As a reminder, in the previous article we became familiarized with the city of Urmia, the capital of West Azarbaijan Province. We also mentioned that this city is located near a lake under the same name.
The Urmia Lake is the second largest saline lake in the world, and is considered as one of the main tourist attraction sites of the city of Urmia. Given the importance of this lake, we have allocated this article to its introduction. Excerpt of this article is as follows:
Urmia Lake is situated in northwestern Iran and is the largest domestic lake in Iran. It covers an area of almost 5700 sq km, and is 120 to 140 kilometers in length, and 15 to 50 kilometers in width. This lake is situated 1267 meters above the sea level. Its maximum depth is 15 meters and its average depth stands at 5 meters. Given the appropriate nature of this lake, it is the permanent and temporary habitat of rare bird species, while its coastlines and islands maintain a scenic and beautiful nature. The Urmia Lake is also considered as one of the largest reservoirs of minerals worldwide, and contains nearly 8 billion cubic meters of different types of salt.
There are more than a hundred large and small islands within this lake, including the Islands of Islami, Kaboudaan, Ashk, and Aarezou.
The main segment of Urmia Lake’s water originates from the rivers of the neighboring altitudes. These rivers include: Talkh-e Roud, Zarineh Roud, Simineh Roud, Mahabad Roud, and Nazlou Chai Rivers.
The reason behind the saltiness of the water of Urmia Lake is the presence of salts in the northern corner of the Lake and entry of numerous minerals to this lake via Talkh-e Roud River. The Lake’s water maintains a very high density. Throughout different regions and seasons, the level of minerals in this Lake varies and averages round 300 grams per liter.
The very high density of the water of this lake prevents the coverage of the lake’s surface with ice in the cold season. This especial feature leads immigrating aquatic birds to settle in this region throughout winter. Hence, despite the chilly winters, this region becomes the habitat of different bird species in the cold season.
Note that local and non-local swimmers, swim in Urmia Lake in summer season. The dissolved minerals in the water of this lake remedy rheumatism, skin diseases, and mental illnesses. Every summer, those interested in the remedial aspects of this lake’s water and dissolved minerals, rush to this lake’s coastlines and make use of this lake’s remedial features.
The saline nature of this lake’s water has prevented the existence and growth of fish and other aquatics in it. However, according to conducted studies, a type of small geo-plankton, named Artemia, lives in this lake. Its main food is a type of green algae. Artemia is a type of crustacean, with high nutritious value which lives in saline waters, and is popularly known as the gold of Urmia Lake because of its color.
Urmia Lake is home to almost a hundred small and large islands which are shaped in the form of rocks. These Islands are appropriate habitats for the growth of different animal species, and various types of plants. Given the diversity of wild life, and severalty of plant species that exist in Urmia Lake Islands, we will speak of the beautiful nature of Urmia National Park; in continuation of this program.
Islami Island is the biggest island of Urmia Lake, which at times transforms into a peninsula. In fact, it is the only residential island of this lake, covering nearly 25,000 hectares. This peninsula is home to numerous springs. A number of families reside in this Island who are engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. The residents of this Island provide their needed water from its numerous springs. Holagu Khan Castle is situated on the pinnacle of the highest mountain of this Island and is the tomb of Mongol kings. In 7th Century AH, Holagu, the founder of Ilkanid Dynasty, ordered the renovation of this castle. He kept the spoils and treasures, which he gained through looting Baghdad and other Islamic countries, in this castle. Based on a number of historical narrations, Holagu Khan was finally buried in this castle.
Kaboudaan Island is the largest non-residential Island of Urmia Lake, which covers an area of 3200 hectares and is the habitat of wild life. The highest altitude of this Island is 310 meters above the sea level. This Island is the habitat of rams, ewes, and even panthers. Its plant species are similar to those that cover southern altitudes of Alborz Mountain Range and eastern foothills of Zagros Mountain Range. In this region, almond trees, white cedar, and wild tomato bushes are observed. In the northern and western sides of this Island; the Islands of Arezou, and Espiro, respectively exist.
Ashk is a triangular island, which covers an area of nearly 2500 hectares. Its highest altitude is 1560 meters above the sea level. This Island maintains sweet water and is partly covered with meadows and forest trees. In winter season, sheep herds are brought to this Island from the city of Urmia for grazing. The existence of appropriate flora in this Island and sweet water springs, have provided good nutrition for different wild deer species, which live in this island. In other regions of this Island, the animals have been tamed and domesticated by mankind.
Meanwhile, Espiro Island is situated north of this Island and is shaped like a fish. It covers an area of 1250 hectares, while its highest altitude is almost 1500 meters above the sea level. There are no plants or trees in this island, and it is white in color because of existence of limestone in it. In the spring season, aquatic birds hatch their eggs in this Island.
In different seasons of the year, Urmia Lake turns into the biggest region for reproduction of a variety of bird species, which proves the value of this lake as the habitat of birds. Flamingos and pelicans flock together above Urmia Lake, creating a unique scene. Throughout fall and winter, Urmia Lake goes through major changes and becomes calm and peaceful over these seasons. In this period, birds immigrate to southern, warmer regions. But, this apparent calm does not last long and nearly immediately after the immigration of birds from Urmia Lake, the aquatic bird species arrive at the lake from colder northern region to spend winter in Urmia Lake. In this manner, this lake is the habitat to different bird species in all seasons. In addition to the Lake’s Islands, southern corners of the Island are covered with several sweet water marshlands, whose water originates from existing springs and rivers. These marshlands are host to another group of birds, including goose and duck species.
Unfortunately, in recent years, due to a fall in rainfall and a rise in temperature, the water of Urmia Lake has significantly decreased and given the importance of this lake in maintenance of the regional ecosystem, a number of plans have been implemented by the officials to increase the volume of water of this lake.