Lake Urmia is a salt lake in northwestern Iran near Turkey. The lake is between the provinces of East Azarbaijan and West Azarbaijan, west of the southern portion of the similarly shaped Caspian Sea. It is the largest lake inside Iran, and the second salt water lake on earth, with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km . At its maximum extent, it is about 140 km (87 miles) long, and 55 km (34 miles) wide. Its deepest point is approximately 16 m (52 ft) deep.
The lake is named after the provincial capital city of Urmia, originally a Syriac name meaning city of water. It was called Lake Rezaiyeh in the early 1930s after Reza Shah Pahlavi, but the lake was renamed 'Urmia' in the late 1970s. Its ancient Persian name was Chichast . In the medieval times it came to be known as Lake Kabuda, or "azure," in Persian, (Gabod in Armenian).
Lake Matianus is an old name for Lake Urmia. It was known as the Lower Nairi Sea (Lake Van was the Upper Nairi Sea) during the Nairi-Urartu period and as the Lower Armenian Sea after the Armenians displaced the Nairi. It was the center of the Mannaean Kingdom, a potential Mannaean settlement represented by the ruin mound of Hasanlu was on the south side of Lake Matianus. Mannae was overrun by a people who were called Matiani or Matieni, an Iranic people variously identified as Scythian, Saka, Sarmatian, or Cimmerian. It is not clear whether the lake took its name from the people or the people from the lake, but the country came to be called Matiene or Matiane.
The lake is marked by more than a hundred small rocky islands, which are stopover points in the migrations of various kinds of wild bird life . The second largest island, Kaboudi, is the burial place of Hulagu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan and the sacker of Baghdad, where he had his treasury.
By virtue of its high levels of salinity, the lake does not sustain any fish species. Nonetheless, Lake Urmia is considered to be one of the largest natural habitats of Artemia, which serve as food source for the migratory birds such flamingos. Most of the area of the lake is considered a national park.
The lake is a major barrier between two of the most important cities in West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan provinces, Urmia and Tabriz. A project to build a bridge across the lake was initiated in the 1970s but was abandoned after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The project was revived in the early 2000s, and is due to finish by the end of 2007.
Lake Urmia has been shrinking for a long time, with an annual evaporation rate of 0.6m to 1m (24 to 39 inches). The lake's salts are considered to have medical effects, especially as a cure for rheumatism.
Lake Urmia is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Palaeoecology of Lake Urmia
A recent palynological investigation on long cores from Lake Urmia has revealed a nearly 200 kyr record of vegetation and lake level changes. The vegetation has changed from the Artemisia/grass steppes during the glacial/stadial periods to oak-juniper steppe-forests during the interglacial/interstadial periods.
Lake Urmia islands
Lake Urmia has 102 islands. Their names are as follows:.
Aram, Arash, Ardeshir, Arezu, Ashk, Ashk-Sar, Ashku, Atash, Azar, Azin, Bahram, Bard, Bardak, Bardin, Bastvar, Bon, Bon-Ashk, Borz, Borzin, Borzu, Chak-Tappeh, Cheshmeh-Kenar, Dey, Espir, Espirak, Espiro, Garivak, Giv, Golgun, Gordeh, Gorz, Iran-Nezhad, Jodarreh, Jovin, Jowzar, Kabudan (Qoyun daghi), Kafchehnok, Kakayi-e Bala, Kakayi-ye Miyaneh, Kakayi-e Pain, Kalsang, Kam, Kaman, Kameh, Kariveh, Karkas, Kaveh, Kazem-Dashi, Kenarak, Khersak, Kuchek-Tappeh, Magh, Mahdis, Mahvar, Markid, Mehr, Mehran, Mehrdad, Meshkin, Meydan, Miyaneh, Nadid, Nahan, Nahid, Nahoft, Nakhoda, Navi, Naviyan, Omid, Panah, Penhan, Pishva, Sahran, Samani, Sangan, Sangu, Sarijeh, Sepid, Shabdiz, Shahi (Eslami), Shahin, Shamshiran, Shur-Tappeh, Shush-Tappeh, Siyavash, Siyah-Sang, Siyah-Tappeh, Sorkh, Sorush, Tak, Takht, Takhtan, Tanjeh, Tanjak, Tashbal, Tir, Tus, Zagh, Zar-Kaman, Zarkanak, Zar-Tappeh, Zirabeh.(List from: ''Farahang-e Joghrafiyayi-e shahrestanha-ye Keshvar (Shahrestan-e Orumiyeh), Tehran 1379