The Iraqi (Mesopotamian) Marshes, an extensive wetlands system in Iraq, has been heavily impacted by both human and climate forces over the past decades. In the period leading up to the Second Gulf War in 2002, the marshlands were shrinking due to both a policy of draining and water diversion in Iraq and construction of dams upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Following the war through 2006, this trend was reversed as the diversions were removed and active draining stopped. A combination of MODIS and GRACE datasets were used to determine the change in surface water area (SWA) in the marshes, marshland extent and change in mass both upriver in the Tigris and Euphrates watersheds and in the marshlands. Results suggest that the post war dam removal and decreased pumping in 2003 provided only temporary respite for the marshlands (2003–2006 SWA: 1,477 km2
increase (600%), water equivalent depth (WED): +2.0 cm/yr.; 2006–2009: −860 km2
(−41%) WED: −3.9 cm/yr.). Unlike in the period 2003–2006, from 2006 forward the mass variations in the marshes are highly correlated with those in the upper and middle watershed (R = 0.86 and 0.92 respectively), suggesting that any recovery due to that removal is complete, and that all future changes are tied more strongly to any climate changes that will affect recharge in the upper Tigris-Euphrates system. Precipitation changes in the watershed show a reduction of an average of 15% below the 15 yr mean in 2007–2011 This corresponds with published ensemble predictions for the 2071–2099 time period, that suggested similar marshland shrinkage should be expected in that time period.