Most of Iran is made up of rugged terrain. The country contains enormous mineral wealth, much of which has yet to be exploited. Iran is subject to some of the world's most severe earthquakes, and the geological instability has frequently resulted in major physical damage and great loss of life.  Iran is dominated by a central plateau that is about 1,220 m (4,000 ft) high and is almost ringed by mountain chains.  In the north are the Elburz Mountains, paralleling the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. The highest peak in Iran, Mount DamÄvand (5,604 m/18,386 ft), is part of this mountain system. The Caspian Sea, at 28 m (92 ft) below sea level, is the lowest point in Iran.  Along the western border the complex Zagros Mountains extend south-east, running parallel to the Persian Gulf. Mountains of lower elevation lie to the east of the central plateau. Except for the relatively fertile plateau of the northern Iranian provinces of East and West Azerbaijan, the mountain soils are thin, heavily eroded, and infertile.  The narrow Caspian coastal plain, in contrast, is covered with rich brown forest soil. The only other generally flat area is the plain of Khuzestan in the west. 
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Two great deserts extend over much of central Iran. The Dasht-e LÅ«t, running from the centre of the plateau towards the south, is covered largely with sand and rocks; and the Dasht-e KavÄ«r, running across the north of the central plateau, is covered mainly with salt.  Both deserts are inhospitable and virtually uninhabited. In the winter and spring small streams flow into the Dasht-e KavÄ«r, creating small, seasonal lakes and permanent swamps.  At other times of the year both deserts are extremely arid. Most of Iran's rivers are seasonal, flowing only during the part of the year when precipitation is heaviest. The country's principal permanent rivers flow off the mountains on the slopes facing the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf.  The River KÄrÅ«n, flowing from the Zagros Mountains to the Shatt Al Arab at Khorramshahr, is the country's main navigable river.  Besides the Caspian Sea, Iran has few large lakes. Most shrink in size during the hot, dry summer and have a high salt content because they have no outlet to carry away the salt left when the water evaporates. The largest body of water entirely within Iran is Lake OrÅ«mÄ«yeh, a salt lake in the north-west. It varies in area between 3,900 sq km and 6,000 sq km (1,506 sq mi and 2,317 sq mi) depending on the season. 
Iran is divided climatically into four main regions: the extremely hot and humid coast along the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; the dry central plateau, with freezing winters and blazing summers; the Elburz and Zagros mountain chains, with cold winters, mild summers, and high precipitation; and the narrow Caspian Plain, a fertile, semi-tropical area, with a very warm and humid microclimate.  Winter brings very cold weather and snow to the west and interior of the Iranian plateau; low pressure over the warm waters of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf brings mild sub-tropical weather to those regions.  The Shamal wind blows from Pakistan from February to October, north-westerly through to the Tigris-Euphrates valley, while a "120-day" summer wind with a velocity of up to 40 km per hour (24 mph) scorches the Sistan region near the border with Pakistan. 
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Temperatures range from a high of 51Â° C (123Â° F) in summer in Khuzestan in the west to a low of -37Â° C (35Â° F) in winter in the north. The average temperatures for the months of January and July in Tehran are 2Â° C (36Â° F) and 29Â° C (85Â° F), respectively. The average temperatures during the same months in Ä€bÄdÄn are 12Â° C (54Â° F) and 36Â° C (97Â° F). Precipitation also varies widely, from less than 50 mm (2 in) in the south-east to 1,950 mm (77 in) in the Caspian Sea coastal region. The annual average for the country is about 350 mm (14 in). Average annual precipitation in Tehran and Ä€bÄdÄn is 246 mm (10 in) and 204 mm (8 in) respectively.  On the semi-humid plateaux of Iran, grass cover is used for grazing livestock. Approximately 11 per cent of the country is forested.  The Zagros Mountains have a semi-humid forest dominated by oak, elm, pistachio, and walnut trees. On the seaward slopes of the Elburz Mountains and on the Caspian plain, vegetation is abundant. In these areas broadleaf deciduous trees such as ash, elm, oak, and beech flourish, along with some broadleaf evergreens, ferns, and shrubs. On the arid plateau, scrub and cactus growth dominate. 
Iran has a wide variety of indigenous wildlife. Fauna includes the rabbit, fox, wolf, hyena, jackal, leopard, deer, porcupine, ibex, bear, badger, weasel, lion, and the now-rare tiger.  Pheasant and partridge are found inland; pelican and flamingo breed along the Persian Gulf. There are sturgeon, whitefish, and herring in the Caspian Sea. 
The Asiatic Black Bear
The Asiatic black bear (Persian: Ø®Ø±Ø³ Khers) is classified as Ursus thibetanus and belongs to the family Ursidae.  The Asiatic black bear is primarily a secondary consumer, as it feeds mostly on vegetation, but still eats small game. The Asiatic black bear is about the same size as the American black bear, with females at about 50 to 125 kg (110 to 275 lb) and the males about 100 to 200 kg (220 to 485 lb).  They have five relatively long, thick, curved front claws adapted to climbing trees and digging; their hair is long on the neck and shoulders, and they have a very large, white (sometimes brownish) chest. They breed from May to June, have generally two cubs, and leave at least two years between litters.  Asiatic black bears feed on succulent vegetation, berries, nuts, insects, some rodents, and carrion. They are considered very aggressive and dangerous in close encounters in the dense forests.
The Long-legged Buzzard
The Long-legged Buzzard (Persian: Ù¾Ø±Ù†Ø¯Ù‡Â Parandeh) is classified as Buteo rufinus and is aÂ bird of prey. It inhabits the dry open plains of Iran. It feeds mostly on small rodents, although it will also take lizards, snakes, small birds and large insects.  This makes the bird a secondary consumer as it is aÂ Carnivore which eats herbivores.Â
The Long-legged Buzzard of Iran is larger than its counterparts in other regions of the world (approximate length 60-65cm / 24") and more robust.  There are many different colour forms, but usually they have a clear orange tint to the plumage, red or orange tail, pale head and largely white underwings. There is usually a distinctive black carpal patch and dark trailing edge to the wing. Plumage varies from ghostly pale individuals to very dark ones. Some plumages are almost similar to those of the Steppe Buzzard, the easternÂ subspeciesÂ of theÂ Common BuzzardÂ (Buteo buteo vulpinus), but Long-legged Buzzards have longer wings and are more like Rough-Legged buzzards or even a smallÂ AquilaÂ eagle. 
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Open, uncultivated areas, with high bushes, trees, cliffs or hillocks are favored as nesting areas.
TheÂ Eurasian lynx
Lynx (animal), common name for a wild carnivore characterized by disproportionately long legs and large, heavy paws. Lynxes are found throughout the temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern hemisphere. They are stout-bodied animals, 65 to 130 cm (26 to 51 in) in length, with thick, soft fur and short, stubby tails. Most species have a tuft of hair, more than 2 cm (â€¢ in) long, at the tip of each ear. Lynxes are agile climbers, spending some of their time in good weather on the branches of trees, waiting for the weaker mammals and terrestrial birds that constitute their prey to pass beneath them. It is also common for lynxes to stalk their prey. In inclement weather and when breeding, they take shelter in caves or in hollow trees or logs. Two to four kittens make up the average litter. Lynxes are valued for their fur.
Generally, four types of lynxes are recognized: the Spanish lynx, whose population continues to decline and which is listed as an endangered species; the bobcat, also known as the wildcat, which is widespread throughout the United States; the Eurasian lynx of Scandinavia and northern Eurasia; and the Canadian lynx. The Canadian lynx is found from the northern United States throughout Canada and Alaska; it is the largest species in North America. The Eurasian lynx is a heavily built cat with long legs. Its coat is yellowish-brown in summer, paler in winter, and covered in large pale spots, especially on the legs. The average head-and-body length is 80 to 130 cm (35y to 51 in). The Spanish lynx is only slightly smaller than the Eurasian species. Its coat is also similar, only the spots are smaller and darker. They both feed on hares, rabbits, rodents, deer, and ground birds.
The Persian Leopard
Leopard, common name for a large member of the cat family that occupies a wide range of habitats and has the most extensive distribution of any of the wild species of cat, occurring throughout much of Africa and Asia. The body of an adult leopard is about 0.91 to 1.91 m (3 to 6.3 ft) long, exclusive of the 1-m (39-in) tail. Typically the coat is pale tan, and it is marked with broken circles of black spots. Unlike the rosettes of the American jaguar, these circles have no central spot. Specimens with darker ground colours are seen, and some leopards-born in otherwise ordinary litters-are completely black and are known as black panthers.
The leopard is an agile climber and will often stalk monkeys in the trees. It hunts mainly at night. When game is scarce, a leopard will eat fieldmice, fruit, porcupines, baboons, or arthropods. The female bears one to six young per litter.
The name leopard is also given to other species resembling the true leopard, such as the clouded leopard of south-eastern Asia, with cloud-like markings on its greyish to yellowish coat, and the snow leopard of Central Asia. The cheetah is sometimes called the hunting leopard.
TheÂ Persian Fallow DeerÂ
Persian fallow deer are bigger than Fallow Deer, theirÂ antlersÂ bigger and less palmated. They are nearly extinct today, inhabiting only a small habitat inÂ Khuzestan, southernÂ Iran, two rather small protected areas inÂ MazandaranÂ (northern Iran), an area of northernÂ IsraelÂ and an island inÂ Lake UrmiaÂ in north-western Iran and in some parts ofÂ Iraq. They were formerly found from Mesopotamia and Egypt to the Cyrenaica and Cyprus. Their preferred habitat is open woodland. They are bred in zoos and parks in Iran, Israel and Germany today. The existing population may be suffering from inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity. Since 1996 they have been gradually and successfullyreintroducedÂ from aÂ breeding centerÂ in the Carmel, into the wild in northern Israel, and more than 650 of them now live in theÂ Galilee,Mount CarmelÂ areas and theÂ Brook of Sorek.
The Bioluminescent Fungus
Omphalotus nidiformis, orÂ ghost fungus, is a gilledÂ basidiomyceteÂ mushroomÂ found in southern Australia most notable for itsbioluminescentÂ properties. Generally found growing on dead or dying trees, it isÂ saprotrophÂ andÂ parasite.
Its scientific name is derived from theÂ LatinÂ nidusÂ "nest", hence 'nest shaped'. Similar in appearance to theÂ oyster mushroom, it was previously considered a member of the same genus,Â Pleurotus, and described under the former namesÂ Pleurotus nidiformisÂ orÂ Pleurotus lampas. However, it isÂ poisonousÂ and while not lethal, consuming this mushroom leads to severeÂ crampsÂ andÂ vomiting. Poisonings have occurred over confusion withÂ oyster mushrooms. It is one of several species with bioluminescent properties occurring worldwide, all of which are poisonous with the exception ofÂ Armillaria.
HUMAN INTERACTIONS WITH NUTRIENT CYCLES OR POPULATIONS AND ENDANGERED SPECIES:
TheÂ Asiatic Cheetah