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Aral Sea syndrome desiccates Lake Urmia

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Lake Urmia, one of the largest saltwater lakes on earth and a highly endangered ecosystem, is on the brink of

a major environmental disaster similar to the catastrophic death of the Aral Sea. With a new composite of

multi-spectral high resolution satellite observations, we show that the area of this Iranian lake has

decreased by around 88% in the past decades, far more than previously reported (~25% to 50%). The lake's

shoreline has been receding severely with no sign of recovery, which has been partly blamed on prolonged

droughts.We use the lake basin's satellite-based gauge-adjusted climate record of the Standardized Precipitation

Index data to demonstrate that the on-going shoreline retreat is not solely an artifact of prolonged

droughts alone. Drastic changes to lake health are primarily consequences of aggressive regional water resources

development plans, intensive agricultural activities, anthropogenic changes to the system, and upstreamcompetition

over water. This commentary is a call for action to both develop sustainable restoration

ideas and to put new visions and strategies into practice before Lake Urmia falls victim to the Aral Sea





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