Mountainous, rocky, sparsely vegetated desert (up to 800 m), with cliffs, gorges and deep wadis cutting through plateaus. Perennial, spring-fed streams flow down wadis to the shores of the hypersaline Dead Sea at 400 m below sea-level, and are lined with a narrow strip of Nerium scrub. Otherwise the slopes are very sparsely vegetated, with a steppe-type vegetation on plateaus. Groundwater seepage occurs rarely on rocky ground near the Dead Sea shore, especially at the hot springs of Zara, which support a luxuriant thicket of Acacia, Tamarix, Phoenix and Nerium, and a small marsh. The less-steep slopes of the higher elevations are mainly used as rangeland by pastoralists (for sheep/goats). The hot springs at Zarqa Ma'in (outside the site) are heavily used for tourism/recreation. The military have a temporary camp in the south of the reserve. Wadi Wala, upstream of Wadi Hidan and outside the reserve, is now a major water-extraction source for Amman.
See box for key species. A rich breeding bird assemblage of unusually mixed biogeographical origins. At least nine raptors breed, including Circaetus gallicus, Buteo rufinus, Hieraaetus fasciatus and Falco pelegrinoides, and other proven or probable breeding species include Alectoris chukar, Charadrius alexandrinus, Vanellus spinosus, Apus affinis, Halcyon smyrnensis, Coracias garrulus, Melanocorypha calandra, Cercomela melanura, Oenanthe lugens, Corvus rhipidurus, Petronia petronia, Rhodopechys obsoleta, R. githaginea and Emberiza striolata. There is a strong raptor migration in April, especially of Accipiter brevipes (see below), Buteo buteo (175), and Falco tinnunculus (50). Emberiza caesia occurs on passage (15, April) and Lullula arborea is a winter visitor in small numbers (max. 12). Ciconia ciconia is said to favour the shores of the Dead Sea for resting while on autumn passage.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V), Capra nubiana (I) and Gazella gazella (V); Caracal caracal (rare) and Panthera pardus (rare) are reputed to occur. Flora: Himantoglossum affine (rare).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Wadi Mujib Wildlife Reserve was established in 1987. Capra nubiana is being bred in an enclosure for re-introduction. Ongoing construction of a major highway along the Dead Sea shore is greatly increasing public access to this formerly remote area. Much of the steppe vegetation on higher plateaus has been destroyed by ploughing and overgrazing. Current problems are few in the rocky desert, but the vegetation at Zara is suffering heavily from burning, grazing and conversion to cultivation. The flow of water in Wadi Hidan, within the reserve, is potentially threatened by the planned damming of Wadi Wala (i.e. the upper reaches of Wadi Hidan, east of and outside the reserve).
Data-sheet compiled by Ian J. Andrews.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Wadi Mujib. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 24/01/2022.