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Forest types of Pakistan




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    The following forest types are found in Pakistan.

    Littoral and Swamp forests: These are more or less gregarious forests of low height which occur in the Arabian sea around the coast of Karachi and Pasni in Balochistan. The main species is Avicennia marina (99%). Other species like Rhizophora have disappeared over a period of time due to heavy cutting. According to latest estimates, these forest cover an area of 207,000 ha.

    Tropical dry deciduous forests: These are forests of low or moderate height consisting almost entirely of deciduous species. Their canopy is typically light though it may appear fairly dense and complete during the short rainy season. This type does not occur extensively in Pakistan but there are limited areas in the Rawalpindi foothills carrying this vegetation type, all much adversely affected by close proximity to habitation or cultivation. It is closely similar both in floristic composition and in structure to that developed freely in the adjoining parts of North West India. The chief tree species are Lannea (Kamlai, Kembal)Bombax ceiba (Semal), Sterculia, Flacourtia (Kakoh, Kangu), Mallotus (Kamila, Raiuni) and Acacia catechu (Kath). Common shrubs are Adhatoda(Bankar, Basuti, Bansha), Gymnosporia (Putaki) and Indigofera (Kathi, Kainthi).

    Tropical thorn forests: These are low, open and pronouncedly xerophytic forests in which thorny leguminous species predominate. This type occupies the whole of the Indus plain except the driest parts. The major tree species are Prosopis cineraria (Jhand), Capparis decidua (Karir, Karil), Zizyphus mauritiana(Ber), Tamarix aphylla (Farash) and Salvadora oleoides (Pilu, wan). Among them are a large number of shrubs of all sizes. The tree forest climax is very frequently degraded to a very open, low thorny scrub of Euphorbia (Thor), Zizyphus (Ber), etc. owing to the universally heavy incidence of grazing and other biotic factors. Edaphic variants, especially connected with degree of salinity, shallowness over rock, etc., often occur. A characteristic pioneer vegetation is developed on inland sand dunes and the semi-deserts of the areas of least rainfall.

    On the basis of climax vegetation, the whole Indus basin plain with the exception of parts of the districts of Sialkot, Gujrat and Jehlum, consists of tropical thorn forests. Prior to development of irrigation, agriculture and urbanization, the area extended from the foothills of the Himalayas and low-hills in the south-west Punjab plains and Balochistan to the Arabian sea. The climax species of these forests are Salvadora oleoides, Capparis decidua, Tamarix aphyllaand Prosopis cineraria, which grow on a wide range of soil textures, from flat deep alluvial soils to heavy clays, loams and sandy loams. The climate varies from semi-arid (250 to 750 mm rainfall) to arid (less than 250 mm rainfall). The summer temperature in this tract is as high as 50°C.

    Earlier, these forests merged with riverain forests along the river banks and with scrub forests in the low hills in the north and north-western regions of Pakistan. Together these forests provided an ideal habitat to the wildlife of the area which seasonally migrated according to their needs; during cold winter from the lower hills towards the plains in search of food and shelter, from the flood plains towards the dry areas during floods and towards the rivers during the summer drought. This is no longer the situation. Riverain forests now grow in the forms of disjunct patches over an area of 173,000 ha. Irrigated agriculture is carried over 18.668 million ha. and irrigated tree plantations over an area of 103,000 ha in this tract.

    Sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests: These are xerophtic forests of thorny and small-leafed evergreen species. This type occurs on the foothills and lower slopes of the Himalayas, the Salt Range, Kalachitta and the Sulaiman Range. The typical species are; Olea cuspidata (Kau) and Acacia modesta(Phulai), the two species occurring mixed or pure, and the shrub Dodonaea (Sanatta) which is particularly abundant in the most degraded areas. Total area of these forests is estimated to be 1,191,000 ha.

    Sub-tropical pine forests: These are open inflammable pine forests sometimes with, but often without, a dry evergreen shrub layer and little or no underwood. This type consists of Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) forests found between 900 m and 1700 m elevation in the Western Himalayas within the range of the south-west summer monsoon. It is the only pine of these forests though there is a small overlap with Pinus wallichiana (Kail, Biar) at the upper limit.

    Himalayan moist temperate forests: The evergreen forests of conifers, locally with some admixture of oak and deciduous broad-leaved trees fall in this category. Their undergrowth is rarely dense, and consists of both evergreen and deciduous species. These forests occur between 1500 m and 3000 m elevation in the Western Himalayas except where the rainfall falls below about 1000 mm in the inner ranges, especially in the extreme north-west.

    These forests are divided into a lower and an upper zone, in each of which definite species of conifers and/or oaks dominate. In the lower zone, Cedrus deodara (Deodar, diar), Pinus wallichiana, Picea smithiana and Abies pindrow (Partal) are the main conifer species in order of increasing altitude, withQuercus incana (rin, rinj) at lower altitudes and Q. dilatata above 2130 m. In the upper zone Abies pindrow and Q. semecarpifolia are the dominant tree species. There may be pockets of deciduous broad-leaved trees, mainly edaphically conditioned, in both the zones. Alder (Alnus species) colonizes new gravels and sometimes kail does the same. Degradation forms take the shape of scrub growth and in the higher reaches, parklands and pastures are subjected to heavy grazing.

    Himalayan dry temperate forests: These are open evergreen forest with open scrub undergrowth. Both coniferous and broad-leaved species are present. This type occurs on the inner ranges throughout their length and are mainly represented in the north-west. Dry zone deodar, Pinus gerardiana (Chalghoza) and/or Quercus ilex are the main species. Higher up, blue pine communities occur and in the driest inner tracts, forests of blue pine, Juniperus macropoda(Abhal, Shupa, Shur) and some Picea smithiana (e.g. in Gilgit) are found locally.

    Sub-alpine forests: Evergreen conifers and mainly evergreen broad-leaved trees occur in relatively low open canopy, usually with a deciduous shrubby undergrowth of Viburnum (Guch), Salix (Willow, Bed), etc. The type occurs throughout the Himalayas from about 3,350 m to the timber limit. Abies spectabilis and Betula utilis (Birch, Bhuj) are the typical tree species. High level blue pine may occur on landslips and as a secondary sere on burnt areas or abandoned clearings. Rhododendrons (Bras, Chahan) occur in the understorey but do not form extensive communities as they do in the central and eastern Himalaya. Dwarf junipers are often abundant.

    Alpine scrub: Under this type are included shrub formations 1 m to 2 m high extending 150 m or more above the sub-alpine forests. The characteristic genera are Salix, Lonicera (Phut), Berberis (Sumbul, Sumblue), Cotoneaster with Juniperus and occasionally Rhododendron or Ephedra (Asmania).

    Present situation: Forest area of Pakistan reported in different official documents has varied over the years with administrative and political changes in country as well as with changes in methods of reporting data. Different government departments have been publishing different forest statistics since 1947 when Pakistan was created as an independent country. Most recently, data of land use including forest area have been reported by Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP) Project in 1993, with the help of Landsat Satellite Thematic Mapper Images at a scale of 1:250,000 covering the whole of Pakistan. This is presented in Table 1.

    The total area of forests in Pakistan according to the following table is 4.224 million ha which is 4.8% of the total land area. However, it may be mentioned here that the farmland trees and linear planting along roadsides, canalsides and railway sides covering an estimated area of 466,000 ha and 16,000 ha respectively do not constitute forests within the context of legal, ecological or silvicultural/management definition of forests. The situation is also similar, but to a lesser extent, in the case of miscellaneous plantations over an area of 155,000 ha. If the area of these three categories of plantations is excluded from total forest area of 4.224 million ha, then the latter is reduced to 3.587 million ha which is approximately 4.1 % of the total area.

    Table 1 – Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP) Estimates of Land Use Based on Satellite Imagery Interpretation (000 ha)

    Forest Cover/Land Use Class

    Ajk

    Balochistanm

    Northern Areas

    Nwfp

    Punjab

    Sindh

    Total

    Area

    %

    Forest/trees

    Conifer

    16

    42

    660

    940

    30

     

    1,913

     

    Scrub

    1

    504

     

    539

    132

     

    1,191

     

    Riverain

     

    20

     

    13

    27

    112

    173

     

    Mangrove

     

    2

     

     

     

    205

    207

     

    Irrig. Plantation

    7

    1

     

     

    79

    23

    103

     

    Farmland trees

     

    23

    6

    70

    306

    54

    466

     

    Linear planting

    10

     

     

    2

    14

     

    16

     

    Misc. Planting

    241

     

     

    120

    20

    5

    155

     

    Total

    275

    592

    666

    1,684

    608

    399

    4,224

    4.8

    Agricultural

    Irrigated

    6

    1,177

    44

    993

    10,743

    5,705

    18,668

     

    Rainfed

    36

    3

    4

    553

    1,316

     

    1,912

     

    Total

    42

    1,180

    48

    1,546

    12,059

    5,705

    20,580

    23.4

    Rangelands

    Degraded

    731

    11,674

    896

    4,106

    4,466

    2,809

    24,682

     

    Non-degraded

     

    892

     

    519

    1,293

    68

    2,772

     

    Alpine

    79

     

    705

    269

     

     

    1,053

     

    Total

    810

    12,566

    1,601

    4,894

    5,759

    2,877

    28,507

    32.4

    Barren land

    Snow/glacier

     

     

    27

     

     

     

    27

     

    Rock, gravel

     

    17,516

     

    138

    337

    523

    18,514

     

    Desertic

     

    2,802

     

     

    1,324

    3,759

    7,885

     

    Tidal flats

     

    54

     

     

     

    413

    467

     

    Total

     

    20,372

    27

    138

    1,661

    4,695

    26,893

    30.6

    Water bodies

    Riverbed

     

     

     

    48

    400

    155

    603

     

    Lake

     

    5

    1

    1

    1

    41

    49

     

    Dam, reservoir

    19

    1

     

    15

    49

    54

    138

     

    Swamp

     

     

     

     

    27

    96

    123

     

    Total

    19

    6

    1

    64

    477

    346

    913

    1.0

    Urban

     

    3

     

    4

    62

    69

    138

    0.2

    Unclassified

    Above 3,650 m

    184

     

    3161

    1792

     

     

    5137

     

    Below 3,650 m

     

     

    1536

    52

     

     

    1588

     

    Total

    184

     

    4697

    1844

     

     

    6725

    7.6

    All Land Classes

    1,330

    34,719

    7,040

    10,174

    20,626

    14,091

    87980

    100.0

     

    (Source: FSMP data base); % ‘ges by editor.

    On the basis of forest area given in Table 1, the percentage forest cover for each province/territory is as under.

    Province/territory

    Percent geographic area covered by forest

    Percent of total forest area

    Azad Jammu and Kashmir

    20.7

    6.5

    Balochistan

    1.7

    14.0

    Northern Areas

    9.5

    15.7

    N.W.F.P.

    16.6

    40.0

    Punjab

    2.9

    14.4

    Sindh

    2.8

    9.4

    All the forested area in the country does not have dense tree cover. The FSMP Project gives the following estimates of density of forest/tree area from interpretation of satellite imagery for coniferous forests (coniferous/scrub for Northern Areas), scrub forests, riverain forests, for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Balochistan and NWFP (and not Punjab and Sindh), mangrove forests and irrigated plantations. Government records for riverain net forest areas in the Punjab and Sindh were also used by the FSMP.

    Table 2 – FSMP Estimates of Forest Cover/Tree Area ‘000 ha

    Forest Cover/Land Use Class

    Ajk

    Balochistan

    Northern Areas

    Nwfp

    Punjab

    Sindh

    Total

    Area

    %

    Forest/Trees1/

    Dense

    17

     

    46

    75

     

     

    138

     

    Sparse

    224

    42

    614

    865

    30

     

    1,775

     

    Sub-Total

    241

    42

    660

    940

    30

     

    1,913

    45.3

    Scrub Forests

    16

    504

     

    539

    132

     

    1,191

    28.2

    Riverain Forests

    Dense

    1

     

     

    2

    27

    85

    115

     

    Spare

     

    20

     

    11

     

    27

    58

     

    Sub-Total

    1

    20

     

    13

    27

    112

    173

    4.1

    Mangrove Forests

    Medium

     

    2

     

     

     

    85

    87

     

    Sparse

     

     

     

     

     

    120

    120

     

    Sub-Total

     

    2

     

     

     

    205

    207

    4.9

    Irrig. Plantations

    Dense

     

     

     

     

    48

    7

    55

     

    Sparse

     

    1

     

     

    31

    16

    48

     

    Sub-Total

     

    1

     

     

    79

    23

    103

    2.4

    Farmland Trees

    7

    23

    6

    70

    306

    54

    466

    11.0

    Linear Planting

     

     

     

    2

    14

     

    16

    0.4

    Misc. Planting

    10

     

     

    120

    20

    5

    155

    3.7

    Total Area

    275

    592

    666

    1,484

    608

    399

    4,224

    100.0

    Geographic Area

    1,330

    34,719

    7,040

    10,174

    20,626

    14,091

    87,980

     

    % Tree cover

    20.7

    1.7

    9.5

    16.6

    2.9

    2.8

    4.8

     

     

    (Source: FSMR data base); % ‘ges by editor.
    1/ For Northern Areas, this category includes scrub.

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