Caspian Sea
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The Caspian Sea (also known as Mazandaran Sea, Hyrcanian Ocean, or Khazar Sea), tk, Hazar deňzi, az, Xəzər Dənizi, russian: Каспийское море, script=Latn, fa, دریای مازندران، دریای خزر, script=Latn, tly, Kaspi Dıyo, script=Latn is the world's largest inland
body of water ( Lysefjord) in Norway Norway ( nb, ; nn, ; se, Norga; smj, Vuodna; sma, Nöörje), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe whose mainland territory comprises the western and nort ...
, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged
sea The sea, connected as the world ocean or simply the ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of the Earth.
sea
. An
endorheic basin An endorheic basin (; also spelled endoreic basin or endorreic basin) is a drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually ...
, it lies between Europe and Asia; east of the
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including the Grea ...
, west of the broad
steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may in ...

steppe
of
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Russian Empire, Russian-rul ...

Central Asia
, south of the fertile plains of
Southern Russia Southern Russia or the South of Russia (russian: Юг России, ''Yug Rossii'') is a colloquial Colloquialism or colloquial language is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic style used for casual communication. It is the most common func ...
in
Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the region of the European continent between Western Europe and Asia. There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, ethnic, cultural, and s ...

Eastern Europe
, and north of the mountainous Iranian Plateau of
Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the Greater Middle East. It includes Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Mesopotamia, the Levant region, the island of Cyprus, the Sinai Peninsula, and ...

Western Asia
. It covers (excluding the highly saline lagoon of Garabogazköl to its east) and a volume of . It has a
salinity File:IAPSO Standard Seawater.jpg, upInternational Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) standard seawater. Salinity () is the saltiness or amount of salt (chemistry), salt dissolved in a body of water, called saline water (se ...

salinity
of approximately 1.2% (12 g/l), about a third that of average
seawater Seawater, or salt water, is water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of E ...

seawater
. It is bounded by
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
from mid-north to mid-east, Russia from mid-north to mid-west,
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...
to the southwest,
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north ...

Iran
to the south and adjacent corners, and
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ;), also known as Turkmenia, is a sovereign country in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afgh ...

Turkmenistan
along southern parts of its eastern coast. The sea stretches nearly from north to south, with an average width of . Its gross coverage is and the surface is about below
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average level of the surface of one or more of Earth's bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of Vertical datum, vertical dat ...

sea level
. Its main freshwater inflow, Europe's longest river, the
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Casp ...

Volga
, enters at the shallow north end. Two deep basins form its central and southern zones. These lead to horizontal differences in temperature, salinity, and ecology. The
seabed The seabed (also known as the seafloor, sea floor, or ocean floor) is the bottom of the ocean, no matter how deep. All floors of the ocean are known as 'seabeds'. Structure Most of the oceans have a common structure, created by common p ...

seabed
in the south reaches below sea level, which is the second lowest natural non-oceanic
depression Depression may refer to: Mental health * Depression (mood), a state of low mood and aversion to activity * Mood disorders characterized by depression are commonly referred to as simply ''depression'', including: ** Dysthymia ** Major depressive ...
on Earth after
Lake Baikal Lake Baikal (; rus, links= no, озеро Байкал, r= Ozero Baykal, p= ˈozʲɪrə bɐjˈkaɫ; bua, Байгал нуур, ) is a rift lake located in southern Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru- ...

Lake Baikal
(). Written accounts from the ancient inhabitants of its coast perceived the Caspian Sea as an ocean, probably because of its salinity and large size. The Caspian Sea is home to a wide range of species and may be best known for its
caviar Caviar (also known as caviare; from fa, خاویار, khâvyâr, egg-bearing) is a food consisting of salt-cured roe of the family Acipenseridae. Caviar is considered a delicacy and is eaten as a garnish or a spread. Traditionally, the ter ...
and oil industries. Pollution from the oil industry and, to a lesser extent, dams on rivers draining into it have harmed its ecology.


Etymology


Caspi cognate synonyms

The word Caspian is very likely a name for the Caspi, an ancient people who lived to the southwest of the sea in
Transcaucasia Transcaucasia, also known as the South Caucasus, is a geographical region on the border of Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the region of the European continent between Western Europe and Asia. There is no consistent definition of the precise ...
.
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pres ...

Strabo
(died circa AD 24) wrote that "to the country of the Albanians (
Caucasus Albania Caucasian Albania is a modern exonym for a former state located in ancient times in the Caucasus: mostly in what is now Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located) and southern Dagestan. The modern endonyms for the area are ''Aghwank'' an ...

Caucasus Albania
not to be confused with the country of
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediter ...
) belongs also the territory called Caspiane, which was named after the Caspian tribe, as was also the sea; but the tribe has now disappeared". Moreover, the Caspian Gates, part of
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north ...

Iran
's
Tehran province Tehran Province ( fa, استان تهران ''Ostān-e Tehrān'') is one of the provinces of Iran, 31 provinces of Iran. It covers an area of and is located to the north of the central plateau of Iran. The province was put as part of the First R ...
, may evince such a people migrated to the south. The Iranian city of
Qazvin Qazvin (; fa, قزوین, , also Romanized as ''Qazvīn'', ''Caspin'', ''Qazwin'' or ''Ghazvin'') is the largest city and capital of the Province of Qazvin in Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic ...

Qazvin
shares the root of its name with this common name for the sea. The traditional and medieval Arabic name for the sea was Bahr(sea)
Khazar The Khazars (, ; he, כוזרים, ''Kuzarim''; tr, Hazarlar; az, Xəzərlər; ba, Хазарҙар; tt, Хәзәрләр, ''Xäzärlär''; ''Xazar''; fa, خزر; uk, Хоза́ри, ''Khozáry''; rus, Хаза́ры, ''Khazáry''; ...
but in recent centuries common and standard name in Arabic language is Baḥr
Qazvin Qazvin (; fa, قزوین, , also Romanized as ''Qazvīn'', ''Caspin'', ''Qazwin'' or ''Ghazvin'') is the largest city and capital of the Province of Qazvin in Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic ...

Qazvin
Arabized from Caspian. Some Turkic ethnic groups refer to it with the Caspi(an) descriptor; in Kazakh it is called , ''Kaspiy teñizi'', in ky, Каспий деңизи (Kaspiy deñizi), in uz, Kaspiy dengizi. In modern russian: Каспи́йское мо́ре, ''Kaspiyskoye more''.''Iran'' (5th ed., 2008), by Andrew Burke and Mark Elliott
p. 28
, Lonely Planet Publications,


Hyrcania term

Among Greeks and Persians in
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD centred on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ...
it was the
Hyrcania Hyrcania () ( el, ''Hyrkania'', Old Persian: 𐎺𐎼𐎣𐎠𐎴 ''Varkâna'',Lendering (1996) Middle Persian: 𐭢𐭥𐭫𐭢𐭠𐭭 ''Gurgān'', Akkadian (language), Akkadian: ''Urqananu'') is a historical region composed of the land south ...
n ocean.


Khazar cognate synonyms

Turkic ethnic groups like
Azerbaijanis Azerbaijanis (; az, Azərbaycanlılar) or Azeris (), also known as Azerbaijani Turks ( az, Azərbaycan Türkləri, ), are a Turkic peoples, Turkic ethnic group, living mainly in the sovereign Azerbaijan, Republic of Azerbaijan and the Azerba ...
,
Turkmens Turkmens ( tk, , , , ; historically the Turkmen), also known as Turkmen Turks ( tk, Türkmen türkleri, ), are a Turkic peoples, Turkic ethnic group native to Central Asia, living mainly in Turkmenistan, northern and northeastern regions of Ira ...
, and
Turkish people Turkish people or the Turks ( tr, Türkler), also known as Anatolian Turks ( tr, Anadolu Türkleri), are a Turkic ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attribut ...
refer to it using its ''
Khazar The Khazars (, ; he, כוזרים, ''Kuzarim''; tr, Hazarlar; az, Xəzərlər; ba, Хазарҙар; tt, Хәзәрләр, ''Xäzärlär''; ''Xazar''; fa, خزر; uk, Хоза́ри, ''Khozáry''; rus, Хаза́ры, ''Khazáry''; ...
/Hazar'' name: * in Turkmen: * in
Azerbaijani Azerbaijani may refer to: * Something of, or related to Azerbaijan * Azerbaijanis * Azerbaijani language See also

* Azerbaijan (disambiguation) * Azeri (disambiguation) * Azerbaijani cuisine * Culture of Azerbaijan * {{Disambig Language a ...
: * in
modern Turkish Turkish ( , ), also referred to as Istanbul Turkish (''İstanbul Türkçesi'') or Turkey Turkish (''Türkiye Türkçesi''), is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages The Turkic languages are a language family of at least 35 documente ...

modern Turkish
: . In all these, the second word means "sea", and the first word refers to the historical Khazars who had a large empire based to the north of the Caspian Sea between the 7th and 10th centuries. Old Russian sources use the ''Khvalyn'' or ''Khvalis'' Sea () after the name of
Khwarezmia Khwarazm , or Chorasmia (Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other O ...
.


Renaissance European mapmakers

Renaissance European maps labelled it as ''Abbacuch Sea'' (Oronce Fine's 1531 world map), ''Mar de Bachu'' (Ortellius' 1570 map), or ''Mar de Sala'' (Mercator's 1569 map).


Basin countries


Border countries

*
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
*
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north ...

Iran
*
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...
*
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the world, covering over , and encom ...

Russia
*
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ;), also known as Turkmenia, is a sovereign country in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afgh ...

Turkmenistan


Non-border countries

*
Armenia Armenia,, officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country located in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.The UN]classification of world regions places Armenia in Western Asia; the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA The World ...
(entirety) * Georgia (country), Georgia (its east part) *
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia in Western Asia, with a small portion on the Balkans in Southeast Europe. It shares borders with Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest; the B ...

Turkey
(extreme north-eastern parts) *
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan (, ; uz, Ozbekiston, ), officially the Republic of Uzbekistan ( uz, Ozbekiston Respublikasi), is a landlocked country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land ...

Uzbekistan
(extreme western parts)


Physical characteristics


Formation

The Caspian Sea, like the
Black Sea , with the skyline of Batumi Batumi (; ka, ბათუმი ) is the second largest city of Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia ( ka, საქართველო; ''Sakartvelo''; ) is a country locat ...
, is a remnant of the ancient Paratethys Sea. Its seafloor is, therefore, a standard oceanic
basalt Basalt (, ) is a fine-grained extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of low-viscosity lava rich in magnesium and iron ('' mafic '' lava) exposed at or very near the surface of a rocky planet or a moon. More than 90% of all ...
and not a continental
granite Granite () is a coarse-grained (phanerite, phaneritic) intrusive rock, intrusive igneous rock composed mostly of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase. It forms from magma with a high content of silica and alkali metal oxides that slowly cools ...

granite
body. It became landlocked about 5.5 million years ago due to
tectonic uplift Kupe's Sail at Palliser Bay in New Zealand Tectonic uplift is the orogeny, geologic uplift of Earth#Surface, Earth's surface that is attributed to plate tectonics. While isostatic response is important, an increase in the mean elevation of a r ...
and a fall in
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average level of the surface of one or more of Earth's bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of Vertical datum, vertical dat ...

sea level
. During warm and dry climatic periods, the landlocked sea almost dried up, depositing evaporitic sediments like
halite Halite ( or ), commonly known as rock salt, is a type of salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its natural form as a cry ...

halite
that were covered by wind-blown deposits and were sealed off as an
evaporite evaporated from the Dead Sea, Israel Evaporite () is the term for a water-soluble mineral sediment Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently sediment transport, ...
sink A sink – also known by other names including sinker, washbowl, hand basin, wash basin, and simply basin – is a bowl-shaped plumbing fixture used for washing hands, dishwashing, and other purposes. Sinks have taps (faucets) that supply hot ...
when cool, wet climates refilled the basin. (Comparable evaporite beds underlie the
Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin (also known as the Mediterranean region or sometimes Mediterranea) is the region of lands aroun ...
.) Due to the current inflow of fresh water in the north, the Caspian Sea water is almost fresh in its northern portions, getting more
brackish Brackish water, also sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment having more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater (salt water) with fresh water together, as in estu ...
toward the south. It is most saline on the Iranian shore, where the catchment basin contributes little flow. Currently, the mean salinity of the Caspian is one third that of Earth's oceans. The Garabogazköl
embayment A bay is a recessed, coastal body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water, such as an ocean, a lake, or another bay. A large bay is usually called a Gulf (geography), gulf, sea, sound (geography), sound, or bight (geogr ...
, which dried up when water flow from the main body of the Caspian was blocked in the 1980s but has since been restored, routinely exceeds oceanic salinity by a factor of 10.


Geography

The Caspian Sea is the largest inland body of water in the world and accounts for 40 to 44% of the total
lacustrine A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of the Earth that is not permanently covered by water. The vast majority of human activity throughout history has occurred in lan ...
waters of the world. The coastlines of the Caspian are shared by
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...
, Iran,
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
, Russia, and
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ;), also known as Turkmenia, is a sovereign country in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afgh ...

Turkmenistan
. The Caspian is divided into three distinct physical regions: the Northern, Middle, and Southern Caspian. The Northern–Middle boundary is the Mangyshlak Threshold, which runs through Chechen Island and Cape Tiub-Karagan. The Middle–Southern boundary is the Apsheron Threshold, a sill of tectonic origin between the Eurasian continent and an oceanic remnant, that runs through Zhiloi Island and Cape Kuuli. The Garabogazköl Bay is the saline eastern inlet of the Caspian, which is part of Turkmenistan and at times has been a lake in its own right due to the isthmus that cuts it off from the Caspian. Differences between the three regions are dramatic. The Northern Caspian only includes the Caspian shelf, and is very shallow; it accounts for less than 1% of the total water volume with an average depth of only . The sea noticeably drops off towards the Middle Caspian, where the average depth is . The Southern Caspian is the deepest, with oceanic depths of over , greatly exceeding the depth of other regional seas, such as the
Persian Gulf The Persian Gulf ( fa, خلیج فارس, translit=xalij-e fârs, lit=Gulf of Fars, ) is a mediterranean sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely en ...
. The Middle and Southern Caspian account for 33% and 66% of the total water volume, respectively. The northern portion of the Caspian Sea typically freezes in the winter, and in the coldest winters ice forms in the south as well. Over 130 rivers provide inflow to the Caspian, with the
Volga River The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the longest river in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rat ...
being the largest. A second affluent, the
Ural River The Ural (russian: Урал, ), known as Yaik (russian: Яик, ba, Яйыҡ, translit=Yayıq, ; kk, Жайық, translit=Jayıq, جايىق, ) before 1775, is a river flowing through Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), ...
, flows in from the north, and the Kura River flows into the sea from the west. In the past, the
Amu Darya The Amu Darya, tk, Amyderýa/ uz, Amudaryo// tg, Амударё, Amudaryo ps, , tr, Ceyhun / Amu Derya grc, Ὦξος, Ôxos (also called the Amu, Amo River, or Jay-hoon, and historically known by its Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical ...
(Oxus) of Central Asia in the east often changed course to empty into the Caspian through a now-desiccated riverbed called the Uzboy River, as did the
Syr Darya uz, Sirdaryo, Сирдарё tg, Сирдарё , name_native_lang = , name_other = Jaxartes, Seyhun , name_etymology = unknown , image = Syr Darya.jpg , image_size = 290px , image_caption = Syr Darya ...

Syr Darya
farther north. The Caspian has several small islands; they are primarily located in the north and have a collective land area of roughly . Adjacent to the North Caspian is the
Caspian Depression 250px, Caspian Depression and north Caspian Sea from space The Caspian Depression ( kk, Каспий маңы ойпаты, ''Kaspıı mańy oıpaty''; rus, Прикаспи́йская ни́зменность, p=prʲɪkɐˈspʲijskəjə ˈnʲi ...
, a low-lying region below
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average level of the surface of one or more of Earth's bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of Vertical datum, vertical dat ...

sea level
. The
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Russian Empire, Russian-rul ...

Central Asia
n
steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may in ...

steppe
s stretch across the northeast coast, while the
Caucasus mountains The Caucasus Mountains, : pronounced * hy, Կովկասյան լեռներ, : pronounced * az, Qafqaz dağları, pronounced * rus, Кавка́зские го́ры, Kavkázskiye góry, kɐfˈkasːkʲɪje ˈɡorɨ * tr, Kafkas Dağlar ...
hug the western shore. The
biomes A biome is a collection of plants Plants are mainly multicellular organisms, predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical en ...

biomes
to both the north and east are characterized by cold, continental deserts. Conversely, the climate to the southwest and south are generally warm with uneven elevation due to a mix of highlands and
mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similarity in form, structure, and alignment that have arisen from the same cause, usu ...

mountain range
s; the drastic changes in climate alongside the Caspian have led to a great deal of
biodiversity Biodiversity is the biological variety and Genetic variability, variability of life, life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of variation at the Genetics, genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near t ...
in the region. The Caspian Sea has numerous islands throughout, all of them near the coasts; none in the deeper parts of the sea. Ogurja Ada is the largest island. The island is long, with
gazelle A gazelle is any of many antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants are herbivorous mammals of the suborder Ruminantia that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by Enteric ferm ...

gazelle
s roaming freely on it. In the North Caspian, the majority of the islands are small and uninhabited, like the Tyuleniy Archipelago, an
Important Bird Area An Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) is an area identified using an internationally agreed set of criteria as being globally important for the conservation of bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the cl ...
(IBA), although some of them have human settlements.


Hydrology

The Caspian has characteristics common to both seas and lakes. It is often listed as the world's largest lake, although it is not
freshwater Fresh water or freshwater is any naturally occurring liquid or frozen water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical subs ...
. The 1.2% salinity would rather class it with
brackish water Brackish water, also sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment having more salinity File:IAPSO Standard Seawater.jpg, upInternational Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) standard seawater. ...
bodies. It contains about 3.5 times as much water, by volume, than all five of North America's
Great Lakes upright=1.3, Location in North America The Great Lakes also called the Great Lakes of North America or the Laurentian Great Lakes, is a series of large interconnected freshwater lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a ...

Great Lakes
combined. The
Volga River The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the longest river in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rat ...
(about 80% of the inflow) and the
Ural River The Ural (russian: Урал, ), known as Yaik (russian: Яик, ba, Яйыҡ, translit=Yayıq, ; kk, Жайық, translit=Jayıq, جايىق, ) before 1775, is a river flowing through Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), ...
discharge into the Caspian Sea, but it has no natural outflow other than by
evaporation File:10. Ладење при испарување.ogv, 280px, Demonstration of evaporative cooling. When the sensor is dipped in ethanol and then taken out to evaporate, the instrument shows progressively lower temperature as the ethanol evapor ...

evaporation
. Thus the Caspian
ecosystem An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syste ...
is a closed basin, with its own sea level history that is independent of the eustatic level of the world's oceans. The level of the Caspian has fallen and risen, often rapidly, many times over the centuries. Some Russian historians claim that a
medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of w ...

medieval
rising of the Caspian, perhaps caused by the
Amu Darya The Amu Darya, tk, Amyderýa/ uz, Amudaryo// tg, Амударё, Amudaryo ps, , tr, Ceyhun / Amu Derya grc, Ὦξος, Ôxos (also called the Amu, Amo River, or Jay-hoon, and historically known by its Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical ...
changing its inflow to the Caspian from the 13th century to the 16th century, caused the coastal towns of
Khazaria The Khazars (, ; he, כוזרים, ''Kuzarim''; tr, Hazarlar; az, Xəzərlər; ba, Хазарҙар; tt, Хәзәрләр, ''Xäzärlär''; ''Xazar''; fa, خزر; uk, Хоза́ри, ''Khozáry''; rus, Хаза́ры, ''Khazáry''; ...

Khazaria
, such as
Atil Atil ( tr, İtil; cf. ''A-de Shui''), literally meaning "Big River", was the capital of Khazaria from the middle of the 8th century until the end of the 10th century. The word is also a Turkic name for the Volga River The Volga (; rus, Во ...
, to flood. In 2004, the water level was below
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average level of the surface of one or more of Earth's bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of Vertical datum, vertical dat ...

sea level
. Over the centuries, Caspian Sea levels have changed in synchrony with the estimated discharge of the Volga, which in turn depends on rainfall levels in its vast catchment basin. Precipitation is related to variations in the amount of North Atlantic depressions that reach the interior, and they in turn are affected by cycles of the
North Atlantic oscillation#REDIRECT North Atlantic oscillation {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
. Thus levels in the Caspian Sea relate to atmospheric conditions in the North Atlantic, thousands of kilometres to the northwest. The last short-term sea-level cycle started with a sea-level fall of from 1929 to 1977, followed by a rise of from 1977 until 1995. Since then smaller oscillations have taken place. A study by the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences estimated that the level of the sea was dropping by more than six centimetres per year due to increased evaporation due to rising temperatures caused by
climate change Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known event ...
.


Environmental degradation

The
Volga River The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the longest river in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rat ...
, the largest in Europe, drains 20% of the European land area and is the source of 80% of the Caspian's inflow. Its lower reaches are heavily developed with numerous unregulated releases of chemical and biological pollutants. The
UN Environment Programme The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is responsible for coordinating responses to environmental issues within the United Nations system. It was established by Maurice Strong, its first director, after the United Nations Conference on th ...
warns that the Caspian "suffers from an enormous burden of pollution from oil extraction and refining, offshore oil fields, radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants and huge volumes of untreated sewage and industrial waste introduced mainly by the Volga River". The magnitude of
fossil fuel A fossil fuel is a hydrocarbon In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen che ...
extraction and transport activity in the Caspian also poses a risk to the environment. The island of Vulf off
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
, for example, has suffered ecological damage as a result of the petrochemical industry; this has significantly decreased the number of species of marine birds in the area. Existing and planned oil and gas pipelines under the sea further increase the potential threat to the environment. The high concentration of mud volcanoes under the Caspian Sea were thought to be the cause of a fire that broke out 75 kilometers from
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
on July 5, 2021. The State oil company of Azerbaijan
SOCAR The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası Dövlət Neft Şirkəti), largely known as SOCAR is fully state-owned State ownership, also called government ownership and public ownership, is the ownership of an ...
said preliminary information indicated it was a mud volcano which spew both mud and flammable gas. It is assumed that during the 21st century, the level will decrease by 9-18 m (30-60 ft) due to the acceleration of evaporation due to
global warming Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known event ...

global warming
and the process of
desertification Desertification is a type of land degradation Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or distur ...
. On October 23, 2021, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed the Protocol for the Protection of the Caspian Sea against Pollution from Land-based Sources in order to ensure better protection for the biodiversity of the Caspian Sea.


Nature


Aquatic


Flora

The rising level of the Caspian Sea between 1994 and 1996 reduced the number of habitats for rare species of aquatic vegetation. This has been attributed to a general lack of seeding material in newly formed coastal
lagoon Garabogaz-Göl lagoon in Turkmenistan A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by reefs, barrier islands, or a barrier peninsula. Lagoons are commonly divided into coastal lagoons and atoll lagoons. They h ...

lagoon
s and water bodies.


Fauna

The Caspian turtle (''Mauremys caspica''), although found in neighboring areas, is a wholly freshwater species. The
zebra mussel The zebra mussel (''Dreissena polymorpha'') is a small freshwater Fresh water (or freshwater) is any naturally occurring water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorles ...
is native to the Caspian and
Black Sea , with the skyline of Batumi Batumi (; ka, ბათუმი ) is the second largest city of Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia ( ka, საქართველო; ''Sakartvelo''; ) is a country locat ...
basins, but has become an
invasive species Kudzu, a Japanese vine species invasive in the southeast United States, growing in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S. state)">Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia ( ka, საქართველო; ''Sakartvelo''; ) is ...
elsewhere, when introduced. The area has given its name to several species, including the
Caspian gull The Caspian gull (''Larus cachinnans)'' is a large gull and a member of the Larus, herring and lesser black-backed gull complex. The scientific name is from Latin. ''Larus'' appears to have referred to a gull or other large seabird, and ''cachinn ...
and the
Caspian tern The Caspian tern (''Hydroprogne caspia'') is a species of tern, with a cosmopolitan distribution, subcosmopolitan but scattered distribution. Despite its extensive range, it is monotypic of its genus, and has no accepted subspecies. The genus name ...
. The
Caspian seal The Caspian seal (''Pusa caspica'') is one of the smallest members of the earless seal The earless seals, phocids or true seals are one of the three main groups of mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of v ...
(''Pusa caspica'') is the only aquatic mammal and is
endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest grou ...
to the Caspian Sea, being one of very few seal species that live in inland waters, but it is different from the those inhabiting freshwaters due to the hydrological environment of the sea. A century ago the Caspian was home to more than one million
seals Seals may refer to: * Pinniped, a diverse group of semi-aquatic marine mammals, many of which are commonly called seals, particularly: ** Earless seal, or "true seal" ** Fur seal * Seal (emblem), a device to impress an emblem, used as a means of au ...
. Today, fewer than 10% remain. Archeological studies of Gobustan Rock Art have identified what may be
dolphin Dolphin is the common name of aquatic mammals within the infraorder Cetacea. The term dolphin usually refers to the extant families Delphinidae (the oceanic dolphins), Platanistidae (the Indian river dolphins), Iniidae (the New World river dol ...
s and
porpoise Porpoises are a group of fully aquatic marine mammals, similar in appearance to a dolphin, all of which are classified under the family Phocoenidae, parvorder Odontoceti (toothed whales). They are, however, more closely related to narwhals and ...

porpoise
s, or a certain species of
beaked whale Beaked whales are a group of cetaceans noted as being one of the least known groups of mammals because of their deep-sea habitat and apparent low abundance. Only three or four of the 22 species are reasonably well-known. Baird's beaked whales and ...

beaked whale
s and what may be a whaling scene indicates large
baleen whale Baleen whales (systematic name Mysticeti), also known as whalebone whales, form a parvorder of the infraorder Cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises). They are a widely range (biology), distributed and diverse parvorder of carnivorous marine mam ...
s likely being present in Caspian Sea at least until when the Caspian Sea ceased being a part of the ocean system or until the
Quaternary Quaternary ( ) is the current and most recent of the three Period (geology), periods of the Cenozoic Era (geology), Era in the geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). It follows the Neogene Period and spans from ...
or much more recent periods such as until the last glacial period or
antiquity Antiquity or Antiquities may refer to Historical objects or periods Artifacts * Antiquities, objects or artifacts surviving from ancient cultures Eras Any period before the European Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages ...
. Although the rock art on Kichikdash Mountain is assumed to be of a dolphin or of a beaked whale, it might instead represent the famous
beluga sturgeon The beluga , also known as the beluga sturgeon or great sturgeon (''Huso huso'') is a species of anadromous fish in the sturgeon family (biology), family (Acipenseridae) of order (biology), order Acipenseriformes. It is found primarily in the Ca ...
due to its size (430 cm in length), but fossil records suggest certain ancestors of modern dolphins and whales, such as '' Macrokentriodon morani'' (
bottlenose dolphin Bottlenose dolphins are in the genus ''Tursiops.'' They are the most common members of the family Delphinidae, the family of oceanic dolphins. Molecular studies show the genus contains three species In biology, a species is the basic u ...
s) and '' Balaenoptera sibbaldina'' (
blue whale The blue whale (''Balaenoptera musculus'') is a marine mammal belonging to the baleen whale suborder Mysticeti. Reaching a maximum confirmed length of and a weighing up to , it is the largest animal known to have existed. The blue whale's lo ...
s) were presumably larger than their present descendants. From the same artworks,
auk An auk or alcid is a bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Oviparity, laying of Eggshell, hard-shelled eggs, a high Metabo ...
s, like Brunnich's Guillemot could also have been in the sea as well, and these petroglyphs suggest marine inflow between the current Caspian Sea and the Arctic Ocean or
North Sea The North Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean between Great Britain (specifically England and Scotland), Norway, Jutland (in Denmark), Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Hauts-de-France (in France). An epeiric sea, epeiric (or "shelf") sea on ...

North Sea
, or the
Black Sea , with the skyline of Batumi Batumi (; ka, ბათუმი ) is the second largest city of Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia ( ka, საქართველო; ''Sakartvelo''; ) is a country locat ...
. This is supported by the existences of current endemic, oceanic species such as which was genetically identified to originate in Caspian/Black Seas regions. The sea's (including associated waters such as rivers) has 160 native species and
subspecies In biological classification In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactio ...
of fish in more than 60
genera Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also ref ...
.Naseka, A.M. and Bogutskaya, N.G. (2009). "Fishes of the Caspian Sea: zoogeography and updated check-list". ''Zoosystematica Rossica'' 18(2): 295–317. About 62% of the species and subspecies are
endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interact ...
, as are 4–6 genera (depending on
taxonomic Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a specific classification scheme. Originally used only about biological ...
treatment). The lake proper has 115 natives, including 73 endemics (63.5%). Among the more than 50 genera in the lake proper, 3–4 are endemic: '' Anatirostrum'', ''Caspiomyzon'', ''Ponticola bathybius, Chasar'' (often included in ''Ponticola'') and ''Hyrcanogobius''. By far the most numerous families in the lake proper are gobies (35 species and subspecies), cyprinids (32) and clupeids (22). Two particularly rich genera are ''Alosa'' with 18 endemic species/subspecies and ''Benthophilus'' with 16 endemic species. Other examples of endemics are four species of ''Clupeonella'', ''Gobio volgensis'', two ''Rutilus'', three ''Sabanejewia'', ''Stenodus leucichthys'', two ''Salmo'', two ''Mesogobius'' and three ''Neogobius''. Most non-endemic natives are either shared with the Black Sea basin or widespread Palearctic species such as crucian carp, Prussian carp, common carp, common bream, common bleak, Asp (fish), asp, white bream, sunbleak, common dace, common roach, common rudd, European chub, Pelecus cultratus, sichel, tench, European weatherfish, wels catfish, northern pike, burbot, European perch and zander. Almost 30 non-indigenous, Introduced species, introduced fish species have been reported from the Caspian Sea, but only a few have become established. Six sturgeon species, the Russian sturgeon, Russian, Bastard sturgeon, bastard, Persian sturgeon, Persian, sterlet, Starry sturgeon, starry and Beluga (sturgeon), beluga, are native to the Caspian Sea. The last of these is arguably the List of largest fish, largest freshwater fish in the world. The sturgeon yield roe (eggs) that are processed into
caviar Caviar (also known as caviare; from fa, خاویار, khâvyâr, egg-bearing) is a food consisting of salt-cured roe of the family Acipenseridae. Caviar is considered a delicacy and is eaten as a garnish or a spread. Traditionally, the ter ...
. Overfishing has depleted a number of the historic fisheries. In recent years, overfishing has threatened the sturgeon population to the point that Environmentalism, environmentalists advocate banning sturgeon fishing completely until the population recovers. The high price of sturgeon caviar—more than 1,500 Azerbaijani manats (US$880 ) per kilo—allows fishermen to afford bribes to ensure the authorities look the other way, making regulations in many locations ineffective. Caviar harvesting further endangers the fish stocks, since it targets reproductive females.


Terrestrial


Flora

Many rare and endemic plant species of Russia are associated with the Intertidal zone, tidal areas of the Volga delta and riparian forests of the Samur River delta. The shoreline is also a unique refuge for plants adapted to the loose sands of the Central Asian northern desert, Central Asian Deserts. The principal limiting factors to successful establishment of plant species are hydrological imbalances within the surrounding deltas, water pollution, and various land reclamation activities. The water level change within the Caspian Sea is an indirect reason for which plants may not get established. These affect aquatic plants of the Volga Delta, such as ''Aldrovanda vesiculosa'' and the native ''Nelumbo, Nelumbo caspica''. About 11 plant species are found in the Samur River Delta, including the unique liana forests that date back to the Tertiary period.


Fauna

Reptiles native to the region include spur-thighed tortoise (''Testudo graeca buxtoni'') and Russian tortoise, Horsfield's tortoise. * The Asiatic cheetah used to occur in the Trans-Caucasus and
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Russian Empire, Russian-rul ...

Central Asia
, but is today restricted to Iran.Humphreys, P., Kahrom, E. (1999)
Lion and Gazelle: The Mammals and Birds of Iran
. Images Publishing, Avon.
* The Asiatic lion used to occur in the Trans-Caucasus, Iran, and possibly the southern part of Turkestan. * The Caspian tiger used to occur in northern Iran, the Caucasus and
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Russian Empire, Russian-rul ...

Central Asia
. * The Persian leopard is found in Iran, the Caucasus and Central Asia.


History


Geology

File:Caspian sea Ibn Hawqal.JPG, upCaspian Sea (Bahr ul-Khazar). 10th century map by Ibn HawqalThe main geologic history locally had two stages. The first is the Miocene, determined by Tectonics, tectonic events that correlate with the closing of the Tethys Ocean, Tethys Sea. The second is the Pleistocene noted for its Glacial period, glaciation cycles and the full run of the present Volga. During the first stage, the Tethys Sea had evolved into the Sarmatians, Sarmatian Lake, that was created from the modern Black Sea and south Caspian, when the collision of the Arabian Peninsula, Arabian peninsula with
Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the Greater Middle East. It includes Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Mesopotamia, the Levant region, the island of Cyprus, the Sinai Peninsula, and ...

Western Asia
pushed up the Kopet Dag and Caucasus Mountains, lasting south and west limits to the basin. This Orogeny, orogeneic movement was continuous, while the Caspian was regularly disconnected from the
Black Sea , with the skyline of Batumi Batumi (; ka, ბათუმი ) is the second largest city of Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia ( ka, საქართველო; ''Sakartvelo''; ) is a country locat ...
. In the late Pontian, a mountain arch rose across the south basin and divided it into the Khachmaz District, Khachmaz and Lankaran Lakes (or early Balaxanı, Balaxani). The period of restriction to the south basin was reversed during the Akchagylian – the lake became more than three times its size today and took again the first of a series of contacts with the Black Sea and with Lake Aral. A recession of the completed stage one.


Early settlement nearby

The earliest hominid remains found around the Caspian Sea are from Dmanisi dating back to around 1.8 Ma and yielded a number of skeletal remains of Homo erectus or Homo ergaster. More later evidence for human occupation of the region came from a number of caves in Georgia (country), Georgia and Azerbaijan such as Kudaro and Azykh Caves. There is evidence for Lower Palaeolithic human occupation south of the Caspian from western Alburz. These are Ganj Par and Darband Cave sites. Neanderthal remains also have been discovered at a cave in Georgia. Discoveries in the Hotu cave and the adjacent Hotu and Kamarband Caves, Kamarband cave, near the town of Behshahr, Mazandaran south of the Caspian in Iran, suggest human habitation of the area as early as 11,000 years ago. Ancient Greeks focused on the civilization on the south shore – they call it the (H)yr(c/k)anian Sea ( grc, Υρκανία θάλαττα, with sources noting the latter word was evolving then to today's ''Thelessa'': late grc, θάλασσα).


Chinese maximal limit

Later, in the Tang dynasty (618-907), the sea was the western limit of the Chinese Empire.


Fossil fuel

The area is rich in fossil fuels. Oil wells were being dug in the region as early as the 10th century to reach oil "for use in everyday life, both for medicinal purposes and for heating and lighting in homes"."The Development of the Oil and Gas Industry in Azerbaijan
". SOCAR
By the 16th century, Europeans were aware of the rich oil and gas deposits locally. English traders Thomas Bannister and Jeffrey Duckett described the area around
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
as "a strange thing to behold, for there issueth out of the ground a marvelous quantity of oil, which serveth all the country to burn in their houses. This oil is black and is called naphtha#Etymology, nefte. There is also by the town of Baku, another kind of oil which is white and very precious [i.e., petroleum].""Back to the Future: Britain, Baku Oil and the Cycle of History
". SOCAR
Today, oil and gas platforms abound along the edges of the sea.


Geography, geology and navigation studies

During the rule of Peter I the Great, Fedor Ivanovich Soimonov, Fedor I. Soimonov was a pioneering explorer of the sea. He was a hydrographer who charted and made much better known the sea such as its measurements. He drew a set of four maps and wrote ''Pilot of the Caspian Sea'', the first lengthy report and modern maps. These were published in 1720 by the Russian Academy of Sciences.


Cities


Ancient

*
Hyrcania Hyrcania () ( el, ''Hyrkania'', Old Persian: 𐎺𐎼𐎣𐎠𐎴 ''Varkâna'',Lendering (1996) Middle Persian: 𐭢𐭥𐭫𐭢𐭠𐭭 ''Gurgān'', Akkadian (language), Akkadian: ''Urqananu'') is a historical region composed of the land south ...
, ancient state in the north of Iran * Sari, Iran, Sari, Mazandaran Province of Iran * Bandar-e Anzali, Anzali, Gilan Province of Iran * Astara, Iran, Astara, Gilan Province of Iran * Astarabad, Golestan Province of Iran * Sar Kalateh-ye Kharab Shahr, Tamisheh, Golestan Province of Iran * Atil, Khazaria * Khazaran *
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
, Azerbaijan * Derbent, Dagestan, Russia * Xacitarxan, modern-day Astrakhan


Modern

*
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north ...

Iran
: ** Aliabad-e Katul, Ali Abad ** Astaneh-ye Ashrafiyeh ** Astara, Iran, Astara ** Babolsar ** Bandar-e Anzali ** Bandar-e Gaz County, Bandar-e-Gaz ** Bandar Torkaman ** Behshahr ** Chalus, Iran, Chalus ** Fenderesk District, Fenderesk ** Gomishan ** Gonbad-e Kavus ** Gorgan ** Juybar ** Kordkuy ** Lahijan ** Langarud ** Mahmudabad, Mazandaran, Mahmudabad ** Neka ** Nowshahr ** Nur, Iran, Nur ** Ramsar, Mazandaran, Ramsar ** Rasht ** Rudbar ** Rudsar ** Sari, Iran, Sari ** Sorkhroud ** Tonekabon *
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...
: ** Astara, Azerbaijan, Astara **
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
** Gobustan District, Gobustan ** Khudat ** Khachmaz (city), Khachmaz ** Lankaran ** Masallı ** Nabran ** Neftçala, Neftchala ** Shabran District, Shabran ** Siazan District, Siyazan ** Oil Rocks ** Sumqayit *
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
: ** Atyrau ** Aktau * Russia: ** Astrakhan ** Dagestanskiye Ogni ** Derbent ** Izberbash ** Kaspiysk ** Makhachkala *
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ;), also known as Turkmenia, is a sovereign country in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afgh ...

Turkmenistan
: ** Türkmenbaşy, Turkmenistan, Türkmenbaşy (formerly Krasnovodsk) ** Hazar, Turkmenistan, Hazar (formerly Çeleken) ** Senguly ** Garabogaz (formerly Bekdaş)


Economy

Countries on the Caspian region, particularly
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...
,
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
and
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ;), also known as Turkmenia, is a sovereign country in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afgh ...

Turkmenistan
, have a universal education legacy left by the Soviet Union. This underpinning a modest birth rate and wide higher education sector leads them capitalise from their high-value natural-resource-based economies. This is one where the natural resources, here oil and gas, compose more than 10 percent of the country's Gross domestic product, GDP and 40 percent of exports. All the Caspian region economies are highly dependent on this type of mineral wealth. The world energy markets were influenced by Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, as they became strategically crucial in this sphere, thus attracting the largest share of Foreign direct investment, FDI (foreign direct investment). All of the countries are rich in solar energy and harnessing potential, with the highest rainfall much less than the mountains of central Europe in the mountains of the west, which are also rich in hydroelectricity sources.
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north ...

Iran
has high fossil fuel energy potential. It has reserves of 137.5 billion Barrel (unit), barrels of Petroleum, crude oil, the second largest in the world, producing around four million barrels a day. Iran has an estimated 988.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, around 16 percent of world reserves, thus key to current paradigms in global energy security. Economy of Russia, Russia's economy ranks as the List of countries by GDP (nominal), twelfth largest by nominal GDP and List of countries by GDP (PPP), sixth largest by purchasing power parity in 2015. Russia's extensive mineral and energy resources are the largest such reserves in the world, making it the second leading Oil producer, producer of oil and Natural gas producer, natural gas globally. Caspian littoral states join efforts to develop infrastructure, tourism and trade in the region. The first Caspian Economic Forum was convened on August 12, 2019, in Turkmenistan and brought together representatives of Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and that state. It hosted several meetings of their ministers of economy and transport. The Caspian countries develop robust cooperation in the tech and digital field as part of the Caspian Digital Hub. The project helps expand data transmission capabilities in Kazakhstan as well as data transit capabilities between Asia and Europe. The project generated interest from investors from all over the world, including the UK.


Oil and gas

The Caspian Sea region presently is a significant, but not major, supplier of Petroleum, crude oil to world markets, based upon estimates by BP-Amoco, BP Amoco and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, United States Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. The region output about 1.4–1.5 million Barrels of oil, barrels per day plus natural Gasoline, gas liquids in 2001, 1.9% of total world output. More than a dozen countries output more than this top figure. Caspian region production has been higher, but waned during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
accounts for 55% and
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...
for about 20% of the states' Extraction of petroleum, oil output. The world's first offshore wells and machine-drilled wells were made in Bibi-Heybat Bay, near Baku, Azerbaijan. In 1873, exploration and development of oil began in some of the largest fields known to exist in the world at that time on the Absheron Peninsula near the villages of Balaxanı, Balakhanli, Sabanchi, Yanaulsky District, Republic of Bashkortostan, Sabunchi, Ramana, and Bibi Heybat. Total recoverable reserves were more than 500 million tons. By 1900, Baku had more than 3,000 oil wells, 2,000 of which were producing at industrial levels. By the end of the 19th century, Baku became known as the "black gold capital", and many skilled workers and specialists flocked to the city. By the beginning of the 20th century, Baku was the center of the international oil industry. In 1920, when the Bolsheviks captured
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...
, all private property, including oil wells and factories, was confiscated. Rapidly the republic's oil industry came under the control of the Soviet Union. By 1941, Azerbaijan was producing a record 23.5 million tons of oil per year – its Baku region output was nearly 72 percent of the Soviet Union's oil. In 1994, the "Contract of the Century (Azerbaijan), Contract of the Century" was signed, heralding extra-regional development of the Baku oil fields. The large Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline conveys Azeri oil to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan and opened in 2006. The Vladimir Filanovsky oil field in the Russian section of the body of water was discovered in 2005. It is reportedly the largest found in 25 years. It was announced in October 2016 that Lukoil would start production from it.


Transport

Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
has the main moorings of all large vessels, such as oil tankers, in
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...
. It is the largest port of the Caspian Sea. The port (and tankers) have access to the oceans along the Caspian Sea-Volga River, Volga-Volga-Don River (Russia), Don Volga–Don Canal, Canal, and the Don-Sea of Azov. A northern alternate is the Volga–Baltic Waterway, Volga-Baltic (a sea which has a connection to the
North Sea The North Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean between Great Britain (specifically England and Scotland), Norway, Jutland (in Denmark), Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Hauts-de-France (in France). An epeiric sea, epeiric (or "shelf") sea on ...

North Sea
of the Atlantic, as the White Sea does via the White Sea–Baltic Canal, White Sea-Baltic canal. Baku Sea Trade Port and Caspian Shipping Company CJSC, have a big role in the sea transportation of Azerbaijan. The Caspian Sea Shipping Company CJSC has two fleets plus shipyards. Its transport fleet has 51 vessels: 20 tankers, 13 ferries, 15 universal dry cargo vessels, 2 Ro-Ro vessels, as well as 1 technical vessel and 1 floating workshop. Its specialized fleet has 210 vessels: 20 cranes, 25 towing and supplying vehicles, 26 passenger, two pipe-laying, six fire-fighting, seven engineering-geological, two diving and 88 auxiliary vessels. The Caspian Sea Shipping Company of Azerbaijan, which acts as a liaison in the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA), simultaneously with the transportation of cargo and passengers in the Trans-Caspian direction, also performs work to fully ensure the processes of oil and gas production at sea. In the 19th century, the sharp increase in oil production in
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
gave a huge impetus to the development of shipping in the Caspian Sea, and as a result, there was a need to create fundamentally new floating facilities for the transportation of oil and oil products.


Political issues

Many of the islands along the Azerbaijani coast retain great geopolitical and economic importance for demarcation-line oil fields relying on their national status. Bulla Island, Pirallahı Island, and Nargin (island), Nargin, which is still used as a former Soviet Union, Soviet base and is the largest island in the
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
bay, hold oil reserves. The collapse of the Soviet Union allowed the market opening of the region. This led to intense investment and development by international oil companies. In 1998, Dick Cheney commented that "I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian." A key problem to further local development is arriving at precise, agreed demarcation lines among the five littoral states. The current disputes along Azerbaijan's maritime borders with Turkmenistan and Iran could impinge future development. Much controversy currently exists over the proposed Trans-Caspian Oil Transport System, Trans-Caspian oil and gas pipelines. These projects would allow Western markets easier access to Kazakh oil and, potentially, Uzbek and Turkmen gas as well. Russia officially opposes the project on environmental grounds.Sergei Blagov,
Russia Tries to Scuttle Proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline
", Eurasianet (2006-03-27)
However, analysts note that the pipelines would bypass Russia completely, thereby denying the country valuable transit fees, as well as destroying its current monopoly on westward-bound hydrocarbon exports from the region. Recently, both Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have expressed their support for the Trans-Caspian Pipeline. U.S. diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks revealed that BP covered up a gas leak and Blowout (well drilling), blowout incident in September 2008 at an operating gas field in the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshi area of the Azerbaijan Caspian Sea.


Territorial status


Coastline

Five states are located along about of Caspian coastline. The length of the coastline of these countries: # Kazakhstan - # Turkmenistan - # Azerbaijan - # Russia - # Iran - Five states are located along about of Caspian coastline. The length of the coastline of these countries: # Kazakhstan - # Turkmenistan - # Azerbaijan - # Iran - # Russia - Five states are located along about of Caspian coastline. The length of the coastline of these countries: # Kazakhstan - # Turkmenistan - # Azerbaijan - # Russia - # Iran -


Facts and figures

# Surface area: # Maximum depth: # Average depth: # Length: # Maximum width: # Minimum width: # Coastline area: # Water volume: # Altitude: below sea level. The Caspian Depression, a flat, lowland region encompassing the northern area of the Caspian Sea, is one of the lowest points on Earth. The Caspian Sea is the world's largest salt lake. Its length from north to south is ; its average width is . It covers, net of an eastern very saline lagoon, . Its depth reaches near the centre, and in the southern part, . It has no outlet so the surface level of water fluctuates a little; it averages about below sea level as of the year 2010. The Former Soviet Union portion covers , including the shelf zone. In deep sea fishing, diving and well-tapping the extent to a depth less than is .


Negotiations

In 2000, negotiations as to the Demarcation line, demarcation of the sea had been going on for nearly a decade among all the states bordering it. Whether it was by law a sea, a lake, or an agreed hybrid, the decision would set the demarcation rules and was heavily debated. Access to mineral resources (petroleum, oil and natural gas), access for fishing, and access to international waters (through Russia's
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Casp ...

Volga
river and the canals connecting it to the
Black Sea , with the skyline of Batumi Batumi (; ka, ბათუმი ) is the second largest city of Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia ( ka, საქართველო; ''Sakartvelo''; ) is a country locat ...
and Baltic Sea) all rest on the negotiations' outcome. Access to the Volga is key for market efficiency and economic diversity of the landlocked states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. This concerns Russia as more traffic seeks to use — and at some points congest — its inland waterways. If the body of water is, by law, a sea, many precedents and international treaties oblige free access to foreign vessels. If it is a lake there are no such obligations. Resolving and improving some Environment (biophysical), environmental issues properly rests on the status and borders issue. All five Caspian littoral states maintain naval forces on the sea. According to a treaty signed between Iran and the Soviet Union, the sea is technically a lake and was divided into two sectors (Iranian and Soviet), but the resources (then mainly fish) were commonly shared. The line between the two sectors was considered an international border in a common lake, like Lake Albert (Africa), Lake Albert. The Soviet sector was sub-divided into the four littoral republics' administrative sectors. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan have bilateral agreements with each other based on median lines. Because of their use by the three nations, median lines seem to be the most likely method of delineating territory in future agreements. However, Iran insists on a single, multilateral agreement between the five nations (aiming for a one-fifth share). Azerbaijan is at odds with Iran over some of the sea's oil fields. Occasionally, Iranian patrol boats have fired at vessels sent by Azerbaijan for exploration into the disputed region. There are similar tensions between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan (the latter claims that the former has pumped more oil than agreed from a field, recognized by both parties as shared). The Caspian littoral states' meeting in 2007 signed an accord that only allows littoral-state flag-bearing ships to enter the sea. Negotiations among the five states ebbed and flowed, from about 1990 to 2018. Progress was notable in the fourth Caspian Summit held in Astrakhan in 2014.


Caspian Summit

The Caspian Summit is a head of state-level meeting of the five littoral states. The fifth Caspian Summit took place on August 12, 2018, in the Kazakh port city of Aktau . The five leaders signed the ‘Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea’. Representatives of the Caspian littoral states held a meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan on September 28, 2018, as a follow-up to the Aktau Summit. The conference was hosted by the Kazakh Ministry of Investment and Development. The participants in the meeting agreed to host an investment forum for the Caspian region every two years.


Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea

The five littoral states build consensus on legally binding governance of the Caspian Sea through Special Working Groups of a Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. In advance of a Caspian Summit, the 51st Special Working Group took place in Astana in May 2018 and found consensus on multiple agreements: Agreements on cooperation in the field of transport; trade and economic cooperation; prevention of incidents on the sea; combating terrorism; fighting against organized crime; and border security cooperation. The convention grants jurisdiction over of territorial waters to each neighboring country, plus an additional of exclusive fishing rights on the surface, while the rest is international waters. The seabed, on the other hand, remains undefined, subject to bilateral agreements between countries. Thus, the Caspian Sea is legally neither fully a sea nor a lake. While the convention addresses caviar production, oil and gas extraction, and military uses, it does not touch on environmental issues.


Crossborder inflow

UNECE recognizes several rivers that cross international borders which flow into the Caspian Sea. These are:


Transportation

Although the Caspian Sea is endorheic, its main tributary, the
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Casp ...

Volga
, is connected by important shipping canals Volga–Don Canal, with the Don River (and thus the Black Sea) and Volga–Baltic Waterway, with the Baltic Sea, with branch canals Northern Dvina Canal, to Northern Dvina and White Sea–Baltic Canal, to the White Sea. Another Caspian tributary, the Kuma River (Russia), Kuma River, is connected by Kuma–Manych Canal, an irrigation canal with the Don basin as well. Scheduled ferry services (including Train ferry, train ferries) across the sea chiefly are between: * Türkmenbaşy, Turkmenistan, Türkmenbaşy in
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ;), also known as Turkmenia, is a sovereign country in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afgh ...

Turkmenistan
, (formerly Türkmenbaşy, Turkmenistan, Krasnovodsk) and
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and sm ...
. * Aktau, Kazakhstan and Baku. * Cities in Iran and Russia (chiefly for cargo.)


Canals

As an
endorheic basin An endorheic basin (; also spelled endoreic basin or endorreic basin) is a drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually ...
, the Caspian Sea basin has no natural connection with the ocean. Since the Medieval Period, medieval period, traders reached the Caspian via a number of portages that connected the Volga and its tributaries with the Don River (Russia), Don River (which flows into the Sea of Azov) and various rivers that flow into the Baltic Sea. Volga–Baltic Waterway#History, Primitive canals connecting the Volga Basin with the Baltic were constructed as early as the early 18th century. Since then, a number of canal projects have been completed. The two modern canal systems that connect the Volga Basin, and hence the Caspian Sea, with the ocean are the Volga–Baltic Waterway and the Volga–Don Canal. The proposed Pechora–Kama Canal was a project that was widely discussed between the 1930s and 1980s. Shipping was a secondary consideration. Its main goal was to Northern river reversal, redirect some of the water of the Pechora River (which flows into the Arctic Ocean) via the Kama River into the Volga. The goals were both irrigation and the stabilization of the water level in the Caspian, which was thought to be falling dangerously fast at the time. During 1971, some peaceful nuclear explosion, peaceful nuclear construction experiments were carried out in the region by the U.S.S.R. In June 2007, in order to boost his oil-rich country's access to markets,
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
's President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed a link between the Caspian Sea and the
Black Sea , with the skyline of Batumi Batumi (; ka, ბათუმი ) is the second largest city of Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia ( ka, საქართველო; ''Sakartvelo''; ) is a country locat ...
. It is hoped that the "Eurasia Canal" (Manych Ship Canal) would transform landlocked Kazakhstan and other Central Asia, Central Asian countries into maritime states, enabling them to significantly increase trade volume. Although the canal would traverse Russian territory, it would benefit Kazakhstan through its Caspian Sea ports. The most likely route for the canal, the officials at the Committee on Water Resources at Kazakhstan's Agriculture Ministry say, would follow the Kuma–Manych Depression, where currently a chain of rivers and lakes is already connected by an irrigation canal (the Kuma–Manych Canal). Upgrading the Volga–Don Canal would be another option."Caspian Canal Could Boost Kazakh Trade"
''Business Week'' (2007-07-09)


See also

* Baku oil fields * Caspians * Ekranoplan, a Ground effect vehicle, ground effect plane which was developed on the Caspian Sea. * Epoch of Extreme Inundations * Eurasia Canal * Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea * Iranrud * Shah Deniz gas field * South Caucasus Pipeline * Southern Gas Corridor * Tengiz Field * Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline * Trans-Caspian Oil Transport System * Volga–Don Canal * Wildlife of Azerbaijan * Wildlife of Iran * Wildlife of Kazakhstan * Wildlife of Russia


Notes


References


External links

* *
Names of the Caspian Sea

Caspian Sea Region


{{Authority control Caspian Sea, Ancient lakes Azerbaijan–Iran border Azerbaijan–Russia border Bodies of water of Iran Border tripoints Endorheic lakes of Europe Endorheic lakes of Asia Geography of Central Asia Geography of Eastern Europe Geography of Southern Russia Geography of Western Asia International disputes International lakes of Asia International lakes of Europe Iran–Soviet Union border Iran–Turkmenistan border Kazakhstan–Russia border Kazakhstan–Turkmenistan border Lakes of Astrakhan Oblast Lakes of Azerbaijan Lakes of Dagestan Lakes of Iran Lakes of Kalmykia Lakes of Kazakhstan Lakes of Turkmenistan Landforms of Central Asia Landforms of Western Asia Lowest points Saline lakes of Asia Saline lakes of Europe Seas of Iran Eutrophication