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Restoring the 'Garden of Eden'

While much of the world has focused on the war in Iraq, a group of wetland ecologists has been busy collecting data on the Mesopotamian marshes of southern Iraq. Formerly the largest wetland in Southwest Asia, the marshes are home to the native Ma'dan marsh dwellers, as well as numerous species of migrating waterfowl and game fish. Drainage of the wetlands as well as toxic contamination over the last twenty years devastated much of the marshlands. A mere 10 percent remain as viable wetlands.

After two years of study, Iraqi and other researchers will present their findings on the marshes' current state, as well as offer their perspectives on hopes for wetland restoration during a special session held during the Ecological Society of America's-INTECOL's Joint Meeting. This marks the first time Iraqi ecologists have been to a western ecology meeting. It is also the first comprehensive data set on the status of the marshes collected by Iraqi scientists.

Organized by Curtis Richardson (Duke University, USA) and Barry Warner (Wetlands Research Centre, Ontario, Canada), the session will cover the current ecological state of the marshes, including studies on fish, birds, plants, quality of water and soils, as well as the outlook for restoration success and the challenges of boundary issues with other countries such as Iran, Turkey, and Syria.

Among the suite of presentations:

  • Ali Farhan (Development Alternatives Inc., USA) will focus on the hydrology challenges of restoring the marshlands, which suffered severe damage during two decades of water diversion. Historically, the marshlands covered 15,000 - 20,000 square kilometers; presently only 10 percent remain as viable wetlands. Competing uses for the water flowing from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers makes restoration efforts very challenging. Irrigation, industrial, and hydropower demands all compete for the water which is vital to the marshlands. Farhan's presentatio
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Contact: Annie Drinkard
annie@esa.org
Ecological Society of America
9-Aug-2005


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5. Restoring the marshes of Eden

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