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The Iraqi Marshes in Southern Iraq are considered one of the most important wetlands in the world. From 1982 to the present, their area has varied between 10,500 km2 and 20,000 km2. The marshes support a variety of plants, such as reeds and papyrus, and are home to many species of birds. These marshes are Al-Hammar, Central or Al-Amarah, and Al-Huwaiza. Freshwater supplies to the marshes come from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq and from the Karkha River from Iran. For this analysis, we used the Land Long-Term Data Record Version 5 (LTDR V5) Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) sensor dataset. This dataset was recently released at a 0.05 × 0.05° spatial resolution and daily temporal resolution to monitor the spatial and temporal variability of vegetation along with other hydrological variables such as land surface temperature, precipitation, and evapotranspiration. In our analysis, we considered three time periods: 1982–1992; 1993–2003; and 2004–2017 due to anthropogenic activities and climate changes. Furthermore, we examined the relationships between various water cycle variables through the investigation of vegetation and water coverage changes, and studied the impacts of climate change and anthropogenic activities on the Iraqi Marshes and considered additional ground observations along with the satellite datasets. Statistical analyses over the last 36 years show significant deterioration in the vegetation: 68.78%, 98.73, and 83.71% of the green biomass has declined for Al-Hammar, The Central marshes, and Al-Huwaiza, respectively. The AVHRR and Landsat images illustrate a decrease in water and vegetation coverage, which in turn has led to an increase in barren lands. Unfortunately, statistical analyses show that marshland degradation is mainly induced by human actions. The shrinkage in water supplies taken by Iraq’s local neighbors (i.e., Turkey, Syria, and Iran) has had a sharp impact on water levels. The annual discharge of the Tigris declined from ~2500–3000 m3/s to ~500 m3/s, and the annual discharge of the Euphrates River declined from ~1500 m3/s to less than 500 m3/s.

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APA Citation

Albarakat, R., Lakshmi, V., & Tucker, C. (2018). Using Satellite Remote Sensing to Study the Impact of Climate and Anthropogenic Changes in the Mesopotamian Marshlands, Iraq. Remote Sensing, 10(10), 1-22. doi: 10.3390/rs10101524