Forest types of Pakistan

 

 

 

 

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.

Original Article here

 

 

 

 

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