9 Forest Types of Pakistan (From Littoral and Swamp Forests to Alpine Scrub)

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FORESTS OF PAKISTAN

The forests of Pakistan reflect great physiographic, climatic and edaphic contrasts in the country. Pakistan is an oblong stretch of land between the Arabian sea and Karakoram mountains, lying diagonally between 24° N and 37° N latitudes and 61° E and 75° E longitudes, and covering an area of 87.98 million hectares. Topographically, the country has a continuous massive mountainous tract in the north, the west and south-west and a large fertile plain, the Indus plain. The northern mountain system, comprising the Karakoram, the great Himalayas, and the Hindu-Kush, has an enormous mass of snow and glaciers and 100 peaks of over 5,400 m. in elevation. K-2 (8,563 m.) is the second highest peak in the world. The mountain system occupies one-third of this part of the country. The western mountain ranges, not so high as in the north, comprise the Sufed Koh and the Sulaiman while the south-western ranges forming a high, dry and cold Balochistan plateau. Characteristically, the mountain slopes are steep, even precipitous, making fragile watershed areas and associated forest vegetation extremely important from a hydrological point of view. The valleys are narrow. The mountains are continuously undergoing the natural process of erosion. The nature of climate with high-intensity rainfall in summer and of soil in the northern regions render these mountains prone to landslides.
The Indus plain consists of two features; the alluvial plain and sand-dunal deserts. The country is drained by five rivers; namely, Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej. Of these Indus arising in snow-covered northern mountain ranges flows towards south through the Punjab and Sindh plains into a wide delta before entering the Arabian sea. Other rivers join it on the way, together feeding one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. The great river system of Indus in Pakistan derives a part of their water supply from sources which lie in the highlands beyond the Himalayas and the western mountains, and part from countless valleys which lie hidden within the mountain folds. Much of the silt of the alluvial plain is from natural geological erosion of mountains in the north brought down by rivers. Thal desert lies between the rivers Indus and Jhelum, while Cholistan and Thar deserts occur on the south-east of the country.
A great variety of parent rock types occur in Pakistan, which exerts considerable influence on the properties of the soil. The rocks found in Pakistan can be classified into three major groups, viz. the igneous rocks, the sedimentary rocks and the metamorphic rocks. In the Himalayan regions, the common rock types are metamorphic which are gneisses, schists, slates and phyllites with some quartzite and marble. In the northern part of Indus plain, between Sargodha and Shahkot small outcrops of phyllites and quartzites occur. Granite, syenite, diorite, gabbro, dolerite and peridotite are more common types of igneous rocks, which occur in Dir, Swat, Chitral, Gilgit, Zhob, Chagai, Las Bela and Nagarparker.


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 the latest estimates, these forests 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 the 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 aphylla and 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, with Quercus 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
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


SUPPLY AND DEMAND OF WOOD

Timber Consumption: According to Forestry Sector Master Plan 1992, per capita timber consumption is 0.026 m3 and therefore, the estimated total timber consumption for population of 124.66 million in 1992-93 is 3.253 million m3. The contribution of state controlled forest to this consumption according to office records of all Forest Departments in 0.470 million m3 (14.4%); imports of wood and wood products is 1.280 million m3 (39.3%) costing to Rs.4704.3 million, most of which is in the form of pulp and paper (92%) and farmlands provide the balance 1.503 million m3 (46.2%) of timber.
Fuelwood Consumption: The FSMP per capita also gives per capita fuelwood consumption of 0.208 m3 and total fuelwood consumption in 1992-93 was thus estimated at 25.95 million m3 for both industrial and domestic purposes. Of this total 23.355 million m3 (90%) is contributed by farmlands and waste lands and the rest 2.595 million m3 (10%) is supplied by state controlled forests in the form of recorded and un-recorded removals. On the other hand, the Household Energy Strategy Study of 1993 finds that the annual fuelwood production is 32.33 million m³ and annual consumption is 46.148 million m³. The fuelwood gap for Pakistan is estimated at 13.82 million m3. This gap is very close to that estimated by Forestry Sector Master Plan of 15.1 million m3. Other studies have also given somewhat similar estimates. Current consumption of wood as well as its estimated demand are given in Table 3 and 4 respectively.
Table 3 – Consumption of wood in Pakistan, 1992-93
Item
Thousand cubic metres
Volume
%
Construction
974
28.1
Furniture
394
11.4
Village carpentry
306
8.8
Mining timber
291
8.4
Industrial fuelwood
204
5.9
Matches
193
5.5
Trucks and buses
167
4.8
Particle board
103
3.0
Sports goods
51
1.5
Plywood
25
0.7
Fibre board
21
0.6
Boats
14
0.4
Crates and boxes
704
0.3
Trains
6
0.2
Railway ties
7
0.2
Total
3,460
100.0
Population (million)
124.66
Per capita use (m3)
0.028
Source:
Forestry Sector Master Plan, 1992.
Includes Industrial Fuelwood of 0.204 million m3.
Table 4. Estimated demand for industrial wood-based products by end-use (Thousand cubic metres)
{PRIVATE }
1993
1998
2003
2008
2013
2018
Construction
995
1,159
1,351
1,574
1,834
2,139
Crates and boxes
720
876
1,066
1,297
1,578
1,920
Furniture
403
508
639
804
1,012
1,272
Village carpentry
313
351
391
433
476
519
Mining timber
297
375
476
599
756
958
Matches
197
273
377
521
720
996
Trains
6
6
6
6
6
6
Trucks and buses
171
213
266
332
414
517
Boats
14
14
14
14
14
14
Particle board
105
156
231
343
509
754
Sports goods
52
77
113
166
244
358
Plywood
26
28
31
34
38
42
Fibre board
22
22
22
22
22
22
Railway ties
7
7
6
5
5
4
Industrial fuelwood
208
233
266
306
356
422
Total
3,536
4,298
5,255
6,456
7,985
9,943
Population (millions)
126.8
147.7
172.1
200.4
233.5
272.0
Per capita use (m3)
0.028
0.029
0.031
0.032
0.034
0.037
Source: Forestry Sector Master Plan, 1992.
Future changes in demand profile
from Table 4, the breakdown of demand shows some contrasts for certain products as partly illustrated below (Editor):
End use
% demand
1993
2003
2013
Construction
28.1
25.7
21.5
Crates & boxes
20.4
20.3
19.3
Furniture
11.4
12.1
12.8
Matches
5.6
7.2
10.0
Trucks and buses
4.8
5.1
5.2
Particleboard
3.0
5.0
7.6
Other
26.7
24.6
23.6
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0


GROWING STOCK

Reliable and complete inventory of forest growing stock are not available nationally. Forest Department Working Plans cover approximately 50 % of coniferous forest area and contain estimates of volume, but many of these are based on outdated inventories. Coniferous forests of NWFP, Punjab and AJK have more complete inventories than other forests. The FSMP compiled data for 1.3 million ha area of 29 working plans in NWFP, 3 in Punjab and 4 in AJK, and 3 working schemes in Northern Areas. The growing stock of coniferous forests covered by these plans/schemes was 185 million m³ or an average of 145 m³ per ha. Applying the average standing volume per ha. for each province, gives the following total coniferous growing stock.
Coniferous growing stock 000 m3
AJK
40,729
Northern Areas
59,400
NWFP
124,080
Punjab
7,380
Total
231,589
The species composition of the growing stock of coniferous forests was also determined from 29 working plans of NWFP which is given below. The percentages are not for individual trees of these species, but for forest types dominated by one or two species.
Forest Types
Percent of Growing stock
Spruce/Fir
39
Kail (Pinus wallichiana)
23
Deodar (Cedrus deodara)
18
Fir (Abies pindrow)
8
Spruce (Picea smithiana)
6
Chir (Pinus roxburghii)
4
Broad leaved
1
Scrub
1

 

Growing Stock of Trees on Farms, 000 m3
AJK
2,060
Balochistan
3,430
Northern Areas
1,592
NWFP
8,570
Punjab
46,100
Sindh
8,540
Total
70,292
Species composition of this growing stock was estimated to be:
Percent of Growing stock
Shisham (Dalbergia sissoo)
22
Kikar/Babul (Acacia nilotica)
14
Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii)
8
Mango (Mangifera indica)
4
Mulberry (Moms alba)
3
Poplar (Populus sp.)
3
Eucalyptus
1
Other species
45
Estimates of growing stock of scrub, riverain and mangrove forests, and of irrigated, linear and other plantations are not known.

Trees on farms

Nationally, Pakistan has a growing stock of trees on farms totaling 70.29 million m3. If added to growing stock in forests the total becomes 301.89 million m3; farm trees account for 23% of this total. In Punjab, however, farm trees have 86% of the provincial growing stock – the highest in the country.
The growing stock of trees on farms when averaged over an area of total agricultural land from Table 1 (20.58 million ha) gives a total stock of about 3.42 m³/ha as a national average.
 ———-
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