Punjab Province has been divided into five main agro-ecological zones. About 80% of the country is arid and semi-arid, along with 12% sub-humid and 8% humid, with two distinct seasons (i.e. summer and winter). The monsoons bring a major portion of annual rainfall to most of the country. Winter rains are usually scarce. Because of its uneven distribution, precipitation is generally inadequate for productive rain-fed agriculture. There are vast areas of arid and semi-arid habitat which host important biodiversity resources in the country. In addition, the Arabian Sea region around the country is rich in phytoplankton and zooplankton.
Forests have vital global, ecological and socio-economic importance as a renewable resource. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2012), the forest degradation rate in Pakistan is the highest in Asia and the country is ranked at 110th in respect of forest cover of the world. In the province of Punjab, the area under forest and allied purposes like Range Management and Wildlife is 1.66 million acre. A major threat to Punjab’s forests is uncontrolled and unsustainable logging for living purposes and timber products.
The total area of Punjab is 50.95 million acres. The recorded forests area is 1.66 million acres (excluding) Linear Plantations, which constitutes 3.26 % of the geographic area of the Punjab. Major forest types occurring in the province are Irrigated Plantation, Riverain Forest, Scrub Forest, Range Lands and Coniferous Forest. Irrigated Plantations comprises 25.6%, Riverain Forests 10.6%, Scrub Forest 40.7%, Range lands 12.2%, Desert 2.3%, Coniferous forests 6.8% and Mix Forests (Coniferous/Scrub) constitute 1.8% of the total forest area of Punjab. Punjab Province has been divided into three zones (southern, central and northern zones) for administration purposes. Zone wise forest area statement as per legal classification is presented below;
|Legal Status||Forest Area in Punjab|
|Municipal Reserved Forest||3,582|
Punjab, the land of five rivers, is amongst the most heavily irrigated landscapes on earth with a canal system spread all over the province. Approximately 80 mammals, 10 amphibians, 85 reptiles, and 500 birds have been reported from Punjab. Rates of endemism vary from group to group but overall diversity is high . The topography of Punjab is very diverse in the sense that it encompasses mountains, wetlands, rangelands, and deserts, in addition to flat plains. Most of the area is fertile alluvial plains, formed by the long-term deposition of sediments by the river Indus and its major tributaries i.e. Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, and Sutlej. Approximately seventeen wetland sites have been delineated in Punjab including Ucchali lake, Nammal lake, head Islam, Taunsa barrage, Marala headworks, etc. Approximately 499 species of birds have been recorded in different areas of Punjab. Out of these, 21 species have IUCN status whereas 11 species are vulnerable. Out of the 80 mammals found in Punjab, 6 species are threatened according to the IUCN red list. The reasons for their endangerment are habitat fragmentation and inbreeding depression due to construction of barrages.
Protected areas are essential not only for conservation of biological heritage but also provide ecological goods and services for the social and economic well being of the people. In Punjab, there is a single Administrative Department, who has three attached departments namely Forest, Wildlife & Fisheries. The set up in Punjab provides an opportunity to address the issue of Protected Areas especially for sites, which are required to be declared as protected areas are also state forest land. Hence, it provided two legislative covers i.e. Punjab Forest Act (Amended) 2010 and Wildlife Act 2007. It is due to the reason that most of the Game Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks are on forest land. In Punjab, the protected areas protect the majority of wildlife in addition to threatened species such as Punjab Urial and Indus blind dolphin. However, the national parks cover only 1.03% of the total area of Punjab, and there is a need for more protected areas for conservation.
|Categories of Protected Areas||Number in Punjab|
|Game Reserve is an area where hunting and shooting of wild animals and birds are allowed under certain conditions.||23|
|National Parks Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area.||5|
|Wildlife Sanctuary <small>is a naturally occurring sanctuary, such as an island, that provides protection for species from hunting, predation or competition||36|
With the rise in human population, agricultural practices have intensified and Punjab has undergone major landcover changes. Natural habitats and associated wildlife are depleting rapidly due to the conversion of natural ecosystems for agriculture and housing. Various ecosystems have suffered due to the construction of barrages and human control over the river Indus. Almost all of the natural ecosystems present in Punjab are now critically endangered.
SPECIE ENVIRONMENTAL MODELLING
Spatial prioritization analysis in the form of conservation value map is shown in Figure 3. These maps are generated by integrating biodiversity features, natural habitat and human impact components to build spatial prioritization model through weighted overlay in Arc GIS. These raster maps have an evaluation scale of 0-1 where 0 represents areas with lowest conservation value while 1 represents areas with highest conservation value. These maps show areas of high and low conservation value in Punjab according to each climate change scenario. This analysis suggests that areas of high conservation value are present along major rivers and in divisions of Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Bahawalpur. Most of the area in Rawalpindi division has high conservation value which can be explained by presence of important forests, protected areas, suitable habitat area for most of the species and less human impact. Important factors affecting the conservation value of different areas in future include precipitation seasonality, annual precipitation, annual temperature range, temperature seasonality and isothermality respectively. The element of uncertainty is inevitable in each analysis. Relying on our knowledge, it can be safely predicted that there will be negative consequences of climate change. The magnitude of these impacts is uncertain as the natural habitat features and human impact features, which are kept constant in this analysis, are subject to variations in future. Hence, protection of biodiversity habitat areas by implying best practice rules for conservation is imperative. The impact of climate change has been examined on the suitable habitat of threatened wildlife species in this spatial prioritization analysis.
- Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries Department, Government of the Punjab; http://fwf.punjab.gov.pk/sites/fwf.punjab.gov.pk/files/Forests.jpg
- Baig, M. B. and Al-Subaiee, F. S. 2009. Biodiversity in Pakistan: Key issues. Journal of Biodiversity.10: 20-29.
- Khan, A.A., Arshad, S., 2014. Wetlands of Pakistan: Distribution, Degradation and Management. Pakistan Geographical Review. 69: 28-45.
- Definition Source: Punjab Forest Wildlife & Fisheries Department, IUCN