Lake Qarun occupies the deepest part of the Fayoum Depression, located some 220 km south of the Mediterranean. In 1992, the elevation of the lake surface was 43.5 m below sea-level and mean water depth was 4.2 m. The lake is bordered by agricultural land to the south and desert to the north. There are several lagoons and bays along the southern and northern shores of the lake, some of which hold mud- or saltflats of various sizes. El Qarn, the only sizeable island in the lake, covers almost 2 km². Formerly, Qarun was a much larger freshwater lake, with dense marsh vegetation along its shores. The main source of water for the lake is drainage from irrigated land, which it receives through two major drains: El Batts and El Wadi. With the intensification of cultivation and irrigation since the early part of this century, the salt load of the water reaching Qarun has increased significantly. As the only outflow for the water is evaporation, salinity is continually increasing. Today, Lake Qarun is slightly more saline than seawater (about 40 g/l) and salinity increases at the rate of 0.5 g/l annually (Euroconsult 1992b). The highest salinity is recorded in the west and north of the lake, while swamp and marsh vegetation is now restricted to the vicinity of drain outlets, on the eastern and southern shores of the lake. Nilotic aquatic fauna has mostly disappeared, being replaced by many marine species that have been introduced from the Mediterranean to restock the ecologically modified lake. Between 1980 and 1990, Lake Qarun produced an average of 956 tonnes of fish and shrimps annually, of which 40% was Tilapia sp. and 36% shrimps.
See Box for key species. Lake Qarun holds large numbers of waterfowl in winter, e.g. 32,665 were present in the winter of 1989/90. Grebes are particularly abundant, and there are also large numbers of Anas crecca, Aythya fuligula and Fulica atra. At least 10 species of waterbird are known to breed, the most prominent of which are Bubulcus ibis, Vanellus spinosus, Charadrius alexandrinus, Sterna albifrons and Larus genei. The last species started breeding at Lake Qarun in the early 1990s, and in summer 1998 an estimated 1,000 pairs nested on El Qarn island.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Qarun Protected Area. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/10/2020.