Qeshm island Nature

The Natural Environment

Enriched by numerous flood waters originating from Mehran, Kol, Shour, Shirin and Minab rivers on the Iranian mainland, Qeshm Island benefits from nutrient-rich waters. On the other hand, inflow of marine water from the Indian Ocean and the Oman Sea has created a rich marine environment all around Qeshm Island.

The evergreen mangrove forests, coral reefs, many unique natural phenomenon, numerous vegetation and rare tropical trees along with the magnificent diversity of animals has turned Qeshm Island into a living museum requiring long hours for simple observations.
Besides great diversity in flora and fauna, Qeshm Island enjoys a variety of geological formations and sandy and rocky coasts. The Strait of Hormuz and water surrounding Qeshm Island are with no doubt one of the richest and most diverse areas in the world and could be selected as a prime research site for the protection of the boundless marine biodiversity. With limited scientific research, it has already been shown that Qeshm Island has an amazing nature with many biodiversity hotspots such as mangrove forests and coral reefs.

The Terrestrial Environment

Mountain chains of Qeshm Island extend from east to west along the entire Island (about 110 km), rarely exceeding 300 meters in altitude. During several thousand years, wind, rain and marine waves have formed unique geological structures on Qeshm Island, offering an opportunity for geotourism. THE Salt Dome (Namakdan Mountain), located on the western section of island constitutes one of the most spectacular formations. Also one of the longest salt caves on earth may be found on Qeshm Island, along with sixteen other salt caves on the island. Other geological attractions for regular visitors include the Chahkuh Valley and the Valley of Stars (Setareha).

Mountains and the Geopark

From 2001 to 2006, long expeditions were conducted in the mountainous areas of Qeshm Island which led to the discovery p\of many archeological ruin mostly located on Mountain peaks as forts with little or no access. In the past they were all hidden from visitors and were defendable by those inhabiting them. These “residences “on the heights provided a panoramic view of the sea. In some of the ruins, remains of large “buildings” constructed with cut stones may be found. Inside, traces of walls remain as delicate plaster. The appearance of these ruins reveals the significance of some of these “buildings” at the time.
To further study, evaluate and document these ruins, professor potts was invited to the island in 2004. Professor potts remained in the island for 8 days and visited all of the significant archeological sites of the island. Among these ruins he identified sites from Parthian and Sassanid periods. He also identified a workshop and steel melting furnace with unknown origins dating back more than 1000 years. The identification of archeological sites on a large scale on the mountainous areas of Qeshm island with a magnificent precedence of several thousand years was a significant step in the recognition of the “Qeshm geopark” by UNESCO as global heritage . Qeshm geopark to a large extent covers the mountainous areas on the western part of the island (covering an area of about 30000ha). Since its establishment in 2004 many activities were undertaken by the QFA for the protection of the area, for example any intervention in the areas has been prohibited and the boundaries have been mapped with cooperation of the village councils of neighboring villages. During the selection and identification of the boundaries, all efforts was made to keep the integrity of villages, farms, personal land, by keeping them outside the geopark boundaries. The selected area was registered on a map and approved by QFA and the national geological organization. With the hard work of the Environmental bureau of QFA Qeshm geopark was awarded member of the global geoparks network supported by UNESCO in March 2006. This is the first and so far the only geopark in Iran and in the Middle East.

Vertebrates and Wildlife

Dryland mammals on Qeshm Island include five bat species (one fruit eating species which is the biggest in the country) , rodents (4 different species), porcupine, rabbit, fox and mongoose. The Persian gazelle may be found wandering freely on the more remote area of the Island but its population is seriously in decline. The smallest mammal recorded on earth, the pygmy (Suncus etruscus) weighting 1.3 grams, has also been found on Qeshm Island. This minuscule insect-eater shrew was first noticed by e biologist working with the environment bureau of QFA, (Mr.Seyed Mohamad Dakhted) in 2005 and is currently displayed at the "Qeshm Geopark" museum. Reptiles identified on Qeshm Island are also divers, including three serpent species and 17 lizard species (including Stenodactylus khobarensis and Mesalina adramitana) along with one amphibian species (bufo olivaceus).
Among the vertebrates, birds provide the greatest biodiversity on Qeshm Island up to 2001, 98 species had been identified. With identification of 124 additional species in recent years the current list stands at 223 species. Some of these birds are recognized as rare species including Gray Falcon (Falco concolor), Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus), Green-backed Heron (Butorides striatus) and Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Even the "Buchangha" having not been observed in the Middle East during last century, was present and photographed on Qeshm Island in recent years. It is worth nothing that there are more ospreys on Qeshm Island than any other part of the country. Also the population of Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus-about 500), Crab Plover (Dramas ardeola-more than 2000) and some birds of prey is prominent on the island. In the past two years has witnessed increase of two folds in the number of birds, probably due to decline in wetlands of the mainland. .

The Marine Environment

Nutrient rich waters of the international zone constitute a favorable feeding ground for both marine and terrestrial wildlife. Apart from diversity of its invertebrates, the intertidal zone is also home to the mangrove forest and related waterfowl.

Mangrove Forest

Located in the intertidal zone, mangrove forest offer a paradise to birdwatchers, as southern coast of Qeshm Island serve as great attraction for professional divers. The vast path of mangrove forests on the north-western part of the island (more than 100 km square) also known as the "Hara" region, is the largest mangrove forest in the Persian Gulf. These spectacular forests by their growth and expansion are home to thousands of migratory and resident waterfowl, and as a result have been registered as the Internationally Important Wetland under the Ramsar Convention and Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO. In the migratory season, visitor passing through the channel by boat will capture the diversity of birds as an unforgettable image. Total area of mangrove forests all around Qeshm Island is more than one hundred thousand hectares. Mangrove forests are also important feeding and nursery ground for fish and extremely important in supporting fisheries and reducing coastal erosion. .

Marine Mammals

Qeshm with the smallest mammal on the earth being observed on its land (a shrew of 1.3 grams) and with blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) measuring more than 30 meters in length and more than 180 tons in weight as one of the largest mammal on earth (being observed around its waters on several occasions), has a rich environment in need of preservation. Little research to date has been conducted on the marine mammals of the Persian Gulf, however large marine vertebrates such as whales, sharks and dolphins are regularly observed around Qeshm Island, providing unforgettable memories in the mind of any visitors. Also in water around Qeshm Island, population of Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis), Hump-backed Dolphin (Susa chinensis), and Bottle-nosed Dolphins (Tursiops truncates) are considered significant. group as large as 20-30 dolphins have been sighted on numerous occasion. Hump-backed dolphins have been observed in smaller groups. In southern coastal waters of the island, near Hengam Island were coral reefs are more abundant, large group of dolphins may be observed. This coral region serves as one of the most important dolphin feeding grounds. .

Coral reefs

Coral reefs are fertile ecosystems with biodiversity comparable to those of rainforests. Presence of coral reefs in the southern parts of the island as well as Larak and Hengam Islans have formed a triangle that is very suitable habitat for marine mammals as well as other marine life such as turtle. The exact area of local reefs around Qeshm Island is yet unknown. Initial estimate indicate the area is the largest in the Persian Gulf with the greatest density and animal biodiversity. The beauty and diversity of the Persian Gulf coral reefs is similar to garden of Shiraz, tiles of Isfahan and famous Qashqai pattern for carpet. Coral reefs of Qeshm Island offer an exceptional opportunity for local and international divers to appreciate diversity of coral reefs. .

Marine Turtle

There are eight species on marine turtle worldwide five species may be found in the Persian Gulf and the Oman sea: Green Turtle (Chelenoia mydas) Hawskbill Tuetle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherhead Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) and Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). The green turtles and hawksbill turtles lay eggs on the gentle slopes of the soft sandy beaches in different areas in the Persian Gulf m including southern coast of Qeshm Island. Every year, near the village of shibdraz (at the southern tip of the island) hundred of hawksbill turtle come to lay their eggs from later February to late June. It has been noticed that in each breeding season an adult female visit the shoreline 2-3 times to lay eggs. Hawskbill turtle is considered as critically endangered species of marine turtle. Marine turtle are being threatened worldwide due to overexploitation (for their meat, eggs and shell), degradation of breeding and feeding ground, troll fishing and due to being consumed by local people and wild animal. .

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