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Can Eden be restored?
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Can Eden be restored?

March 2012

The changing landscape of the Marshlands of Iraq

Can Eden be restored?

Iraq is constantly in the news and as a case study it could perfectly illustrate complex geographical issues of conflict geography. However there is more geography to Iraq than the recent war and instability in the region. It was once home to the world’s third largest wetland which was double the size of the Florida Everglades. The Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq were so lush and fertile that they were considered to be the inspiration for the biblical Garden of Eden. Today, however it is a different story.

Under Saddam Hussein’s regime the wetlands were reduced to less than 10% of their original area with catastrophic human, environmental and ecological impacts on the region. Since the fall of Hussein’s regime in 2003 the marshlands have experienced a revival as a result of the combined actions of locals, Nature Iraq (an NGO), the Iraq government and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). At the peak of this revival in 2007 the wetland area had been restored to around half of its original area, a remarkable achievement considering the on-going instability in the region.

Despite the initial success, recent studies show that the area is experiencing a ‘second drying’ as a result of human and physical factors. This article seeks to explore the causes and consequences of the changes in this wetland ecosystem of global importance.


AQA GCE Geography

  • A2 Contemporary Geographical Issues: Unit 3 Ecosystems Change and Challenge
  • Management of fragile ecosystems

OCR GCE Geography

  • A2 Global Issues: Environmental Issues: Ecosystems and environments under threat
  • What factors give the chosen ecosystem or environment its unique characteristics?
  • In what ways are physical environments under threat from human activity?
  • Why does the impact of human activity on the physical environment vary over time and location?

Edexcel GCE Geography

  • A2 Unit 3: Biodiversity under threat

WJEC GCE Geography

  • A2 Unit 4 Sustainability: Sustainable Water Supply
  • How do human activities influence water supply and demand?
  • How can water supply and demand be managed sustainably?


  • Note for IB teachers This article could be used to support schemes of work for the teaching of ‘Population, resources and development’ and ‘contemporary issues in geographical regions’

In the Members' Area:

  • Where are the Mesopotamian Marshes?
  • What were the causes of decline?
  • What were the environmental impacts?
  • What were the human impacts?
  • Have the marshes been restored?
  • References
  • Practice A level questions

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