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An area of steppe-desert around Tadmur in the centre of Syria, 150 km east of Homs, in a closed basin (c.70 × 35 km), surrounded by limestone and marl hills. There is an isolated oasis to the south of the town with extensive date-palm gardens, and Sabkhat Muh, a seasonally flooded salt-lake up to c.20 km long, lies to the south of the oasis. There are some scattered Tamarix trees around its fringe, and the steppe-desert surrounds are sparsely vegetated with perennial tussock-grass, Chenopodiaceae and Artemisia. The T-3 pumping station (34°31'N 38°45'E), 40 km east of Tadmur on the Iraq–Lebanon oil pipeline, is a small, man-made oasis with a plantation of mature Eucalyptus (c.2 ha), a garden and a sewage pond (c.0.5 ha). The main land-use is grazing livestock. The area is famous for its Roman ruins.
This is the last remaining breeding site for the eastern population of the Northern Bald Ibis. A representative assemblage of characteristic desert species occurs, with added interest due to the isolated oasis, surrounding hills and seasonal wetland. See box for key species. Other probable or confirmed breeding species include Buteo rufinus, Aquila chrysaetos, Cursorius cursor, Charadrius leschenaultii, Pterocles alchata, Bubo bubo, Athene noctua, Ammomanes deserti, Alaemon alaudipes, Eremophila bilopha, Oenanthe deserti, O. lugens, Pycnonotus leucotis (c.450 km west of its main range in Iraq) and Corvus corax. The oasis at Tadmur provides the only substantial shelter for migrant birds for 150 km to the north and west and for much further to south and east, and a very wide variety of species are attracted; the oasis is especially important for migrating raptors, e.g. Pernis apivorus, Buteo buteo (roost of 1,500, April), Milvus migrans (roost of 87, April), Circus macrourus and C. pygargus. Wintering species at the salt-lake include Phoenicopterus ruber (90, November) and Grus grus.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V; probably occurs), Caracal caracal (rare) and Gazella subgutturosa (rare). A few individuals of Sand Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa marica) are still striving to survive within a rugged section of the protected area. This is most likely one of the two last sites in Syria where this animal, iconic for the Arabic culture, can still be found. In addition of being almost completely extinct in the region, Sand Gazelle is listed as a Vulnerable species globally.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Tadmur desert and mountains. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/10/2020.