The Caspian’s Gorgan Bay Could Dry Up in The Next Decade – Climate Change to Blame!

If the backward trend of the Caspian Sea level continues, Gorgan Bay will be completely dried up by the next decade.

Covering an area of about 400 square kilometers, the Gulf of Gorgan also known as Gorgan Bay is the largest gulf in the Caspian Sea. It is located at the south-eastern shore of the Caspian Sea near the cities of Behshahr, Gorgan, and Sari and is separated from the main water body by the Miankaleh peninsula and extends until the Ashuradeh peninsula.

Experts on climate change and global warming believe that uncontrolled water withdrawal of aquifers, reduced rainfall, and increased evaporation are the most important reasons for the drying up of Gorgan Bay.

According to the latest scientific data presented by the National Cartographic Center, the drying rate of Gorgan Bay is worrisome.

The fluctuation of the Caspian Sea water level and its impact on the surrounding ecosystems over recent years raised concern, evidence shows that the Caspian Sea level began a rising trend in 1978 and rose by 2.5 meters, and since 1995, the level of the Caspian Sea has decreased by about 1.5 meters, Homayoun Khoshravan head of the international project on the effect of Caspian Sea fluctuations on coastal environment said.

These fluctuations that occurred during this short period of time for the Caspian Sea imposed significant threats to Gorgan Bay and Miankaleh Wetland, he added.

An important point is a change in pH or acidity of the soil and water environment, which affects the lower level species of the food pyramid and causes the extinction of phytoplankton and zooplankton, he noted, adding, there are many living things in the lower levels, which will directly affect the animals in the higher levels of the food pyramid, and this will lead to a lack of prey and diversity of species, such as birds.

So that today the population density of many birds that lived in Gorgan Bay and Miankaleh wetland decreased from 1.2 million birds to 380,000 birds. That is an alarming event happening in an ecosystem because it challenges the function and poses a serious impact on humans which is then reflected in economic, social, and environmental areas, he further explained.

Faezeh Salami, a cartographic expert, said that the Bay’s area amounted to 400 square kilometers, 100 square kilometers of which have dried up, which means that 27 percent of the bay is lost over the recent years.

For each centimeter decrease of the water level of the Caspian Sea, about one square kilometer of the area of Gorgan Bay has shrunk; so that with the increasing trend of global warming and climate change, sea level reduction, the need for continuous monitoring of the Caspian Sea and Gorgan Bay is more important.

Dredging, an effective solution

Analysis of data from the latest field research by professors of marine sciences shows that dredging the canals leading to Gorgan Bay is the most effective way to save this valuable aquatic habitat.

Jafar Azizpour, a faculty member of the National Institute of Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences said that normally, 2.7 cubic meters of water enters Gorgan Bay every second. Dredging the canals leading to this water area increases the inflow of water by 18 cubic meters per second and the amount of water flowing into Gorgan Bay will reach 3.6 cubic meters per second.

If no action is taken to revitalize Gorgan Bay, it will suffer the fate of Lake Urmia and the cities around the bay will be affected by dust, he lamented.

The sand and dust storm generated from dried up Gorgan Bay can take about one thousand micrograms of dry air to the upper level of the atmosphere, which if it is seven meters per second, this dust will affect an area up to 50 km, he stated.

Hamid Alizadeh Lahijani, the president of the national institute for oceanography and atmospheric science, said that lack of attention to the reduction of the Bay level due to factors such as the Caspian Sea shrinking level, closure of communication routes, high accumulated sediments, and seagrass growth will turn this bay into an inland wetland.

The rate of evaporation is twice as much as the amount of rainfall, and the inflow of rivers entering the Bay, even under natural conditions, is not enough to compensate for its water shortage. Under these circumstances, facilitating the exchange of water in Gorgan Bay from natural routes is necessary to prevent the dryness, he explained.

Issa Kalantari, head of the Department of Environment also in October announced the management and rehabilitation of Miankaleh wetland and Gorgan Bay as one of the priorities of the national headquarters for wetlands conservation and management and emphasized the Caspian Sea inflow into Gorgan Bay.

Kalantari also considered the use of new technologies and especially remote sensing knowledge in determining the exact volume of reservoir water in the country’s wetlands in order to grant the water right of the wetlands and determining the ecological effects of water fluctuations, as well as data produced in different months of the year.

Valuable ecological complex 

Gorgan Bay was designated as a Ramsar site (defined by the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value) along with Miankaleh Wetland.

The bay and its surrounding area are recognized as a valuable ecological complex in the world which had a direct impact on the livelihood of local communities in addition to conserving the marine life cycle.
Ashuradeh Island, which hosts a variety of native and migratory birds throughout the year, was also introduced and registered as one of the world’s first biosphere zones in 1975.

$2m earmarked to revive Gulf of Gorgan

However, in July, a budget of 9 trillion rials (nearly $2.1 million at the official rate of 42,000 rials) was earmarked to revive the Gulf of Gorgan.

The Ports and Maritime Organization, the Department of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Energy are tasked with taking executive measures to save Gorgan Bay within 5 years.

According to the oceanographic studies, the most important solution to save Gorgan Bay is dredging canals, dredging the rivers leading to the Gulf of Gorgan, and providing water rights of the rivers will be other executive strategies to save the Gulf.

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