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  • Misbah Alam

Biodiversity in Pakistan: Status, Gaps and Threats


Misbah Alam

In this article, I summarize the present status, gaps and threats faced by biodiversity in Pakistan.

Situated in South Asia, Pakistan boasts a rich tapestry of landscapes, ranging from towering mountains in the north, vast plateaus in the west, to fertile plains and a meandering coastline in the south. Its varied topography, in tandem with climatic variations, grants Pakistan a biodiversity that is as diverse as its terrains. However, this precious biodiversity faces a gamut of challenges that could severely undermine the ecological and economic value it offers.

Current State of Biodiversity

Pakistan is home to several ecosystems: alpine meadows, temperate forests, arid subtropical forests, riverine tracts, and mangroves, among others. These environments are host to a multitude of species. The WWF notes that there are over 668 species of birds, 195 of mammals, and 192 of reptiles that call Pakistan home. The Indus River, one of the longest in the world, supports the rare Indus River dolphin. The coniferous forests in the north are sanctuaries for the snow leopard, markhor, and the Himalayan lynx.

However, while Pakistan's biodiversity is impressive, it is also fragile. Many of these species are on the brink of extinction, classified as endangered or critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List.

Gaps in Conservation Efforts

Lack of Comprehensive Data: One significant gap in the country's conservation efforts is the absence of comprehensive and up-to-date data on species populations, distributions, and habitats. Without accurate data, it becomes challenging to monitor species' health and develop effective conservation strategies.

Limited Implementation of Environmental Laws: Pakistan has several environmental protection laws in place, but their implementation remains weak. This is due to inadequate resources, lack of awareness, and limited technical capacity in relevant governmental departments.

Limited Public Awareness: General awareness about the importance of biodiversity conservation remains low among the public. While there is an acknowledgment of some flagship species, many other equally crucial species remain in the shadows, receiving scant attention.

Threats to Biodiversity

Deforestation: Pakistan has one of the lowest levels of forest cover in Asia, and it's depleting fast. Illegal logging, infrastructure development, and the conversion of forest lands into agriculture plots contribute to this alarming rate of deforestation.

Climate Change: Being a predominantly agrarian economy, Pakistan is acutely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns threaten the habitats of many species.

Over-Exploitation: Overfishing in the Arabian Sea, excessive hunting, and habitat destruction due to mining and infrastructure projects are leading to the rapid decline of many species.

Pollution: Water pollution, especially in the Indus River and its tributaries, is a direct threat to aquatic life. Additionally, air pollution and the use of pesticides in agriculture are negatively impacting various species and their habitats.

In conclusion, the state of biodiversity in Pakistan is at a critical juncture. Despite being endowed with a rich and diverse array of species, the country faces monumental challenges in its conservation efforts. Addressing these gaps and threats is not just crucial for the survival of these species but also for the overall ecological and economic well-being of the country. The need of the hour is a concerted effort from government bodies, conservation organizations, and the public to safeguard Pakistan's natural heritage.

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