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Mapping Out a Path to Protecting Iran's Endangered Species

Mapping Out a Path to Protecting Iran's Endangered Species

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Iran is home to an array of wildlife, including endangered species such as the Asiatic cheetah, Asian black bear, Persian leopard and fallow deer. Conservationists are working hard to safeguard these creatures as well as other rare and endemic ones like Caspian jawbone and short-snouted crocodile.

However, Iran's rapidly increasing human population is placing undue stress on these protected areas and their resources. To mitigate this impact, Iran's conservation agencies need to create effective land-use plans and collaborate with local communities.

Tandoureh National Park

Iran boasts several national parks and protected areas that encompass diverse ecosystems and provide visitors with breathtaking views of wildlife. While some are more famous than others, all are essential in conserving Iran's wildlands and their endangered species.

Touran National Park is one of Iran's most breathtaking landscapes, often referred to as "the little Africa." Here you can spot Asiatic cheetahs and Persian onagers (two critically endangered species worldwide), plus you have ample chances to spot the elusive leopard - the largest species of its kind in the wild.

This national park, situated in the northernmost region of China, covers an area of over 90,000 hectares. It boasts a diverse landscape composed of forests, mountains and steppe.

This national park is home to several species that are critically endangered worldwide, such as the Arabian tahr and Blanford's fox. Through a series of conservation projects, efforts are being made to protect and restore habitat, potentially saving these two rare species from extinction.

Threats to this species have been identified, such as poaching and illegal grazing. Wildlife rangers are working together with local herders and hunters to combat these issues in order to guarantee its continued existence.

The markhor is protected under CITES, an international agreement between governments that regulates trade in plants and animals. This agreement works to guarantee that trade does not pose a threat to endangered or threatened species' existence.

Though the markhor is protected under CITES, its population outside the Torghar Hills remains at risk of extinction. This is due to increasing pressure from domestic livestock herds and biannual migrations by local tribes. With population levels outside these hills at critical low points and likely to remain so for some time into the future, extinction seems likely.

To effectively manage the markhor in Torghar Hills and its habitat, we have implemented a series of conservation measures that include eliminating poaching, creating management policies, monitoring data, reporting issues and providing economic incentives to local communities. Through these efforts, both the markhor and its habitat have now been secured.

Caspian Sea

The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water. It borders five countries - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran - and supports some of the planet's most endangered species, such as seals and seven sturgeon species.

The Caspian Sea's abundant flora and fauna make it a special ecosystem, yet its biodiversity is under threat due to climate changes, pollution from resource extraction practices and overfishing. Furthermore, the Caspian Sea hosts many invasive species which pose risks to native fisheries and wildlife populations.

Azerbaijan has been a driving force in safeguarding the Caspian Sea's environmental health. The country took initiative in protecting its ecosystem, with Ghizilagaj National Park becoming the world's first marine protected area in September 2018.

Unfortunately, protecting the sea often comes at a price. The area around Antarctica is one of the world's oil-rich areas with over 50 billion barrels of crude and 300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.

Additionally, Kazakhstan is home to 73 endemic and 115 indigenous species, such as sturgeon, beluga sturgeon, Caspian sea turtle and more.

Unfortunately, the Caspian Sea is being exploited at an alarmingly rapid rate. Cash-strapped newly independent governments in the region are plundering, draining, drilling and dumping waste to line their pockets while neglecting to care for the marine environment around them.

These problems, compounded by the Caspian Sea's fluctuating level, are leading to a decrease in its biodiversity. To address these concerns, an international collaborative approach is necessary at the highest level.

It is critical that all riparian countries collaborate to safeguard the ocean's health and conserve its resources. Without cooperation, these invaluable assets could be lost forever.

The Caspian Sea is a major source of energy for the five riparian states and an attractive destination for international tourism and sturgeon aquaculture. By protecting its biodiversity, these industries can remain sustainable and profitable in the long term.

Ashk Island

University of Wageningen conservation experts are devising a strategy to safeguard Iran's endangered species. They'll collaborate with local communities at Ashk Island of Lake Urmia's GEF/SGP community conserved turtle site.

This project is part of a global initiative to reverse the decline of endangered species such as Hawksbill Turtles and Persian Fallow Deer. These protected animals are at risk from both human and natural factors like fishing nets or predators like foxes.

Dr. Farshad Eskandari, a biodiversity expert and researcher at the Hormod Sustainable Development Institute in Iran, is leading this research effort.

He plans to continue working on this project for another two years. His ultimate goal is to reintroduce fallow deer back into their original habitat and boost their population.

He stressed the need to first eliminate any factors responsible for deer extinction, such as drying up of Lake Urmia. They must also eliminate carnivorous animals which prey upon deer to ensure a sustainable future.

Furthermore, the team must reduce invasive species on the island that could negatively impact terrestrial ecosystems. This includes eliminating Masked Owls - which have been detected since 2016).

Finally, they need to prevent the spread of plant pathogen myrtle rust on the island. This could have an adverse effect on birds and other species living there, according to him.

For Lake Urmia to be revived, the clergy must focus on drastically reducing water consumption and waste as well as installing efficient irrigation systems. Not only will this benefit the flora and fauna around the lake but it will also support regional agriculture and agri-businesses.

Lake Urmia

Lake Urmia is a salty lake that covers an area of 5,000 to 6,000 square kilometers in northwestern Iran. Its evaporation makes it one of the world's largest hypersaline lakes and serves as a stopover for many migratory birds. With salt content ranging from eight to 28 percent, it's one-fourth as salty as Jordan's Dead Sea.

Since 1976, this picturesque salt pond has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Unfortunately, its size is decreasing steadily; only about one-third of its original extent remains.

Scientists attribute the shrinking lake to climate change, which is increasing drought and water scarcity in the region. But other factors also play a role, such as agricultural development and dam construction.

Iranian researchers have now endeavored to devise a plan for saving Lake Urmia and the aquatic life that depends on it. By assessing different future scenarios related to climate change and water management, they were able to estimate how much flow would be necessary in order to preserve the lake.

They discovered that the amount of flow needed to sustain the lake varied based on both human and natural factors. Shadkam's team quantified how much flow would be necessary in low and high climate change scenarios as well as under various water management plans in order to preserve the lake.

Researchers then compared those flows to environmental flow requirements. Under a low scenario, they estimated that the area needs approximately one-quarter as much water as it currently uses; under a high scenario, however, two-thirds more would be necessary.

These results are crucial for future planning, as the water crisis in the Urmia basin will only worsen without changes to management practices. Furthermore, they serve as a reminder that international efforts must be made to address water concerns so no country loses its most precious resource.

Researchers believe that if Iran and other countries around the world can reduce their water consumption, they'll be able to preserve Lake Erie. But in order to do this, governments from around the globe must lend a helping hand.

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