Changes in Mesopotamian Wetlands: Investigations Using Diverse Remote Sensing Datasets
Early civilizations have inhabited areas with stable water resources that supported living needs and activities. The Mesopotamian marshes have experienced dramatic changes during the past five decades. The aim of this study is to observe, analyse and report the extent of changes in these marshes from 1972 to 2020. Data from various sources were acquired through Google Earth Engine (GEE) including climate variables, land cover, surface reflectance, and surface water occurrence collections. Additionally, streamflow data was also analysed. Methods were based on diagnostic analysis to monitor and evaluate the causes and results of the total environmental dynamism. Results show a clear wetlands dynamism over time, a decrease of incoming flow to the region due to the damming of upstream tributaries, and a significant loss in marshlands extent, even though no significant long-term change was observed in lumped rainfall from 1982, and even during periods where no meteorological drought had been recorded. Human interventions have disturbed the ecosystems, which is evident when studying water occurrence changes. These show that the diversion of rivers and the building of a new drainage system caused the migration and spatiotemporal changes of marshlands. Nonetheless, restoration plans (after 2003) and strong wet conditions (period 2018–2020) have helped to recover the ecosystems, these have not led the marshlands to regain their former extent. Further studies should pay more attention to the drainage network within the study area as well as the neighbouring regions and their impact on the streamflow that feeds the marshes.
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