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Azraq Wetland Reserve
محمية الأزرق المائية

jordan 

First Listed

2018

Area
73km2

Why is it Green Listed?

The Azraq Wetland is located in the heart of the Jordanian eastern desert, and about 115 km to the east of Amman. Azraq Oasis is a large desert oasis formerly comprised a complex of spring-fed marshes and pools adjacent to a large seasonally flooded mudflat (Qa Al Azraq). With its permanent fresh water has always been a rich habitat providing sources of livelihood for man and wildlife. Azraq Oasis provides the natural habitat for numerous aquatic and terrestrial species, including the Azraq Killifish Aphanius sirhani; the only true endemic vertebrate species of Jordan.

It is a unique water oasis in the middle of the Jordanian desert. It is a haven and recreation for migratory birds between Europe and Africa, as well as many other local bird species. In 1977, the Jordanian government signed the Ramsar International Convention, This reserve is one of the world’s most important water areas for migratory birds.

The site has more than 81 species of algae, 163 species of invertebrates, 18 species of mammals, 11 species of reptiles, two types of amphibians, 15 tremors and other butterflies and more. The sanctuary is of great importance since ancient times as it contains important archaeological treasures dating back to the stone age until the Islamic Era.

Yehya Khaled – Director General The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN)

“The participation of the Royal society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in the IUCN GREEN list program contributed to the development of management of protected areas in Jordan through the engagement in the participatory evaluation process. The program has also given an international accreditation for the advanced level of protected areas that RSCN reached.”

Key Achievements

Conservation

  • Restored the oasis and reversed decades of over-extraction of water
  • Rehabilitated wetland area to more than double the original extent
  • Restored and diversified habitat and species diversity
  • Saved the endemic Killifish from extinction to nine viable local population stocks by 2018

Good governance

  • Inclusive board with all stakeholder representatives, well embedded into local Governate structures and decision-making

Community benefits

  • The oasis provides significant local benefits through traditional craft and produce marketing ecotourism for local companies and individuals, and through supporting traditional practices in a low-impact way such as salt-panning in the wider reserve buffer zone.

Site Attributes

WDPA ID

Size
73km2

Designation(s)
Ramsar

IUCN Category
IV

Year Established
1977

Marine Protected Area
No

Governance Type
Government-delegated management

Site Agency
Royal Academy for Nature Conservation (RSCN)

Site Manager
Hazem Al Hreisha

Application
23.5.18

EAGL Evaluation
6.11.2018

GL Committee Submission
12.11.18

EAGL Chair
Mohammed Zaarour

ASI Reviewer
Mounia Essefiani

Site Summary

Azraq was established in 1977-78 and is named after Al-Azraq Oasis which is located within Zarqa Governorate. It is a unique water oasis in the middle of the Jordanian desert. It is a haven for migratory birds between Europe and Africa, as well as many other local bird species. An agreement with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation provides the reserve with an additional 1.52.5 million cubic meters of water per year of groundwater to offset drought and overall large-scale extraction from the water table by Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. This reserve contains several species of wild animals, most notably jackal and red fox. Many species of birds and fish have been recorded, including the fish species Aphanius sirhani, a rare and endemic species locally called Sarhan.

Community-based activities such as ecotourism and handicraft-based livelihoods are promoted and the site enjoys strong support from local stakeholders and from RSCN staff in management and technical operations.

1. NATURAL VALUES
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
Endemic Killi Fish and other aquatic biodiversity Regular surveys for aquatic biodiversity and specific monitoring programme for Killi Fish.
Killi fish presence in at least seven separate pools / wetland locations. Alien species control is successful in all seven priority areas
Good numbers of killi fish in at least 9 known locations
Stable and increasing since near extinction in 2004; reintroduction and habitat management from 2006; survey in 2011 and 2016 show great results.
Wetland bird populations Regular monitoring of bird populations, both resident and migrant. This includes ad-hoc externally-supported expert surveys
Survey identify any anomalies and records that are of concern. Usual results should be consistent and within broad averages for species occurrence.
Birds report 2004 to 2011 showed good and stable populations of all important and representative species, both resident and migrant
2017 survey results demonstrate a stable and healthy set of bird diversity for migrants as well as residents.
Wetland biodiversity and habitat integrity Monitoring of water quality, water extent and seasonal changes, rainfall and temperature. Also using GIS and remote sensing, as well as integrating data from acquifer use at larger scales (with Mon of Agriculture)
Water levels are sufficient to maintain habitat integrity and all main pools and stands of water are maintained.
All pools and stands are sufficiently hydrated. Water expansion has been increasing with rehabilitation works.
Key result is agreement from Min of Agriculture to allow additional irrigation system water injection in times of drought or key seasonal needs.
2.+ 3. ECOSYSTEM SERVICE VALUES and CULTURAL VALUES
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
The site provides several ecosystem services such as: 1- Supporting services like the enhancement of local climate by trapping the dust, and flood regulation and control which is of major importance. 2- Provisional services like: salt production, herbs collection, and grazing. These are considered minimum and are not affecting the values of the site. 3- Cultural services are clear in the site, where recreational activities are practiced and controlled but they do not to affect the values of the site. 4-Educational services are also provided by the site and integrated in school curriculum. 
All of these values are functioning and actively managed well.

Conservation Summary

Site visit report: The site visit was conducted by Dan Paleczny and Sulafa Al Shalaan, with a very favourable review of indicators and full meeting with stakeholders.

EAGL meeting minutes

EAGL consensus and vote: The vote was UNANINOUS and with full consensus.


EAGL statement:

The EAGL appreciated the added insight into the operations and context of Azraq Wetland Reserve that was gained through the site visit. It is clear that site and headquarters staff face several challenges, which are ably addressed by the organization. The RSCN organization is professional in many respects, with headquarters professional staff (e.g., GIS, monitoring and research design, tourism, etc.) working closely and supporting field operational staff. There are clear indications that the community and stakeholders are well aware and informed about the PA and its management. The advisory committee, chaired by His Excellency the Governor, is a valuable means to bring together the local groups with an interest and role in the PA’s management. Such support doesn’t happen by accident; the role of the Site Manager and staff in nurturing relationships and engagement was evident during the site visit. The local stakeholders were unanimous in their support, citing local jobs and opportunities for their people. The local crafts workshops and tourism operations provide employment, and the PA staff assist the community in finding ways to benefit from the PA (e.g., cultural activities). RSCN staff have taken the Green List process seriously (from preparation stages onward), and expressed a genuine interest in making improvements as a result of the assessment. Overall, RSCN has demonstrated a high level of effective management. 
The EAGL representatives note that the external context affects the ability of RSCN to address the overall water quantity issue, which is at the mercy of forces (governance, ecological processes) and beyond the direct control of the PA management. This affects the full achievement of indicator 3.4.1 (management of threats) and indicator 4.1.2 (responding to the external context to prevent loss of values). Through target-setting and adaptive management, practical steps are seen as the best way to secure site values. Overall, we recommend that the site be recommended to the IUCN Green List Committee, but with the following conditions that would help the site to maintain full compliance and continue to improve over the 5-year certificate period: 
Indicator 2.3.2: The new monitoring and research strategy/plan currently being developed should address the likely impacts of water shortage on site values, and set priorities for future work. The strategy is targeted for completion by January 2019. It should be presented to the EAGL through COMPASS no later than 31.3.2019. 
Indicator 3.7.2: It is recommended that the monitoring and research strategy/plan (noted above), be multi-year (e.g., 5-year horizon, renewable annually) and address strategic and operational priorities. This will allow sites to more robustly meet indicators 3.7.2, 4.2.1 and 4.3.1. This plan should also be supplemented by annual monitoring and research project planning, with the results of annual activities better documented over time, and integrated into system databases. 


Reviewer statement (Mounia Essefiani): Reviewer validates Azraq’s Green Listing process as being in conformity with the User Manual’s rules and procedures. As for the other RSCN candidate site Ajloun, Al Azraq’s representatives have proactively worked on conforming to the User Manual and the GL Indicators. The Reviewer confirms that the site not only took the GL process seriously since it first applied, but also used the GL Standard during the whole evaluation process, as an opportunity and a tool to improve, e.g. by implementing action plans resulting from the EAGL members assessment. 
It is worth mentioning that the self-assessment and evidence submitted by the site during the application and candidate phase indicators before the site visit were subject to close scrutiny by the EAGL. However, both the EAGL assessment and the site’s responses have at all times been evidence-based and conducted in full transparency. Based on the whole GL process, Marnie Bammert’s feedback and the EAGL statement following the discussion, the Reviewer confirms that the site is compliant with the User Manual’s rules and procedures and submits the site to the Green List Committee for their final decision.

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