Lake Burullus, Egypt

Site Details
Assessment Details

Site Overview

KBA status: confirmed

Rationale for qualifying as KBA: This site qualifies as a Key Biodiversity Area of international significance that meets the thresholds for at least one criterion described in the Global Standard for the Identification of KBAs. KBA identified in the CEPF Ecosystem Profile of the Mediterranean Hotspot (2017). Taxonomy, nomenclature and global threat category follow the 2016 IUCN Red List.

Global KBA criteria: D1a
Year of assessment: 2017
National site name: Lake Burullus
Central coordinates: Lat: 31.47 Long: 30.81
System: Terrestrial, Marine
Altitude (m): 0 to 10
Area of KBA (ha): 109,503
Protected area coverage (%): 83

Text account

Year of compilation: 2001
Site description:

The Protected Area is composed primarily of Lake Burullus, a large, shallow, fresh-to-brackish coastal lagoon located between the two Nile branches forming the delta. It is elongate in shape extending for c.54 km from east to west with a width of 6–21 km and an estimated average depth of 75–100 cm. The lake is separated from the sea by a broad, dune-covered sandbar, which varies in width from a few hundred meters in the east to 5 km in the west. There are some 50 islands scattered throughout the lake with a total area of 0.7 km². On average, 50–70 million m³ of slightly saline, nutrient-rich water enters the lake annually from the south via six drains. Bughaz El Burullus, located in the north-east corner of the lake, is the only direct connection between Burullus and the Mediterranean. Salinity in the lake decreases towards the south and west as the distance from the Bughaz increases, becoming fresh near the outflows of drains and canals that flow into the lake from the south. Consequently, the north shores of the lake are dominated by saltmarshes and mudflats, while the southern shore is bordered by an extensive fringe of reed-swamps (mainly Phragmites and Typha), which currently covers more than 25% of the lake area. Lake Burullus has abundant submerged vegetation, dominated by Potamogeton, which is densest in the southern portion of the lake. Burullus is by far the least disturbed and damaged of the delta wetlands and its environs still retain some aspects of wilderness, which have been lost throughout most of the delta.

Summary of threats to biodiversity at KBA:

Burullus is protected by Prime Ministerial Decree 1444/1998 and is a Ramsar Site. There is an ongoing GEF–MedWet–EEAA project to develop the management and infrastructure of the Protected Area. Burullus covered 588 km² in 1913. An estimated 37% of the open-water area and 85% of the marsh area have been lost during the past 40 years, largely as a result of ongoing drainage and reclamation of the lake’s eastern, western and southern margins, and also due to the proliferation of emergent and submerged vegetation. It is anticipated that Burullus, along with other coastal delta wetlands, will be further reduced in area as a result of landward migration of coastal sandbars. This is a consequence of severe coastal erosion, from which the northern coast of the delta has suffered since the closure of the High Dam in 1964, and the subsequent impoundment of over 98% of the Nile sediment behind it.Despite being the least polluted of the northern delta lakes, increasing quantities of agricultural drainage-water with heavy fertilizer and pesticide loads are being released into Burullus, contributing significantly to the eutrophication and pollution of the lake. Local fishermen complain that the combination of occasional siltation and closure of the Bughaz and increased drainage-water leads to the reduction of the salinity of the lake and the expansion of reed-swamps and reduces fishing opportunities. The large number of fishermen on the lake cause continuous disturbance to waterbirds, forcing them to utilize less optimal habitats or sites.Waterbird-catching is widely practised on the lake in winter. Quail nets, shotguns and lime are used along the sandbar to catch thousands of migrants in the autumn. A coastal highway running along the entire northern coast of the delta, designed to link the Egyptian Mediterranean coastal regions west and east of the delta, is near completion. The highway, which runs through the sandbar north of Lake Burullus, has dramatically increased accessibility and hence, coastal development pressures on this, the last wilderness of the delta.


Threat level 1 Threat level 2 Threat level 3 Timing Scope Severity Impact
4 Transportation & service corridors 4.1 Roads & railroads Ongoing Affects the minority of the population (<50%) Medium
5 Biological resource use 5.1 Hunting & collecting terrestrial animals 5.1.1 Intentional use (species being assessed is the target) Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High
6 Human intrusions & disturbance 6.3 Work & other activities Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High
9 Pollution 9.3 Agricultural & forestry effluents 9.3.1 Nutrient loads Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High
9 Pollution 9.3 Agricultural & forestry effluents 9.3.3 Herbicides & pesticides Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High

Recommended citation

Key Biodiversity Areas Partnership (2024) Key Biodiversity Areas factsheet: Lake Burullus. Extracted from the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas. Developed by the Key Biodiversity Areas Partnership: BirdLife International, IUCN, American Bird Conservancy, Amphibian Survival Alliance, Conservation International, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Global Environment Facility, Re:wild, NatureServe, Rainforest Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, World Wildlife Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society. Downloaded from on 02/03/2024.