Introduction to the Anzali Lagoon
The largest port in Iran on the southern coast of the Mazandaran Sea is the Anzali lagoon port in Gilan province. The people of this region consider the lagoon to be one of their city’s most famous natural attractions and call it “Anzali Sel” in their Gilaki language. Some believe that the name Anzali comes from the word Hamzali, which means proximity of water and land in Gilaki. Additionally, in Greek, words such as “Anzelios” and “Anzelia” are synonymous with the word lagoon.
According to studies, the formation of this International Lagoon was caused by the deposition of fine-grained sand with a thickness of approximately 450 meters on the coastal margin. This process surprisingly happened in the last 70 to 100 thousand years. The underwater sediments date back to about 15 thousand years before the new Caspian Sea sediments formed. Eventually, the seawater retreated, and the alluvial deposits in the coastal plain emerged from the water, forming a long strip.
The Anzali lagoon is widely recognized as one of the most stunning and significant lagoons in Iran, and it is a habitat for a variety of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. It was also one of the first international lagoons recorded in Iran and was registered in the list of international lagoons of the Ramsar Convention in 1975.
The Features of Anzali Lagoon
Did you know that Anzali Lagoon is related to Kushiro Lagoon in Kushiro Shitsugen National Park, Japan? Anzali Lagoon is a freshwater wetland that boasts unique landscapes and biodiversity. It contains several islands and locations, including Bandar Anzali and Abkenar, two coastal cities.
The size of Anzali Lagoon varies according to weather patterns and seasons. During the rainy season, it can span approximately 120 square kilometers, while it may shrink to roughly 80 square kilometers during drier seasons. These conditions also affect the depth of the lagoon, which reaches a maximum of 5.2 meters in the rainy seasons.
Due to its location, Anzali lagoon is different from other wetlands because of its humidity and water quality. As a coastal wetland, it functions as a natural purification system and connects to the Caspian Sea through a shipping channel. It is home to a diverse range of animals and offers breathtaking views throughout. Visitors to Anzali Lagoon can also enjoy the sight of beautiful water lilies, whose pink color adds to the lagoon’s dreamlike ambiance as they sway with the water’s movement.
The Anzali Wetland Vegetation
The Anzali International Wetland boasts a rich vegetation cover that serves as a secure breeding ground for both native and migratory birds. It also offers ideal habitats for aquatic life, mammals, and other animal species. Below, we will familiarize you with the flora of this region.
The Marginal Plant Layer or Footing
Plants that grow at the edge of lagoons and rivers are known as marginal plants. Their roots are in the soil and lower part in the water, while their vegetative part, including leaves and flowers, is outside the water. Examples of marginal plants are Common Reed, Water Mint, Water-plantains, Longleaf Pondweed, Flowering Rush, Knotweed, and Lotus.
In the wetland area, reeds cover around two-thirds of the land. However, the most famous plant in the world-renowned Anzali Lagoon is the Lotus. This beautiful plant grows from the end of June through the end of summer. Before blooming, it’s called sea pistachio, and in the local language, it’s known as Thaale Baghli (Nelumbium). The Lotus has large flowers with thick and numerous pink petals, growing in layers of broad green leaves, which adds a specific attractiveness to this area. The plant’s green cap and little seeds are functional in traditional medicine due to their therapeutic and medicinal properties.
The Floating Plants Layer
Floating plants are plants that float on the water’s surface, and their significant parts, especially the leaves, are on top of it. The roots of these plants are in the wetland bed, and their flowers are floating or out of water. Shalween, Lemna minor, Sea Sage, Knotgrass, Water moss, Common Frogbit, Yellow Water-lily, and White Water-lily are among the floating plants of Anzali Lagoon. The Water-lily is a large flower with red, white, and blue colors, which keeps its roots in the water so that its gorgeous flowers decorate the water like a gem. In addition to its beautiful appearance, this flower has a sacred place in various religions, especially in Eastern schools. The Water-lily flower is pure and holy because it hardly comes out of the mud.
The use of this flower in the architecture of Taq-e Bostan and Persepolis indicates its importance in Persia. Also, the appearance of its name in the poems of Iranian poets shows its place among artists. One of the main places where Marsh Terns lay eggs and hatch is the area where Water-lily flowers grow. Marsh Terns lay their eggs on a plant called Water Chestnut, and their chicks are born there.
Submerged Plant Layer in Anzali Lagoon
Submerged plants are those whose vegetative and reproductive parts are mostly or entirely underwater. Sometimes, their flowers can be seen on the surface of the water. Examples of these plants include Watermilfoils, Hornworts, Holly-leaved Naiad, and Woolly Yarrow Milfoil.
Plants of the Land Around the Wetland
The lagoon’s moist soil provides a suitable environment for plants that require abundant moisture, such as shrubs and trees. Among these plants, the Umbrella Palm and Rushes are notable examples.
The Animal Species of Anzali Lagoon
The Anzali Lagoon is a crucial habitat for various animal species, including birds, marine animals, and mammals. Many aquatic species reside and spawn in this wetland, making it an essential location for the survival of rare native and migratory birds. The lagoon is home to over 100 bird species and 50 fish species, such as Herons, ducks, Black-necked grebe, short-legged geese, swans, and Red-breasted geese. The preservation of this precious ecosystem is crucial. The Anzali Lagoon has several protected areas and wildlife shelters that provide a home for different bird and fish species. In the following section, we will introduce two of these sanctuaries: Selkeh and Sorkhanhol Wildlife Refuge.
The Selkeh Wildlife Refuge
Selkeh is a precious wetland region located in northern Iran that welcomes a multitude of migratory birds every year. This area serves as a crucial sanctuary for these birds during the colder months of the year. Selkeh is one of the rare wetlands where Red-breasted geese, swans, and even short-legged geese live.
The Sorkhanhol Wildlife Refuge
Located in the vicinity of Anzali International Lagoon and to the west of Selkeh lies Sorkhanhol, a wildlife sanctuary in the country. To access this area, you must navigate through the Water-lilies. During winter, migratory birds such as swans, geese, Anas, and Gulls flock to this region. The area is also home to native fish like Common Carp, Common Bream, and Pike, as well as migratory fish such as Caspian White Fish, Shemaya, and Vimba Vimba. Crabs are one of the significant aquatic animals that thrive in this lagoon, known for their exquisite taste worldwide. They rank second in weight and protein content after American crabs and ahead of European crabs.
The Economic Value of Anzali Lagoon
The sediments found in Anzali Lagoon are economically valuable and people can use them as chemical fertilizers, building materials, and for discovering rare elements. Among these rare elements is Titanium.
The Anzali Lagoon Entertainment
Experience the beauty of the lagoon by taking a boat ride and observing its unique nature. You can find various boats available for a fee in different parts of Anzali port which can take you to the heart of the lagoon. The water-lilies, reeds, and lotuses create a breathtaking view that is worth experiencing. Boat rides among these stunning plants will surely bring you great pleasure.
The Bird Watching
If bird watching is something that you enjoy, you can spend countless hours sitting and observing these beautiful creatures.
Anzali Lagoon offers an amazing opportunity for kayaking enthusiasts to enjoy an exhilarating hobby and explore a unique sport. Kayaks, which are typically one or two-person boats made of materials like wood or fiberglass, are the perfect vessel for experiencing all that the lagoon has to offer.
Fishing is a widely enjoyed activity across the globe. If you’re looking for a serene fishing experience, head to Anzali Lagoon. However, note that you’ll need to bring your own fishing equipment as rentals are not available. It’s also important to know that fishing should only be done during the appropriate season to avoid any harm to the local wildlife.