2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


AL DOUSARI, Ahmad1, AL-GHADBAN, A.2, SULTAN, Mohamed3, BECKER, Richard3, BUFANO, Elizabeth3 and MILEWSKI, Adam3, (1)Environmental Sciences Department, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Rsch, P.O. Box 24885, Safat, 13109, Kuwait, (2)Environmental Sciences Department, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Rsch, P.O. Box 24885, Safat, 13109, (3)Geology Department, Univ at Buffalo, 876 NSC, Buffalo, NY 14260, ebufano@buffalo.edu

The landscape of Iraq has witnessed considerable changes over the past two to three decades as evidenced from comparisons made between satellite data acquired in the growing seasons of 1967(CORONA), 1976 (Multi-spectral Scanner), 1985 (Landsat TM), and 2002 (ETM-7). The following processing steps were conducted for the Landsat data: (1) reflectance values were computed for each band to eliminate seasonal spectral variations arising from variations in sun angle values for scenes, (2) atmospheric contributions were minimized by the normalization of all scenes to the scene with the lowest atmospheric effects, (4) all historic data were georeferenced to the 2002 L7 ETM image, (5) resampling was conducted to bring all data to the same cell size and orientation, (6) four composite mosaics were generated, one for each period, (7) NDVI and soil adjusted vegetation index maps were generated for each of 3 time periods (1976, 1985, 2002).

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 Results indicate that: (1) In general, the marshlands have been on the decline, in some cases they have been replaced by arable lands, in others they have unfortunately been replaced by desiccated salinized land, with the largest variations in the areal extent of the marshlands occurring in the nineties.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.