BIODIVERSITY OF PAKISTAN

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BIODIVERSITY OF PAKISTAN

Pakistan has 225 Protected Areas (PAs) 14 national parks, 99 wildlife sanctuaries, and 96 game reserves. It is a world of rapidly shrinking wetlands, some of them of international significance, of wondrous juniper forests, minute life forms which buzz their way to a magical existence, of stunning mountains, and much more.

Pakistan covers a number of the world’s ecoregions, ranging from the mangrove forests stretching from the Arabian Sea to the towering mountains of the western Himalayas, Hindukush and Karakoram.

  Biography:The country lies at the western end of the South Asian subcontinent, and its flora and fauna are composed of a blend of Palearctic and Indomalayan elements, with some groups also containing forms from the Ethiopian region.

 Ecological zonesPakistan is divided into 9 major ecological zones.
WWF – Pakistan is working to conserve the environment through its Target Driven Programmes (TDPs) that address issues pertaining to samples of forest, freshwater, marine ecosystems, species, toxics and climate change. The emphasis is on conserving representative sites of ecologically important areas within these Target Driven Programmes. Conservation of desert ecosystems is included under forests.
In most of its projects, WWF-P supports local community initiatives to conserve natural resources, and helps look for ways to improve community livelihoods. Almost all conservation projects have the following common features and priorities: partnership with local bodies and capacity building at all levels from local communities to government bodies

Critical EcosystemsUnder the Global 200, ecosystems have been ranked to carry out conservation through comparative analysis. It covers all habitats on the land masses and in the ocean. The Earth has been divided into 238 ecoregions, by the United Nation, the National Geographic Society with WWF. Out of them 5 are in Pakistan. The Global ecoregions of Pakistan are:

  1. Rann of Kutch flooded grasslands
  2. Tibetan Plateau
  3. Western Himalayan Temperate Forests
  4. Indus Delta Ecosystem
    5. Arabian Sea.

 Flora
About 5,500 – 6,000 ( Nasir and Ali 1970) species of vascular plants have been recorded in Pakistan including both native and introduced species. The flora included elements of the 6 phytogeographic regions. 4 monotypic genera of flowering plants and around 400 (7.8%) species are endemic to Pakistan.

Almost 80% of the endemics are found in the northern and western mountains (Ali and Qaiser,1986). The Kashmir Himalayas are identified as a global centre of plant diversity and endemism. Families with more than 20 recorded endemics are Papilionaceae(57 species), Compositae (49), Umbelliferae (34), Poaceae (32) and Brassicaceae (20).

MammalsAround 174 mammal species have been reported in Pakistan. Out of these, there are atleast 3 endemic species and a number of endemic and near endemic sub-species (Biodiversity Action Plan for Pakistan, WWF – P, IUCN – P and GoP).

List of Mammal species

Birds668 bird species have been recorded in Pakistan. Out of them, 375 were recorded as breeding ( Roberts, Z.B.Mirza). Breeding birds are a mixture of Palearctic and Indomalayan forms ( 1/3rd) and the occurrence of many species at one or the other geographical limits of their range shows the diverse origins of the avifauna.

The Sulaiman Range, the HinduKush, and the Himalayas in the NWFP and Azad Kashmir comprise part of the Western Himalayan Endemic Bird Area; this is the global centre of bird endemism. The Indus Valley wetlands are the second area of endemism.

  Reptiles/ AmphibiansAround 177 species, being a blend of Palearctic and Indomalayan forms. Out of the total 14 species of turtles, 90 of lizards and 65 of snakes have been reported. While 13 species are believed to be endemic.
Being a semi arid country, only 22 species of amphibians have been recorded, of which 9 are endemic. (Biodiversity Action Plan for Pakistan, WWF – P, IUCN – P and GoP).

Fish/ InvertebratesPakistan has 198 native and introduced freshwater fish species. The fish fauna is predominately south Asian and with some west Asian and high asian elements. Fish species diversity is highest in the Indus river plains and in adjacent hill ranges (Kirthar Range), and in the Himalayan foothills in Hazara, Malakand, Swat and Peshawar. Diversity is lowest in the mountain zone of the northern mountains and arid parts of north-west Baluchistan.There are 29 endemic species.
There has been little research on Invertebrates of Pakistan. About 5,000 species of invertebrates have been recorded including insects (1,000 species of true bugs, 400 species of butterflies and moths, 110 species of flies and 49 species of termites). Other include 109 species of marine worms, over 800 species of molluscs and 355 species of nematodes. (Biodiversity Action Plan for Pakistan, WWF – P, IUCN – P and GoP).

Threats to Biodiversity:Deforestation:
Pricinciple cause of deforestation in Pakistan is the consumption of fuelwood and timber.

Grazing:
Rapidly increasing domestic livestock population is the direct cause of degradation on rangelands and forests.

Soil Erosion & Desertification:
Agricultural activities and overstocking has lead to the reduction of vegetation cover, resulting in the acceleration of both wind and water erosion.

Dams/Irrigation:
The construction of dams and barrages in the Indus basin to control flooding and store water for irrigation have greatly increased the amount of Wetlands habitat in Pakistan.
Reduction in freshwater flow to the coast has greatly increased salinity in mangrove forests. The most serious effect has been the consequent conversion of land to agriculture, with removal of extensive tracts of riverine and thorn forests and the resulting disappearence from large areas of the associated fauna.

Salination/waterlogging:
Being a serious problem faced by the agriculture sector, pockets of forests of the Indus basin could be threatened.

Pollution:
Pakistan faces a serious challenge of growing pollution in urban areas and water courses. Likewise discharge of sewage and industrial effluent into aquatic and marine ecosystems is also on the rise.In Pakistan’s 1981 census, 415 cities were classed as urban in which less than one third of the population resides, which is increasing by 4.4% per annum.

Hunting/Fishing:
There is a strong tradition of illegal hunting and sports hunting in Pakistan. This has resulted into the decline of bird and mammal species.

Agricultural practices:
Pakistan faces degradation of agro-ecosystems caused by irrigation. The agricultural use of pesticides and fertilisers has rapidly increased in recent years. Pesticide use in Pakistan has increased 7 fold in quantity between 1981 and 1992.

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