The forests of Pakistan reflect great physiographic, climatic, and edaphic contrasts. Pakistan is an oblong stretch of land between the Arabian Sea and Karakoram mountains. 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 (PFI 2016). Based on climatic conditions, topographical variations and climax vegetation species, Pakistan possesses different forest types (see Table 3 for details).
Table 3: Forest Types in Pakistan.
Forest management systems being applied in different sub-national entities of Pakistan vary depending on the forest classification (vegetation types) and legal categories (tenure and user rights) in respective provinces. The main categories of forests based on legal classifications include State, Reserved, Protected, Guzara, Unclassed, Resumed, and Communal forests. The forest management working plans of the forest departments are generally approached from a traditional perspective, geared mainly to the objective of conservation and the production of timber (although a ban on timber harvesting exists) and somehow taking into account the local use of ‘by-products’ such as firewood, grasses/grazing and non-timber forest products (NTFPs). The emphasis is on ‘territorial forestry’, i.e., state-controlled forests, which has always had its focus on the production of timber, and not on other objectives.
There are several (traditional) silvicultural systems in practice throughout the world (Troup 1952). The systems, applied in Pakistan are adaptations of some of these systems. When the regeneration is of seedling origin, the systems are termed High Forest systems, as contrasted with the Coppice systems. If the forests contain trees of all age classes and regeneration operations are dispersed throughout the whole forest, the system will be classed as a Selection system. Alternatively, in case forest compartments contain trees of a restricted age range only and regeneration operations will be limited to units in which the trees are near the end of the rotation, the system will be called Concentrated regeneration system.
The atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major factor in forest productivity and at the same time forests play an important role in mitigation and control of climatic conditions when they uptake or sequester large amounts of carbon or release CO2 to the atmosphere. The climate change will have an impact on forest ecosystems. If appropriate and timely actions are not taken the impact will be greater. Pakistan has already changed the forest management from forest extraction to conservation. Due to challenges posed by climate change coupled with biodiversity loss and increasing population pressure on forest, the forest management strategies also need to be updated engaging local communities. Consequently, forest monitoring systems would need adjustment to these new objectives, including developing improved forest monitoring and measurement techniques and indicators. The current monitoring system is mainly geared towards afforestation targets, survival and regeneration rates. Use of technology in forest monitoring (e.g., GIS) is still in its infancy stage in the provinces.
Continuous learning from the latest research and new approaches to sustainable forest management is missing. Some development in this regard is, however, noted particularly in KP and Punjab with the presence of extension wings which were also intermittently supported by different national and international donor funded projects. Such improved strategies, however, have not been mainstreamed in the forest management working plans and reflected in the human resources.
The use of new tools and methods are now being introduced especially with the introduction of REDD+ Readiness initiatives in Pakistan. Under the REDD+ initiative, capacities of sub-national forestry departments have been built in various aspects of REDD+ implementation including monitoring reporting and verification (MRV) systems. Various forests monitoring equipment has been distributed among the provinces to strengthen forest monitoring capacities. The equipment includes remote sensing drones, GIS plotter, handheld GPS, Laser Vertex with transponder, increment borers, laptops, DSLR camera, video conferencing equipment, crown densimeter, soil auger and tapes. KP, GB and Punjab provinces have well established institutional capacities and resources (GIS labs, forest monitoring equipment, and HR etc.) to undertake independent inventories and assessments. However, these facilities so far have not been mainstreamed in forest monitoring and planning. The Pakistan Forest Institute also possesses institutional setup and infrastructure to undertake research assignments.