0311 GMT September 24, 2022
The meteorites, rocks that falls to Earth from space, and salt domes have attracted the attention of many scientists and tourists to desert areas of Iran during the recent years.
A salt dome is a structural landform created when salt (or other evaporite minerals) intrudes into overlying rocks in a process known as diapirism. Salt domes can have unique surface and subsurface structures, and they can be discovered using techniques such as seismic reflection.
The salt domes of Iran are located in great distances to human development manifestations and seem to be relatively pristine. They have spectacular and outstanding universal values for desert areas of Iran. Some of the salt domes of Iran are unique in the world. In fact, Iran is one of the most famous countries of the world regarding its salt domes. They are located in the southern, central, northern and northwestern parts of the country.
About 300 salt domes have been identified in different parts of Iran including 54 in Kavir Desert and 48 in the northwestern part of the country in Zanjan, East Azarbaijan and West Azarbaijan provinces. A variety of landforms have also been developed in the salt domes, the most important of which are salt springs, salt rivers, sinkholes, salt glacier and tunnels.
Salt glaciers are among the most spectacular landforms in salt domes of Iran. In fact, salt glaciers are extruded from rising salt domes. They flow at mean rates of a few meters per year down into an adjacent synclinal valley.
A salt glacier can have the full width of its source dome, may extend to lengths of 5-10km where topography permits uninterrupted flow, and can even over-ride minor escarpments.
The salt domes in many cases affected fresh water and made water unsuitable for agriculture and drinking consumptions. In fact, one of the most crucial problems faced by people living in the desert areas is pollution of fresh water by evaporative sediments. However, the salt domes generate some positive economic effects for the regions, including:
● Development of geotourism, geoparks and even world heritage sites: One of the most visited salt domes in Iran is Namakdan Salt Dome in Qeshm Island Geopark in the southern province of Hormuzgan.
● Development of health tourism: Inhaling the air full of salt is useful for health and can cure asthma and some allergies. Many salt mines in different areas of Iran are suitable for the purpose. The salt domes of Chehrabad located in Zanjan Province and the salt cave located near Garmsar in central province of Semnan are appropriate sites for salt therapy.
● Use of meditation: It is attractive for many visitors travelling to the desert areas. Many salt domes in Iran are far from the crowded cities and villages and, thus they are very suitable places for meditation.
● Development of scientific tourism: A large number of scientists travelled to the desert areas of Iran to study about the salt domes and for many students the areas are suitable places for exploration and learning about formation and evolution of salt diapirs.
The above is a lightly edited version of a part of a chapter titled “Other Desert Landforms” from a book named ‘Desert Landscapes and Landforms of Iran’ written by Mehran Maghsoudi and published by Springer in 2020. The photos originally appeared in the book.