloaded from on 01/10/2023.