Biosphere reserves of Pakistan

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Biosphere reserves are established according to the UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) to promote sustainable development for conservation of biological and cultural diversity.[1] As of 2016, the Lal Suhanra Biosphere Reserve and Ziarat Juniper Forest are the only two biosphere reserve in Pakistan, which were approved by UNESCO in 1977 and 2013 respectively.[2][3] A number of initiatives and projects have been undertaken to promote and develop other biosphere reserves in Pakistan but due to weak implementation this has not yet been materialized.[4] In July 2012, Pakistan Museum of Natural History and Beijing Museum of Natural History signed a MoU to work on trans-boundary biodiversity and to improve MAB related activities in the Karakoram, Himalaya, and Hindukush regions.[4]

Lal Suhanra[edit]

Lal Suhanra National Park
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Map showing the location of Lal Suhanra National Park
Map showing the location of Lal Suhanra National Park
Location in Punjab, Pakistan
LocationCholistan Desert, Punjab, Pakistan
Nearest cityBhawalpur
Coordinates29°12′0″N 71°48′0″E / 29.20000°N 71.80000°E / 29.20000; 71.80000
Area162,573 acres (657.91 km2)
Governing bodyLal Suhanra National Park Administration

Lal Suhanra is a biosphere reserve recognized by UNESCO in 1977[2] and IUCN Category V protected area.[5] The site is also participating in the Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands project of MAB's Drylands and Desertification programme.[6]

Location and ecosystem[edit]

The reserve is located in the Cholistan Desert, 36 km east of Bhawalpur in Punjab, Pakistan.[7] The area is flat and arid with sand dunes reaching up to 4 m in height and 2,470 acres (10.0 km2) in area.[8] The total area of the reserve is 162,573 acres (657.91 km2) of which 44,318 acres (179.35 km2) is the core area including 4,781 acres (19.35 km2) of wetland and the rest is buffer zone.[8] The region has a warm desert to semi-desert ecosystem[8] and the climate of the area is hyper-arid. Average annual rainfall ranges from 100 to 250 mm and the groundwater is highly saline.[9]

Wildlife and attractions[edit]

The wetland, Patisar Lake, was initially built as a water reservoir and was an important habitat for waterfowl in winter but is now largely covered with reed beds and aquatic vegetation.[8] The park has around 160 species of birds including houbara bustard, marsh harrier, laggar falcon, peregrine falcon, kestrel, and Egyptian vulture, some of which are endangered species.[7] Mammals in the region include blackbuck and Indian rhino which were both critically endangered and almost became extirpated but were re-introduced.[7] A number of snake species are also found in the park including Russell's viper, Indian cobra, saw scaled viper, wolf snake, and sand boa.[7]

Some archaeological remains of an ancient civilization are discovered along the dry Hakra River bed which crosses the park.[8] According to 1997 statistics, around 1 million national and 50,000 foreign tourist visited the park each year.[8] The Punjab government has plans to convert the Lal Sohanra National Park into a wildlife safari park. One of the prominent attractions is the lion safari which allows guests to see lions in their natural habitat at close range.

Palas valley[edit]

A plant species in Palas Valley

Palas Valley is a potential biosphere reserve located in Kohistan District of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The valley is home to rare and endemic wildlife and flora. The largest population of the endangered western tragopan can be found in the valley. Palas also supports population of 7 other rare species of birds including Tytler's leaf warbler. In 2003, a field mission conducted detailed studies of the region to determine its potential for World Heritage Site or MAB Biosphere Reserve. Their study concluded that the region has the attributes for a biosphere reserve however certain issues persist such continued preservation of the valley and involvement of the local population.[10]

Ziarat Juniper Forest[edit]

Ziarat Juniper Biosphere Reserve
Map showing the location of Ziarat Juniper Biosphere Reserve
Map showing the location of Ziarat Juniper Biosphere Reserve
Location in Balochistan, Pakistan
LocationZiarat, Balochistan, Pakistan
Nearest cityZiarat
Coordinates30°23′54″N 67°44′00″E / 30.39833°N 67.73333°E / 30.39833; 67.73333
Area247,000 acres (1,000 km2)
Governing bodyBalochistan Forest and Wildlife Department

Ziarat Juniper Forest is a biosphere reserve recognized by UNESCO in 2013.[11] It is the largest contiguous natural Juniper forest in Pakistan. It is also the second oldest, trailing behind the one in California.[12] The forest ecosystem is considered to be the second largest in the world and is home to some of the oldest species of Juniperus excelsa. The forest has a global significance because it is considered vital for carbon sequestration.[13]


The total area of the reserve is 111,852 ha (1,118.52 km2) of which 11,243 ha (112.43 km2) is the core area including 40,090 ha (400.9 km2) of transition area and the rest 60,519 ha (605.19 km2) is buffer zone.


There are many important species found in this ecosystem including animal and birds, The Suleiman markhor, urial, black bear, and wolf, as well as more common species such as Afghan pika, fox, jackal, and several species of birds like chukar partridge are found. The forest also contains a rich diversity of plant species of medicinal significance with over 50 percent of the 54 cataloged species known to have medicinal or ethno-botanic value, which local people use as indigenous treatments for a variety of diseases. In Ziarat a herb called Ephedrasinica is found in abundance from which a chemical called ephedrine is extracted.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Biosphere Reserves". Ecological Sciences for Sustainable Development. UNESCO. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Asia and the Pacific". Ecological Sciences for Sustainable Development. UNESCO. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Ecological Sciences for Sustainable Development". UNESCO. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Trans-boundary actions are needed to protect biodiversity". Technology Times. 30 July 2012. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  5. ^ "Protected Areas". WWF Pakistan. Archived from the original on 27 May 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  6. ^ "Drylands and Desertification". Flanders-UNESCO Trust Fund for Science. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d "Lal Suhanra National Park". Wildlife of Pakistan. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Lal Suhanra". Biosphere Reserve Information. UNESCO. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  9. ^ Muhammad Akram; Zameer Ahmed Soomro. "Rehabilitation of degraded dryland rangelands through scientific management of land, water and vegetation resources and grazing systems in Lal Sohanra Biosphere Reserve" (PDF). Lal Sohanra Biosphere Reserve. UNESCO. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  10. ^ "Prospects and implications of promoting Palas Valley, Kohistan as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve" (PDF). Palas Conservation and Development Project. WWF Pakistan. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 November 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  11. ^ Bhagwandas (1 June 2013). "Ziarat juniper forest added to Unesco list". DAWN. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Pakistan's Juniper Forest makes it to the Global Network of Biosphere Reserves". IUCN. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Man and Biosphere initiative for Juniper forests of Balochistan". UNESCO Pakistan. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  14. ^ "Juniper Forests, Ziarat". WWF. Retrieved 26 December 2016.