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Biodiversity of Pakistan

Biodiversity of Pakistan


Biodiversity: The term “biodiversity” has been derived from ‘bio’ and ‘diversity’.  Biodiversity is a measure of the variety of organisms present in different ecosystems or earth surface.

Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.

Flora: Diversity of plants in an ecosystem is called flora.

Fauna: Diversity of animals in an ecosystem is called flora.

Conservation of biodiversity: Conservation is the protection, preservation, management and restoration of wildlife and natural resources such as forests and water.

Importance of Biodiversity:

According to biologists the living world came into being billions years ago. Billions years ago the reactions in between nitrogen and oxygen results in the formation of oxides of nitrogen, which in turn react with water to form nitrogen carrying compounds. These nitrogen carrying compounds comes to the surface of the earth along with rain water. Here on the earth surface, they results in the formation of proteins and nucleic acids, etc. and thus the life was created. The biodiversity found on Earth today is the result of approximately 3.5 or 4 billion years of evolution. Before the emergence of human beings the earth supports a large variety and magnitude of living organisms. With the emergence of human beings 4 million years ago, decline of biodiversity starts.


The maintenance of biodiversity is important for the following reasons.


1) Ecological stability or role in ecosystem: Each and every organism plays a vital role in ecosystem. The function perform by a specie in an ecosystem is of great importance. Organisms capture energy, produce and decompose organic substances and help to cycle materials in ecosystem. They maintain the amount of atmospheric gases, regulate temperature and are thus helpful to regulate climate. Living organisms also support each other in a specific habitat. It means they depend on each other and thus give stability to ecosystem. The more the varieties of living organisms, the more stable the ecosystem.


2)  Economic benefits to humans: Human beings take a lot of benefits from biodiversity. Some of these are as follows.

  1. a) Food:Food is the basic need of human beings.  Biodiversity provides food for humans for example some vegetable plants, fruits, meat, etc. are used as food.
  2. b) Clothes:Cotton is the basic component of clothes that is an organic compound (carbohydrate) called cellulose. Cotton is obtained from plants.
  3. c) Buildings and construction:Most of the materials in our buildings are made of wood. For example, chairs, doors, windows, etc… Wood for shelter is obtained from plants.
  4. d) Medication:Wild plant species have been used for medicinal purposes since before the beginning of recorded history.quinine (Used to treat malaria) comes from the bark of the Amazonian tree Cinchona tree; digitalis from the Foxglove plant (chronic heart trouble), and morphine from the Poppy plant (pain relief).  According to a research a significant proportion of drugs are derived, directly or indirectly, from biological sources. For example some anti-cancerous drugs are obtained from Taxus bacata ,
  5. e) Industry:Industrial products like oils, dyes, wool, silk, leather, etc. can be obtained from plants and animals.
  6. f) Tourisms and recreation:Biodiversity is a source of economical wealth. For example, forests etc. give beauty to an area. Example, people travel from all over the country to Swat and Malakand to enjoy the beauty of biodiversity (nature).


3) Forests: Forests support considerable biodiversity. The utilization of forest products, including timber and fuel wood, have played a key role in human societies. Today, developed countries continue to utilize timber for building houses and wood pulp for making paper. The forest products industry is a large part of the economy in developed and developing countries. Short-term economic gains made by conversion of forest to agriculture often leads to loss of long-term income.

Forests extract carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air, thus contributing to biosphere stability. Forests are also valued for their aesthetic beauty and tourist attraction.


Causes of the loss of biodiversity: Human beings play a vital role in the destruction and loss of biodiversity. The main threats to biodiversity loss are as follows.


Alteration and loss of the habitats: Habitat loss is probably the greatest threat to biodiversity on Earth today.  The transformation of the natural areas determines not only the loss of the vegetable species, but also a decrease in the animal species associated to them.

Introduction of exotic species and genetically modified organisms: species originating from a particular area, introduced into new natural environments can lead to different forms of imbalance in the ecological equilibrium. Refer to, “Introduction of exotic species and genetically modified organisms”.

Pollution: human activities  influences the natural environment producing negative, direct or indirect, effects that alter the flow of energy, the chemical and physical constitution of the environment and abundance of the species.

Climate change: for example, heating of the Earth’s surface as a result of human activities affects biodiversity because it endangers all the species that adapted to the cold due to the latitude (the Polar species) or the altitude (mountain species).


Deforestation: Cutting down or removal of the forests is known as deforestation.

Causes of Deforestation: forests can be cleared due to poverty, buildings developments, fuel, etc. Poverty is the main cause of deforestation. Poor people go to forests and cut down trees to meet their needs. Forest fire is also a major cause.

Effects of deforestation: Deforestation affects the amount of water in soil and moisture in atmosphere. When there are no trees to keep soil in place, there are more chances of soil erosion. Heavy rainfall washes soil into rivers. Essential nutrients are washed out of soil. Rivers become choked up with mud and silt, which can cause floods. The silted water gets stored in dams and it reduces their water storage capacity. Deforestation also contributes to decreased transpiration, which reduces cloud formation. This ultimately reduces the sources of rains.

These important aspects of forests are also harmed due to deforestation. In Pakistan too, deforestation is a great threat to biodiversity. In the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the closed canopy forests are shrinking at approximately 1% per year.



Over-hunting has been a significant cause of the extinction of hundreds of species and the endangerment of many more such as whales, ibex, urial, markhor (the national animal of   Pakistan) etc. Commercial hunting, both legal and illegal, is the principal threat.


ENDANGERED SPECIES: A species is called endangered when it is at risk of extinction in near future. Examples of endangered animal species are lion, tiger, Asiatic cheetah, Indian one-horned rhinoceros, swamp deer, Indian wild ass, hangul, black buck etc.


ENDANGERED SPECIES OF PAKISTAN: Due to human activities, the biodiversity in Pakistan is facing a great loss. Here are a few examples of endangered species in Pakistan.


Indus dolphin:

According to WWF-P, only 600 animals of the species of Indus dolphin are left today in the Indus River. The population of this species declined due to water pollution, poaching, and destruction of habitat.


Marco Polo sheep:

Marco Polo sheep are mostly found in the Khunjerab National Park and nearby areas. Their numbers have been rapidly decreasing in the last two decades and WWF-P has started projects for its conservation.


 Houbara bustard:

This bird flies to Pakistan in winter season from former Soviet territory and settles in Cholistan and Thar deserts. The decline in its population is due to hunting by foreigners and destruction of its habitats.


Sand Cat (Felis margarita)


Markhor (Capra falconeri):


Russian tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii)


Baer’s pochard (Aythya baeri)






EXTINCT SPECIES: A species is called extinct when there is no doubt that the last individual of that species has died in that ecosystem. E.g, Dinosaur.



Interesting information:

Hot spots: A region of high conservation patriority is known as hot spot.

Keystone species: Species that play a key role in functioning of a habitat and their loss would lead to greater than average change in other species population or ecosystem processes are known as keystone species.

Flagship species: Species that are threatened and are easily conserved as compared to other threatened species are known as flagship species. 


Conservation: Conservation is to save living organisms in their living form.

Types of Conservation: There are two types of conservation.

  • In-situ conservation:Conservation of habitats, species and ecosystems where the organisms naturally occur.
  • Ex-situ conservation:The conservation of elements of biodiversity out of their natural referred to as ex-situ conservation. Zoo and Botanical gardens are example of this type of conservation.


STEPS FOR THE CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY: Conservation of biodiversity has become a global concern. Biologists urge the national policy makers to state a set of rules necessary to protect a species. They demand that laws should define species which are threatened by extinction and must be protected. Though rich in biodiversity, Pakistan today faces severe threats to its animal and plant species. The greatest concern is the loss of natural habitats. Main causes of this loss are rapid growth in human population and the prevailing poverty in rural areas of Pakistan. In addition, low literacy rate is also a reason for the failure of conservation measures taken so far.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan (WWF-P) work in close coordination with Pakistan’s Ministry of Environment and other government and non-government institutions. The IUCN has prepared the first national Red List (list of endangered or threatened species).


Following are a few examples of environmental work that has been carried out in Pakistan in order to conserve species and associated habitats.

  1. National Conservation Strategy:In1980’s, IUCN and the government of Pakistan formulated the National Conservation Strategy for Pakistan for the conservation of Pakistan’s biodiversity.
  2. UN Convention on Combating Desertification (CCD):This is an international treaty against damage and poverty in dry-lands. Pakistan signed this in 1997.
  3. Himalayan Jungle Project (HJP):It started in 1991 in the Palas Valley, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). It aimed at protecting one of the richest areas of biodiversity in Pakistan.
  4. Conservation of biodiversity of the Suleiman Range, Balochistan:Suleiman Range Chilghoza Forest is the largest Chilghoza forest in the world. In 1992, the WWF-P started its conservation program.
  5. Northern Areas Conservation Project:The northern areas of Pakistan serve as a habitat for a number of wildlife species. The survival of these species is under threat. The NACP is a project of WWF-P which is successful in implementing a ban on the hunting of these species.
  6. Conservation of migratory birds in Chitral, KP:Chitrallies on the migratory route of several important bird species. These birds face enormous hunting pressure. WWF-Pakistan initiated efforts to reduce the hunting pressure in 1992. The efforts proved successful.
  7. Conservation of Chiltan Markhor:Hazarganji National Park is located close toQuetta and is the only remaining habitat of Chiltan Markhor in the country. WWF- Pakistan developed the management plan of the park.
  8. Ban on games:Foreigners visit the northern areas and play many games in which bears are used. WWF Pakistan has been successful in imposing a ban on this illegal practice.




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