The restoration status of the biota in marshes in southern Iraq with an emphasis on fish communities.
Hussain, Najah *,1, Al-Essa, S.*,1, Abed, J.*,1, Souad, H.*,1, Jassim, A.*,1, Al-Shamei, H.*,1, 1 College of Science and College of Agriculture, Basrah, Iraq
ABSTRACT- Two newly inundated areas in the eastern part of the southern Iraqi marshes are being studied as part of the Iraq Monitoring Research Program at Basrah University. The Al Hawizeh study site was partly drained (68%) and receives Tigris River water, and the Suq Al Suyuakh study site was completely drained and receives Euphrates River water. Macroinvertebrates are similar at both study sites, but differ in minor faunal components: fresh water shrimp, then snails and chironomid insects are characteristic at Al Hawizeh, and snails, then shrimps, and chironomid insects at Suq Al Suyuakh. Benthic species of snails and bivalves (Unio spp.) are represented, but not in numbers known previously. Fishes are more abundant and diverse at Al Hawizeh than at Suq Al Shuyuakh, probably due to influx of water from nearby permanently inundated marsh in Iraq and nearby Iran (Al Azim marsh). Al Hawizeh fishes are dominated by native herbivore Barbus luteus (herbivorous) (57%) and native predator Aspius vorax (12.5%). Catfish (Silurus triostegus), another predator species was large in size and dominates total fish biomass estimates. Fish assemblages at Suq Al Shuyuakh, dominated by native detritivore Liza abu (40%), are more disturbed than at Al Hawizeh. Alien Carassius spp formed 35% and 16 % in Suq Al Shuyuakh and Al Hawizeh, respectively. Historically, fish catches were dominated by native B. sharpeyi which today constitutes only 1.5% and 0.9% of the fishes in Al Hawizeh and Suq Al Shuyuakh, respectively. Two commercial species (B. xanthopetrus and B. grypus) are rare today. Fish catches were much higher in Al Hawizeh than at Suq Al Shuyuakh, and catches include only small sizes at both sites, much smaller compared to historical records. Fish trophic levels have been greatly altered for most species because of a change in known diets. Resident aquatic birds such as pygmy cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus) and little egret (Egretta garzetta) were dominant in Al Hawizeh and little egrets and pied king fisher (Ceryle alcyon) were dominant at Suq Al Shuyuakh. Migratory species in late autumn and winter include coots, gulls, terns, and ducks.
Key words: marshes, Mesopotamia, Iraq, fishes
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