LAND COVER AND LAND USE CHANGE (LCLUC) OF THE MESOPOTAMIAN MARSHES
A combination of methodologies (change detection, supervised classification, and color composite) was used to evaluate LCLUC over the Mesopotamian marshes. Results indicate that: (1) In general, the marshlands have been on the decline, in some cases they have been replaced by arable lands, in others they have unfortunately been replaced by desiccated salinized land, with the largest variations in the areal extent of the marshlands occurring in the nineties. (2) Up until the seventies, the Mesopotamian marshlands extended over an area of approximately 25,000 km2 in central and southern Iraq. Today, Central and Al Hammar marshlands have almost completely disappeared where the land cover has transformed into bare land and salt crusts, while only some 25% of the Hawr Al Hawizeh and Al Azim marshlands remain. (3) The greatest regression of the marshlands coincided with the development of massive engineering projects in the early nineties to drain the marshlands through a network of canals. The devastation of the marshlands has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of the Marsh Arabs who lived in the area and has had a devastating impact on the biodiversity and the wildlife of that ecosystem as well. Any post-war water management schemes for Iraq should have a strong component dedicated to the partial restoration of the marshlands.