|Regional Workshop on Forests and Climate
Change: Preparing for Decisions on Land Use &
Forestry at COP9
16 – 17 October 2003, Traders Hotel, Manila,
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the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Directors or the
governments they represent. ADB makes no representation concerning and does not
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information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FORESTS OF PAKISTAN
Pakistan lies between 24° and 37° north latitudes and 61° and 75° east longitudes. It is
located in a region where three important mountain ranges meet. The mountain ranges are
the Himalaya, Hindukush and Karakorum. The lessor Himalayan ranges and Hindukush
ranges extend deep into the country and form huge complex of mountains and plateau.
Accordingly 4 out of 10 highest peaks in the world lie in Pakistan. Physiographically,
Pakistan can be divided broadly into two main regions namely plains of the Indus River
and its tributaries and huge complex of mountains and plateaus lying in north and
northwestern boundaries. The plains are more or less level consisting mostly of irrigated
agriculture and arid, semi-arid deserts. The mountain complex consists of broad valleys,
partly irrigated and high steep and rugged mountains and plateaus. About 60 percent area
of Pakistan is covered by mountainous complex (Sardar, 1989).
More than 60 percent area of Pakistan is arid and receives less than 250mm rainfall per
annum. About 20 percent area is semi-arid where rainfall varies between 250-400 mm per
annum. In these zones temperature rises steeply during summer and drops sharply in
winter giving rise to great variations in diurnal temperature. Subsequently the arid and
semi-arid parts of the country are characterized by low precipitation, extreme temperatures
and low humidity. These conditions are inhospitable to good plant growth. There are
frequent droughts and the plant growth fluctuates greatly with precipitation (Sardar, 2002).
2. Climate of Pakistan
The geographic location and the phsiographic factors are the major causes of diversity in
the climate. These factors affect and modify precipitation and temperatures. Based on these
factors the climate of the country has been classified into 4 major climatic regions. These
include (i) Marine Tropical Coastland, (ii) Sub Tropical Continental Lowlands, (iii) Sub
Tropical Continental Highlands and (iv) Sub Tropical Continental Plateau (Desert).
(Sheikh and Hafeez, 1977). Khan (1993) has classified the country into 11 distinct as well
as over lapping climatic zones.
The climate of the Pakistan is diverse and characterized by mild, moist winters and hot, dry
summers in the north to semi arid and arid zones in the west and parts of the south. The
part of northeastern mountainous and sub mountainous areas receives more than 1700 mm
precipitation mostly in summer monsoon. The arid plains of southwest Balochistan receive
only about 30 mm during whole year. Thermal regimes indicate extreme diurnal, seasonal
and annual variations. Temperature may fall as low as -26°C in the north to as high as
52°C in the central arid plains. In the semi-arid plains, temperature up to 42°C is also
recorded at various stations.
3. Extent of forests
Pakistan has meager forest resources. The country due to its sharp climatic variations and
arid conditions lacks reasonable tree cover. There is hardly 4.28 million hectares or 4.9
percent of total area forest / tree cover. Out of it the productive forests are less than 2%
(Amjad et al. 1996). The vegetation type-wise forest cover is given in Table 1.
Table 1: Summary of the estimates of forest/tree area
Forest Cover/Land NWFP Punjab Sindh Balo-
1. Forest/Tree Cover
1.2 Irrigated plantations
1.6 Linear plantations
1.7 Farmland trees
2. Geographic area 10174 20626 14091
2.1 Percent (%) tree cover
Source: Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP), 1992
4. Forest/Vegetation types
The distribution of forests / vegetation types is primarily controlled by the climatic and
edaphic factors. Starting from alpine zones in the north to the coastal belt of Arabian Sea in
the south there are 11 types in the country. Sheikh and Hafeez (1977) have described in
detail the Forest Types of Pakistan. A very brief description is as under:
4.1 Alpine Scrub
The deciduous and small leaved shrubs including evergreen junipers and sometimes
are found. Dwarf prostrate Salix
spp. are also present. A
good herbaceous flora is met with. The characteristic generas are Salix, Lonicera, Berberis,
Cotoneaster, Juniperous, Rhododendron
This type is located above 3800
meters elevation above sea level (asl).
4.2 Sub Alpine Forests
and Pinus wallichiana
trees in groups with irregular dense lower storey of
broad leaved trees are found. Betula is typically prominent at the higher elevation in
depressions. This is the top most tree formation in the Himalayas which is found between
3350-3800 meters elevation asl.
4.3 Dry Temperate Forests
The vegetation, as a whole, is xerophytic. The aromatic shrubs namely; Artemisia and
some thorny species of Caragana, Prunus and Rosa are pre-dominant. The forests consists
of Conifers mostly having Cedrus deodara, Pinus gerardiana and Juniperus macropoda.
Quercus ilex, Pinus wallichiana, Pecea smithiana
are also present. Broad leaved trees may
include Fraxinus and Acer. Shrubs include Daphne, Lonicera, Prunus, Artemisia,
4.4 Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests
Major Conifer species are Pinus wallichiana, Cedrus deodara, Picea smithiana and Abies
pindrow, Taxus buccata also occurs. The broad leaved tree species include Quercus,
Rhododendron, Acer, Aesculus, Prunus, Ulmus, Fraxinus, Corylus and Alnus.
4.5 Sub Tropical Pine Forests
This type consists of pure Pinus roxhurghii. Other species found include Quercus,
Rhododendron and Lyonia ovalifolia in depression. Pistacia, Syzygium, Mallotus,
Xylosoma, Pyrus and many shrubs are also found.
4.6 Dry Sub Tropical Broad Leaved Forests
The characteristic tree species of this type are Olea ferruginea and Acacia modesta.
Pistacia and Punica are also met with. The unpalatable shrubs include Dodonaea,
Withania and Rhazya and thorny species like Gymnosporia, Monotheca and Carissa are
4.7 Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests
This type is limited to the Himalayan foothills and adjoining Siwalik hills. These are
deciduous tree species and include generas like Lannea, Salmalia, Sterculia, Flacouria,
mallotus and Acacia.
4.8 Tropical Thorn Forests
Acacia and Prosopis are strongly represented tree species of this type. There are several
generas of shrubs: notable are Suaeda, Salsola, Haloxvlon. Calotropis and Periploca.
Some of the generas of typical desert are Capparis, Zizyphus and Salvadora.
4.9 Irrigated Forests
These forests are man-made irrigated plantations. Dalbergia sissoo as upper storey and
Morus alba as under storey are grown in Punjab and Acacia arabica in Sindh. Other tree
species namely Salmalia and Melia are also planted.
4.10 Indus Innudation (Riverian) Forests
This forest type predominantly consists of Acacia arabica with scattered tree species like
Populus euphratica and Prosopis spicigera on the drier parts. These forests are mostly
found along the bank of Indus River.
4.11 Tropical Littoral and Swamp Forests
These tidal forests are found in Indus delta in the southwestern part of the country. The
main species are Avicennia officinalis and Bruguiera conjugata. These forests provide
habitats to various aquatic animal species and is of economic importance to the country.
5. Climate change impact
The indepth and precise information on climate change impact on forests has, so far, not
been collected in Pakistan. The GOP, through Hagler Bailly Pakistan (2001) has got
prepared a report titled “Pakistan Initial National Communication to the UNFCCC” which
evaluates qualitative changes in the forests. The report indicated that there would be a shift
in the location of the different biomass under the change in precipitation scenario. Further
the cold and temperate conifers may shift towards north pushing against the cold conifers
mixed woodlands which in turn will encroach upon the southern and lower edges of the
alpine tundra. Further study has revealed that the increase in the size of the biomass of
economic values and decrease in size of biomass of degraded vegetation/scrub may occur.
There is need that the impact of climate change on forests of Pakistan be scientifically
evaluated using standard methodology. This is only possible when the international
sponsoring agencies provide financial and technical support to the research organizations
6. Mitigation/adoption options
The Hagler Bailly report (2001) had suggested the following mitigation and adoption
options to impede the effect of climate change:
Plantation on agricultural land
Protection of conifer forests
Reforestation in conifer forests
Reforestation in riverain forests
vii) Vegetation improvement on rangelands.
Control of forest
Change in species and variations
Preservation of watershed and rangelands
Control of wastage
Conservation of coastal zone
The activities mentioned above, had to be carried out in the existing forests, watershed and
rangeland areas, would require large scale plantations with indigenous as well as adapted
exotic species to improve cover. There is need to rehabilitate, improve and develop the
existing forests to impede the impact of climate change. These activities would require
strong technical and financial support of the international sponsoring agencies. Since trees
have very long gestation period to establish themselves so the projects covering a period
not less than 15 years would be appropriate.
B.H. Shah and S.M. Rafique. (1989). Proceeding of Regional Seminar: Affecting
Range and Pastureland Development in Himalayan Region held under RAS/79/121
FAO Regional Project from 19-26 November 1989 at Pakistan Forest Institute,
Peshawar. Paper: Rangelands of Pakistan: Their Potential for Development. PP.
Hagler Bailly. (2001). Pakistan’s Initial National Communication to the UNFCCC,
Draft Final Report.
Khan, Jamil Ahmed. (1993). The Climate of Pakistan. Rehbar Publishers,
Mohammad Amjad, Nadir Khan and Hakim Shah. (1996). Forestry Statistics of
Pakistan. Pakistan Forest Institute, Peshawar. PP.32.
Sardar, M. Rafique (2001). Range Management in Arid Zone. Pakistan Forest
Institute, Peshawar. PP.12 (unpublished).