Biodiversity of Pakistanchallenges in conservation Course : Biodiversity Course Instructor : Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf
Biodiversity of Pakistan • Pakistan has a great diversity of land scape,people, culture, climate,seasons, ecosystem etc.The landscape ranges from snow capped peaks at an elevation of >8,000m in the Himalayan range in the north to Arabian sea coastline in the south; agriculture ranges from lush green canal irrigated areas in the plains to hot dry deserts in sindh and Balochistan; temperature ranges from the plains to hot dry deserts in Sindh and Balochistan; temperature ranges from well below freezing points in the HKH mountainous regions to as hot as 520C in the inland areas and annual precipitation ranges from > 1000mm in the northern humid areas to <150mm in the hyper-arid areas of Balochistan.
Climate change-A threat for biodiversity • Such diversity has given rise to a variety of living organisms including for a, fauna, animals birds, insects etc which provide ecological , recreational, cultural and aesthetic values besides providing economic benefits and services to human society.However This large accumulation of biodiversity is now under threat as in many parts of the world as a result of inter alia, climate change.
Various studies indicate that climate change is affecting directly or indirectly the flora and fauna as well as their habitats leading to their displacement and in most severe cases even extinction. Climate change is also affecting the competitiveness of different species by differently altering their growth, mortality rates and regeneration success rates.
Threatened Communities in Pakistan Mangrove forests and associated ecosystem Coral and coral reef fishes Marine turtles Whale and dolphins Planktons and pelagic environment
Mangrove forests and associated ecosystem Mangroves distribution is under the influence of freshwater supply. Thus, the largest mangrove forests are found along the coastlines receiving freshwater supply from major rivers (e.g. Indus and Amazon deltas) and heavy rainfall (e.g. Pacific Coast of Columbia).
The Indus Delta, stretching from Karachi to the south-east to Sir Creek near Indian border, is comprised of 17 major creeks, numerous minor creeks, extensive area of mudflats and mangrove forest.
Mangrove forest in the Indus Delta region constitutes major mangrove covered area along the Sindh Coast. The Indus River delta is ranked as the fifth largest mangrove area in the world. Existing estimates show that 97% mangrove cover (approximately 0.26 million hectare) in Pakistan is in the deltaic region . The Baluchistan Coast extends from Karachi (Hub River) to the west up to Iranian border and is largely exposed to intensive wave action and therefore, mangroves occur only in relatively protected. The Indus Delta mangrove ecosystem in Pakistan Mangrove forest karachi
The three major pockets of mangrove forest are located in • Baluchistan at MianiHor, • KalmatKhor , • Gawatar Bay which constitute about 3% of the total mangrove cover in Pakistan.
Importance of mangrove ecosystem Due to interface location between the land and the sea, the mangrove ecosystem performs complex ecological functions such as • shoreline protection, • upland runoff regulation, • breeding, • feeding • nursing grounds for a wide range of fauna .
Mangroves are the second most productive ecosystem after rain forests. High rate of litter production in Pakistan; and decomposition of litter regenerate nutrients and provide food to support a wide range of fauna including many commercially important species of fish and shell-fish and hence support fishery industry.
About 80 species of fish and shell-fish are nurtured in mangrove area. The loss of mangrove forest would mean reduction in the fisheries harvest and a loss of foreign exchange (USD 130 million; Fisheries statistics of Pakistan 2001 earned through export of fishery commodities.
Major threats for Mangrove forests Mangrove forests along Indus Delta are reported to have undergone tremendous destruction in the recent past and the whole ecosystem is under continuous threat from natural and anthropogenic activities. The major threats are • deforestation, • over grazing by camels • significant reduction of water • sediment fluxes through Indus River due to the construction of dams and dikes uphill
Coral and coral reef fishes Coral reefs are known for diverse and attractive assemblage of predatory fish. Coral reefs provide suitable habitat for a large number of fauna and flora . Many commercially important species of vertebrates and invertebrates reside in reef system,
Coral reefs are reported from many areas adjacent to Pakistan, forexample, • Red Sea , India , • Bangladesh • Maldives . • No scientific report had been available on the existence of corals in Pakistani waters. Recent surveys report the presence of corals in many places along the coast, such as, off Mubarak village, Charna Island, Astola Island, Gwadarand Jiwani, and at least 35 or more species of hard corals have been found with no significant reefs at two locations (Charna and Astola islands).
Importance • reef system plays a key role in improving the • economy of state. • Reef system also attracts tourists . • coral areas have potential for eco-tourism. Again this relates and adds to the socio-economic values of the local coastal communities.
Threats • Corals are very delicate organisms and cannot survive drastic environmental changes and high sediment load. Strong currents and resuspended sediment during monsoon (summer) render growth of reef building corals difficult along coast of Pakistan. • Industrial development in the coastal zone and upcoming Gawadarport might have an adverse impact on the coral communities.
Marine turtles • Marine turtles have been declared as ‘endangered’ species Turtles of Pakistan: Green Sea Turtle
The major threats are • commercial exploitation, • hatchling mortality (predation), • poaching of eggs habitat loss due to coastal urbanization.
Turtles are legally protected under the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance (1972) and the Sindh Wildlife Protection Act (1993). The beaches of • Hawkes Bay, • Sandspit, • Paradise Point, • Sonmiani, Gawadar • Jiwani, • AstolaIsland are important nesting grounds for two major species, for example green (Cheloniamydas) and olive ridley (Lepidochelysolivacea), hawks bill (Eretmochelysimbricata) turtles.
A conservation project has been conducted by Sindh Wildlife Department to protect nesting females, their eggs and hatchlings from predators (mainly feral dogs) and poachers . • These studies have been carried out along the Sindh Coast and there is a need to develop conservation strategy and action plan for Balochistan Coast. • It is recommended that in order to conserve turtles in Pakistan protection of their habitat is needed.
Whale and dolphins A number of whale and dolphin species are reported and have recently been confirmed through regular surveys conducted in Pakistani waters by the Centre of Excellence in Marine • Biology (Pakistan), University Marine Biological Station at Millport (UK) and WWF Pakistan.
Millport (UK) and WWF e Pakistan. Given the data now available from illegal whaling in the 1960s off of Pakistan and new data from recent surveys, it is highly likely that there are a number of endangered whale and dolphin species off the Pakistan coast that are a part of the marine food chain. Local name:Bhulan (Urdu, Sindhi)
Importance and conservation • Fourteen species of whales and dolphins are reported by Roberts to which four more species have been observed during the recent surveys. Out of these 18 whales and dolphin species two are endangered, two are vulnerable, and eight are data deficient. • The northern Arabian Sea bordering Pakistan may be an important area with regard to migration routes and feeding grounds along the upwelling region.
There appear to be a need for identifying the hot spots of whales and dolphins in Pakistani waters. • This would help proper management of these animals and also produce information for attracting tourist and development of whale watching operations in Pakistan.
Planktons and pelagic environment The marine pelagic ecosystem is the greatest in size of all ecosystems on earth and pelagic food web interactions are those that take place within this ecosystem. Marine microbes have been the focus of increasing attention from several decades as they play a major role in pelagic food web. These microbes constitute more than 50% of the total plankton biomass and a dominant part of the pelagic systems.Theyare fundamental for the function of these systems.
The planktoniccommunity change reflects on the diversity and abundance of fisheries as these are the basic food for zooplankton which are preferred food for fishes.
Threats • In order to assess the pelagic environment for its designation as protected area for support to fishery potential of this area, information is needed on food web structure and threats to these organisms posed by the extent of pollution and climate change.
Establishment of Marine protected area (MPA) Marine protected area (MPA) is an area in the coastal zone of land or sea specially dedicated to protection and maintenance of biological diversity and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.
There is a need for designating MPAs in Pakistan to conserve endanger communities such as • mangroves and its ecosystem, • corals and coral reef fishes, • marine turtles, • whales and dolphins, • and planktons and pelagic environment
Advantages of the establishment of MPAs There are many advantages of the establishment of MPAs at different levels, such as, • conservation of ecosystem, • Maintenance of genetic diversity, • protection of rare or threatened species and communities, • contribution to technical and scientific knowledge, • conservation of scientific reference site, • conservation of cultural heritage, • educational opportunities,
Contribution to sustainable tourism, potential contributions to Ecosystem-based management of fisheries as some of the Coastal areas are the nursery and spawning grounds of manycommercially important species, • Protection of best sites for recreation and tourism e.g. SCUBA diving. • There may be a few short-term affects on fishermen as a result of imposing protected areas.
This issue needs to be tackled carefully and some alternative employment/source of incomes for local people may be provided through development of small cottage industry and/or financing through banks for small businesses. In the process of MPA development an opposition from landowners and developers, etc. is generally expected
In Pakistan most of the coastal area is government owned land with pockets of human habitation. Although dispute over land use is not likely, these stakeholders are needed to be involved in the decision making at all levels. For the resolution of disputes and implementation of MPA, new legal framework might be required in Pakistan. Existing wildlife and forest legislations need to be amended or revised to allow for application in the development of National Parks and MPAs in the coastal zone.
Reference Siddiqui, Pirzada J.A., Farooq, S., Shafique, S., Burhan, Z., Farooqi, Z. Conservation and management of biodiversity in Pakistan through the establishment of marine protected areas. Ocean & Coastal Management 51 (2008) 377-382.