The site known to host some of the important threatened bird species in Oman, Al Ansab Wetland has been named as sultanate’s second Wetland of International Importance and a Ramsar Site (No 2406).
The site was designated a Ramsar Site on March 22. While Oman’s first Ramsar Site, Qurm Nature Reserve, with an area of 106.8ha, was designated as Wetland of International Importance on April 19, 2013.
Al Ansab, spread over 54ha, is an artificial wetland within the city of Muscat, and is connected to a water treatment facility which releases treated water into a series of surrounding ponds. This process provides a water source otherwise unavailable in the surrounding desert, creating a habitat for 305 recorded resident and migrating birds.
Threatened species including the endangered Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis) , as well as the vulnerable common pochard (Aythya ferina) and sooty falcon (Falco concolor) , occupy the wetland. It serves as a tourist destination for birdwatching and also provides educational opportunities as a long-term monitoring site. The site is managed by Haya Water.
With the support of Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs and a host of national and international organisations like Wetlands International, Oman is also in the process of getting the Ramsar recognition for Barr al Hikman Wetland, in Al Wusta. The wetland covers a 150sq km low-lying peninsula that is the most critically important area for waterbirds in the West Asian – East African flyway, sustaining over half a million waterbirds. For 18 shorebird species, the population wintering at Barr al Hikman exceeds one per cent of the total flyway population. No other known site in the Middle East holds comparable numbers of birds in the winter.
Qurum Nature Reserve in Muscat, which supports 194 species of birds, 27 species of crustaceans, and 48 species of molluscs, is internationally important as it supports one of the largest areas of natural mangrove forests along the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
In addition, the mangroves sustain the rich biodiversity of the biogeographic region by supporting essential ecological processes for over 40 fish species. These fish include a number of high-valued commercial species that are already under considerable pressure from intensive commercial fishing in the Oman Sea.
The mangroves provide natural control against tropical storms and cyclones that regularly affect the city, play a critical role in shoreline stabilisation, and maintain water quality by retaining stormwater run-off.
In addition to its recreational and educational values, Qurum Nature Reserve is home to archaeological remains of fishing activities that might have taken place more than 4,000 years ago.