Lake Urmia is a salt lake in northwestern Iran, near Iran’s border with Turkey. The lake is between the Iranian provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan, west of the southern portion of the similarly shaped Caspian Sea. It is the largest lake in the Middle East, and the third largest salt water lake on earth. Lake Urmia is home to some 212 species of birds, 41 reptiles, 7 amphibians, and 27 species of mammals,including the yellow deer. It is an internationally registered protected area as both a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Ramsar site. The Iranian Dept. of Environment has designated most of the lake as a "National Park". Lake Urmia has 102 islands. For a Turkish transcription of a list of their names, see this link.
The lake is a major barrier between two of the most important cities in West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan provinces, Urmia and Tabriz. A bridge across the lake was completed in 2008 (visible as a white line across the middle of the lake). However, experts have warned that the construction of the causeway and bridge, together with a series of ecological factors, will eventually lead to the drying up of the lake, turning it into a salt marsh which will directly affect the climate of the region.
Lake Urmia has been shrinking for a long time, with an annual evaporation rate of 0.6m to 1m (24 to 39 inches). Although measures are now being taken to reverse the trend the lake has shrunk by 60 percent and could disappear entirely.