Palustrine carbonates are frequently found with active and dried karstic springs in the foothills of the mountains bordering the Persepolis Basin, southwest Iran. A combination of geological conditions favours their formation, including (i) the presence of karstic limestone aquifers in the limbs of anticlines cut through by fault systems; (ii) very gentle slopes from the spring resurgence point towards the centre of the alluvial plain, creating a flat waterlogged area; and (iii) a semiarid climate with marked precipitation seasonality or significant fluctuations in water discharge and wetland water table. We suggest the term “anastomosing wetlands” or “anastomosing palustrine environments” to denote the studied karstic spring–fed carbonate wetlands, because of similarities with anastomosing river systems in aerial view. The common presence of extended anastomosing wetland carbonates in the Persepolis Basin and adjacent basins in the central and southern Zagros suggests that they can play an important role in the geological records of collision-related basin-and-range settings dominated by karstic limestones. Karstic spring wetlands are a main source of fresh water hosting a rich biodiversity, which attracts human communities, whose impact is visible in the archaeological material imbedded in the wetland stratigraphy. Fresh water availability, through these spring wetlands, partly explains why the semiarid Persepolis region was selected by successive civilizations, from Elamites to Persians until early Islamic entities, to establish regional centres throughout the period from the third millennium B.C. to the first millennium A.D. Only a few of these ecosystems have survived the intensive human activities of recent decades.

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