Subh-e-Nau Magazine

Wildflowers: Protecting our Natural Treasures 

Wildflowers are a natural source of beauty, well-being and prosperity. They need to be protected and promoted in contrast to exotic species which are actually harmful to our ecosystems.   

Our wildflowers – filling all known senses with the most undeniable beauty, truly aesthetic from any philosophical scale or perspective, poetic beyond words and forming assets much above financial worth, these colorful sprites invisibly float through our very being,instilling and nurturing life.
Our land, crowned with towering northern mountain ranges gradually spreading to vast fertile plains and serene deserts bounded by the Arabian Sea, with its diverse climatic conditions, supports rich plant resources in the country. Pakistan is not only fortunate in the tremendous and varied range of agricultural crops for grain production, vegetables, fruits, or ornamental plants, but also a splendid array of wild plants and flowers in natural forests. 

Protecting and Promoting Wildflowers 

With a dwindling forest cover across Pakistan, there is an urgent need, based on scientific, medical, aesthetic as well as economic reasons for promoting our local wildflowers. To successfully implement these species so that they are preferred, at least to the point of being accepted as a “garden flower”, one has to make them readily available in local nurseries.
To do this in a systematic manner, the seeds of these flowers must be collected from the field and harvested at the local agricultural research centers. By growing these flowers in a much better environment, where their nutritional requirements are met, will lead to healthier species. The seeds, as well as saplings, of such local species must be promoted at local nurseries. Flower exhibitions and displays must be done by horticultural societies which motivate their audience, as well as encourage special prizes and honors for gardens that exclusively feature our Pakistani wildflowers. The local and national horticulture associations can do a lot in this direction.
The local cut flower industry must be revitalized by active promotion and incentives for growing local wildflowers. Experts must help local growers with the appropriate species, so that there is maximum benefit earned from these initiatives. Both the print and electronic media must make the public aware about these species in such plantation campaigns as well as otherwise.
There should be proper marketing strategies for promoting the sale of these species, both here and abroad. The local farmers can receive a great deal of economic help as a result, as well as our national economy will only become better. As floriculture-success countries like Holland have demonstrated, that with a proper mix of media and marketing, an entire international industry can be constructed on the basis of just one species. The image of Pakistan as a peace and nature loving, as well as aesthetically aware country will spread across the globe once our wildflowers reach other parts of the planet.
The role of our Forestry Department is also crucial. The Department is promoting our indigenous trees and their efforts in the direction of wildflowers will give rise to prominence in our local nurseries. Every plantation season must be marked by special emphasis on planting local trees, herbs and wildflowers in both homes, private institutions as well as parks and governmental organizations.
To educate our children and future generations better, these species must be included in their science curricula, as well as regular field trips to local herbariums and forests must be arranged. The species must appear in their full scientific context, so that our children fully learn their benefit. Art studies should be encouraged by schools, so that we develop artists that promote their aesthetic value for the general public. The appreciation that is built today on the basis of science education as well as art will instill into our children proper values and respect for these beauties of Nature – that lie unseen and uncared by us today.

Cut Wildflowers: Blossoming our Economy

Ornamental cut flower farming is not very old in the country as compared to edible grain crops, vegetables or fruit crops. Apart from commercial timber and fuel wood from forests, wild plants are harvested only on a limited commercial scale for medicinal purposes or few other uses of economic value.Many of the commercial cut flowers and pot-plants grown today have not been cultivated on farm level until few decades ago.
In the short history of commercial farming of floricultural crops in world, there are hundreds of ornamental species grown today than number of species of all other agricultural or horticultural crops combined. New cut flower and pot plant introductions are in constant demand as the global floriculture market is rapidly expanding. In some ways, the introduction of new ornamental crops is easier than edible crops and commercially more rewarding than food crops. Additionally, the nutritional value or toxicity to humans does not have to be considered in floriculture as Oleander, Aconitum or Datura species and many others.

Global flower market

The Netherlands a world leader in the world flower market though this dominance this past decade.
Pakistan’s total area is about 88 mha with nearly 59% of area being mountains and plateaus, and about 41% plains. Topography and climatic diversity ranges from coastline of Arabian Sea elevating above 8000 m in Karakoram and HimalayanRange. Climatic diversity ranging from temperate mountainous regions to subtropical warm plains and Mediterranean climate of Baluchistan plateau provide opportunity to grow plants all the year round.
Cut flowers and floriculture is an emerging new business in Pakistan, though it is still not considered a major exporter. Neighboring countries of Pakistan like China have made phenomenal progress in this field capturing export market share in Europe, Far East and Middle East. In the past 10 years Kenya has emerged as a great competitor in the flower market.Expanding business of floriculture as high value agriculture has enormous potential for farmers of Pakistan to earn with little investment not only within the country but also in larger export market as well. The growing competition in the world flower industry is likely to become more intense and more international. However, we still have to tap our unique wildflowers for this economical purpose, as there are hardly any local species available in our own nurseries.
Given all the various benefits of indigenous wildflowers, this largely unexplored territory should be done with awareness that above all, these species are the reason for our survival on the planet.

Country areas under flower and foliage crops

Holland                                         8000 ha
Israel                                            2000 ha
India                                          34,000 ha
China                                         60,000 ha
Pakistan                                          500 ha
Not all species are appropriate for horticulture, but several of our wild plants have potential for development as cut flowers, garden plants and potted plants. A few local wild plants having impressive flowers deserve cultivation as ornamentals are shown in these pages in the hopes of awakening interest in professionals and growers. Most of these species are common plants that grow in easily accessible areas; in addition, most are easy to grow and produce as garden plants.These include trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, bulbous as well as plants growing in ponds that are suitable to grow in Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar or Karachi.

Wildflowers: Our Cultural Heritage

Wildflowers not only form an inextricable part of our landscape, they have been an important part of our cultural heritage for hundreds of years. About 5,000 wildflowers have been recognized so far in Pakistan. Many folk stories and works of poetry are based on them.shows a piece of beautiful strip of land with abundant wildflowers, believed to be the home of the beautiful fairy, “Badi-ul-Jamal”. She is the heroine of the famous Saif-ul-Mulookfable, popularly known as Safar-ul-Ishq, meaning the Journey of Love.
The great Punjabi Sufi Poet, Mian Mohammad Bakhsh recited this beautiful tale of romance about the Egyptian prince Saif-ul-Mulook’ssearch for true love,and which continues to be told today in our villages and cities alike. This beautiful wildflower rich land has been aptly described by him:
“Ikko farsh ziveen daa saara ikko meenh traawat,
bootey rukh ziveen tey jitney sabnaan wich tafaawat”

اِکو فرش زِویں دا سارا اِکو مینہ تراَوت

بوٹے رُکھ زِویں تے جتنے سبھناں وِچ تفاوت

 “Same is the land and same is the irrigated rain and yet varied are the plants which grow on the land.” 
“Sooraj dee ashnaayon keeh kujh ladhaa neelofar noon
Ud ud moey chakkor Mohammad saar naa yaar qamr noon”

سورج دِی اَشنائیوں کیہ کُجھ لدھا نیلوفر نوں

اُڈ اُڈ موئے چکور محمد ؒ ، سار نہ یار قمر نوں

 “What could lotus get from the acquaintance of the sun? O’ Mohammad (Baksh)! Pheasants become exhausted in flying towards the moon whereas the moon is unaware of their love.”
Such beauty and poise of these beings has not only inspired our poetry, refined our taste, but has also were a vital part of our culture in days of yore.
In addition to the visual appeal of local wildflowers, there are scientific reasons as to why our environment as well as health requires a greater presence from them. Flowers are responsible for the propagation of plant life; hence, they are the very reason why we have greenery and forest ecosystems that sustain us.
Like all other cultural and national assets, wildflowers need protection from our growing interest in exotic flowers. As to why we should value them even more now, brings us to notable examples of infamous Paper Mulberry and Eucalyptus trees, which have wreaked havoc on our people. In addition, the promotion of such exotic trees is rendering our existing species extinct due to their inhibitory effect on the growth of local plants.
The information gap about wildflowers also needs to be bridged both in the media as well as their availability in our nurseries. The ignorance about wildflowers and the overabundance of exotic species has made them somewhat invisible to our eyes. One cannot help but remember the lasting and illuminating words of poetry by the great Sufi poet Mian Mohammad Baksh:
“Qadar phulaan da bulbal janey saaf damaaghaan walee,
Qadar phulaan da girj keeh jaaney murdey khawan walee”

 قدر پھلاں دا بلبل جانے صاف دماغاں والی

قدر پھلاں دا گرجھ کیہ جانے مردے کھاون والی

“Only the clear headed nightingale knows the real worth of flowers,
The vulture knows not the value of flowers as it eats corpses.”
Ranging from the intense deep purple of Campanula latifolia to light waves of Bergeniaciliata, any sight directed to them is a unique visual feast outclassing any known ornamental flower. Let us bring these bloomsto our gardens and nurseries so that they blossom in hundreds to our pride and satisfaction.

Making Flower Business a Blooming Success

Many developing countries have become involved in growing cut flower crops and are able to produce large quantities of flower crops because of low land costs and cheap manual labor. However, they often produce low quality produce, as skilled technical employees are hard to come by and they have difficulty arranging effective transport solutions to export product. These Cut Flowers are the Top Ten Selling varieties throughout the world:
  • Rose
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Tulip
  • Lilium
  • Gerbera
  • Dianthus
  • Cymbidium
  • Freesia
  • Alstromeria
  • Gypsophilia
Growers should keep in mind that the flower industry is extremely competitive. A good reputation for quality and presentation are major factors in maintaining positive relationships with both the exporters and the buyers. Growers who have established a good reputation will find it easier to sell their product. Things to keep in mind about quality:
  • All products should be free from disease and insects
  • All products should be undamaged
  • Products should be of the correct grade and be of optimal quality for that grade.
Writer: Prof. Farrukh Chishtie

 

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Big cats: predators under threat

March 3rd is celebrated as World Wildlife Day and this year’s theme is “Big Cats: predators under threat” which is highly relevant to Pakistan now.    

Every year we set aside a day to celebrate the global diversity of wildlife and galvanize collective action for conservation. It gives us an opportunity to appreciate the many diverse and beautiful forms of wild plants and animals and to raise awareness about the multitude of benefits that wildlife conservation brings. But at the same time, it also gives us a chance to reflect on the negative impacts caused by our actions. Sustainable Development Goal #15 focuses on halting biodiversity loss and this day reminds us of the urgent need to stop wildlife trafficking and crime.

Intrinsic value of wildlife 

All plants and animals that live in the wild have an intrinsic value and are absolutely crucial for human well-being and sustainable development. They provide us with invaluable ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic services.

Benefits of big cats 

This year highlights the importance of protecting the big cats. These include lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, snow leopards, pumas, and clouded leopards. An apex predator and widely admired as symbols of power and courage, these charismatic cats can be found across Asia, Africa, and North, Central and South America. By conserving the predator species, we can protect many other species found along their food chains and consequently impact a whole web of species that share their territories.
Big cats can also directly contribute to the welfare of local communities by providing them with an alternate source of income, and improve their quality of lives by bringing in eco-tourism revenue etc.

Threats

Human activities are gravely threatening the populations of big cats. For example, tiger populations have plummeted by 95% over the past century while African lion populations have declined by 40% in just 20 years. These charismatic predators are facing many threats on various fronts which include:
  • Loss of habitat and prey due to increased human and livestock populations and expansion of new settlements, roads, and mines;
  • Human-wildlife conflicts;
  • Poaching; and
  • Illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife parts.

What is being done?

An international agreement called “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species” or CITES ensures the protection of more than 35,000 animals and plants species from unsustainable consumption and illegal trade. More than 180 countries, including Pakistan, are signatory to this convention and have pledged to step up the fight against wildlife crime in their countries.
In addition, many conservation organizations worldwide are working tirelessly with communities and governments to protect wildlife areas and the populations of big cats. 

What can you do?

Everyone can play a part to protect the universally-adored big cats by:
  • Saying ‘no’ to wildlife products;
  • Engaging with conservation organizations and communities;
  • Learning more about them and the threats they face;
  • Involving youth and organizing awareness campaigns in schools; and
  • Spreading the word to friends, family and coworkers on social media.
Writer: Amber Ajani

Articles

Climate change impacts on the oceans

Global warming, which is the literal warming of the entire planet’s surface temperature, is creating impacts across the globe including the oceans.    

The umbrella term for global warming, namely, climate change encompasses all the impacts of this temperature increase which includes rising seas, severe storms, water shortages, droughts, and all sorts of crazy weather. As you can see, climate change promises to impact all of us in one way or another. Some areas and people might be more affected than others given their socio-economic resources, but all will be affected.
We may see a delay in the materialization of the worst-case scenarios of climate change due to the buffering capacity of our oceans. Our oceans play a gigantic role in absorbing heat and man-made carbon emissions. Without their buffering role, our worse climate nightmares would come to pass a lot sooner.
Oceans produce about 50% of the oxygen we breathe and absorb approximately a quarter of our carbon emissions. In addition, oceans also serve as very efficient heat sinks. They absorb more than 90% of the Earth’s heat. To put this in perspective: our atmosphere and continents each absorb only 2% of the heat. As a result, all the world oceans are seeing in increase in sea surface temperatures and water acidity.
Ocean acidification and temperature rise are leading to myriad of problems including sea level rise, loss of coral reef ecosystem, oxygen depletion, fish migration, extreme weather events, etc. And all these cause severe threats to our food security, livelihoods and well-being. Let us take a closer look at each of these impacts.

Sea temperature rise

Between 1901 and 2015, the ocean temperature rose at an average rate of 0.13°F per decade. This might not seem like a lot, but it takes a ton of heat to warm all of the world’s oceans by that much. It is also important to realize that the oceans’ capacity to store additional heat is weakening as the years go by.
Warmer water evaporates much faster, adding to the humidity in the air. This results in heavier rainfalls and allows small ocean storms to escalate into more powerful and larger storms, causing that much more damage.

Higher sea levels

As the oceans warm, the water expands causing the sea levels to rise. This is exacerbated by massive melting of land-based glaciers and ice-caps. We know that human civilizations have always flourished at the coasts and sea level rise threatens to flood many coastal towns and cities worldwide. This spells disaster for people living in low-lying areas, as it would cause shoreline erosion, more powerful storm surges and large-scale economic devastation.

Ocean Acidification

As oceans absorb more carbon pollution created by humans, they become more acidic and this is changing the ocean’s chemistry. Coral reefs, which support diverse marine organisms, are highly vulnerable to changes in the ocean water temperature and chemistry. Ocean acidification is leading to massive coral bleaching in which the corals eject their symbiotic algae and slowly die off. In addition, acidic waters harm many animals at the base of the marine food chains like shelled mollusks (clams and oysters) by dissolving their calcium carbonate shells.

Reduced oxygen levels

World’s oceans have lost about two percent of their oxygen content in just 50 years, according to a new study. Warmer water tends to hold less oxygen. Low oxygen waters can impair reproduction, shorten lifespans, and change behavior of many marine organisms. Furthermore, it speeds up the metabolism of both microbes and larger marine creatures, causing them to consume more oxygen.
Lower oxygen levels in the ocean are already forcing many fish species including tuna, sharks, herring, shad, mackerel, Pacific cod, and swordfish to concentrate into ever-smaller bands of oxygen-rich water near the surface of water. We are also seeing an increase in ocean dead zones worldwide.
We need to recognize the fact that oceans’ ability to store extra heat and carbon also has its limits. Most people misunderstand the concept of “climate inertia” thinking that once we stop emitting greenhouse gases, we will be able to almost immediately reverse global warming. However, this is far from the truth. Even if we stop emitting carbon dioxide the leading greenhouse gas, this very instant, it will take many decades for the climate to stabilize. So, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must halt emissions as soon as possible!
Writer: Amber Ajani
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