Natural Vegetation and Wildlife or Major Natural Regions of Pakistan

Natural Vegetation and Wildlife

Natural Vegetation

Vegetation has vast meaning. Everything which grows from the soil is included in it e.g. trees, small plants, bushes and climbers etc.

Natural Vegetation and Wildlife or Major Natural Regions of Pakistan

The plants which grow from the soil are of two kinds. One kind of plants is grown by human beings, other kinds grow naturally; later category is called natural vegetation.

What type of plants grow naturally in an area, depends on many factors e.g. nature of the soil, altitude (height from sea level), weather, behavior of winds and precipitation. We cannot gain complete knowledge of the plants grown in any area because these are thousands in number, what we can do is to restrict our study only to those plants which are very common and important for human life.

As we have studied earlier, the geographical regions of Pakistan differ in their characteristics; accordingly the plants grown in these areas are different in nature. The characteristics of the forests and the vegetation differ from region to region.

Vegetation and its Areas

1. Climate of the Indus plain and the Balochistan Plateau is mostly dry and of desert and semi-desert type.

2. In the northern mountainous regions the climate is wet.

3. Altitude (height from sea level has direct effect on vegetation.

The land of Pakistan offers all stages of altitude, from low-lying plains to the snow capped mountain peaks.

Kinds of Vegetation

Pakistan’s northern mountainous region is full of forests. These forests have variety of trees, these trees are locally known as deodar, sanober (juniper), diar, cheer, partal etc. Southern Himalayan region is located at a lower altitude as compared to the northern regions. This region receives heavy rainfall and is thickly covered with deodar, juniper, poplar and willow trees. In the comparatively arid regions of Kohe- Suleman and Kohistan-e-Namak (Salt Range), shisham trees are found. These are of deciduous type and are sparsely populated.

Dry and moderate regions, for instance the vast regions of Balochistan Plateau, are covered with different types of wild grass, small bushes and the dwarf palm. In the arid western hills juniper, jhao, and pistachio trees are found in abundance. Junipers of Ziarat (Balochistan) are the world’s oldest trees of their kind. Some of these very precious trees are 5000 years old, but unfortunately this treasure is diminishing with the passage of time due to indiscriminate cutting and disease.

In the Indus plain dwarf thorny trees are found in abundance, these trees can survive under 45° C temperatures. In the flood regions of the Indus Plain, forests can sustain dry weather only if they receive abundant supply of rain-water at least for six weeks in the monsoon. Different types of mangrove trees are found in the coastal forests.


There is a large variety of birds and animals found in the different areas of Pakistan most important a well-known are the following: different kinds of deer, wild boar, bear, leopard, lion, wolf, fox, jackal, monkey, crocodile and birds especially the water-birds. The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan In the marshy coastal regions many kinds of mammals are found i.e. luddhars, Indus dolphins, fish-eater cats, hog deer, and wild boar.

During the migratory period about one million birds of different kinds arrive in Pakistan’s deltas and marshy regions. Our rivers and coastal areas provide suitable breeding places both for salt water and fresh water fish. Herring, mackerel, shark and shellfish are among the most well known varieties.

Ice leopard, Marco Polo sheep and stag are among the most endangered species of our animals; these have been preserved in the sanctuaries provided for them in the remote Himalaya areas. Hunting of Houbara Bustard talore (a Cholistan bird of the size of big hen), which was ruthlessly hunted in the past, has been banned. Chakore is our national bird, other common birds found in Pakistan include; pigeon, dove, parrot, mena, eagle, quail, partridge, pheasant, peacock and domestic sparrow.

Major Natural Regions: Their Characteristics, Potentials and Problems

The land of Pakistan is divided into five main physical regions, these are:

i. Plains.

ii. Deserts.

iii. Coastal Regions.

iv. Humid and Semi-humid Mountain Regions.

v. Arid and Semi-arid Mountain Regions.

A. Plains

1. The Upper Indus Plain; The Upper Indus Plain consists of the area from Attock to Mithankot. Most of the area of Punjab is covered by this category. This plain is about 180 to 300 meters high from the sea level. The five big rivers of the Punjab irrigate this plain. Soil of the plain is mostly fertile and alluvial, and it is rated among the most fertile regions on the globe.

2. The Lower Indus Plain: (The area in the south of Mithankot down to the Arabian Sea is called the Lower Indus Plain. Most of the area of the Sindh province forms a part of the Lower Indus Plain. Eastern tributaries of the River Indus join it near Mithankot and make a large stream. From here downstream the Indus carries an enormous amount of water. The river flows very slowly and the silt carried by it is largely deposited on its bed, thereby raising it above the sandy plain.

The land on either side is, therefore, protected by the construction of embankments and bunds. If any of these bunds give way during floods, large areas are inundated by the river water and there is great loss of life and property. Areas of the plain irrigated by canals taken from River Indus are extremely fertile. The Indus is divided into many branches near Thatta, forms a delta and falls in the Arabian Sea.

B. Deserts

Thal: A vast area of the Sindh Sagar Doab, stretched over the districts of Mianwali, Bhakkar, Khushab, Lieah and Muzzafar Garh is called Thal. Large tracts of land in this area are arid due to scarcity of water, rainfall is very low. Dust storms are frequent especially during the summer; large crescent shaped sand dunes are abundant. Some area of the desert has been irrigated with canals and tube wells but a larger portion is still barren.

Cholistan: The area lying on the southern border of the former Bahawalpur Division (Districts of Bahawalpur Bahawalnagar, and Rahimyarkhan) is formed of vast tracts of barren land, marked with sand dunes. This area is called cholistan and this is in fact an extension of the Rajputana desert lying adjacent to it in the Indian territory. Rainfall is scanty and agriculture, absolutely poor due to scarcity of water, but the canal irrigated areas are fertile.

The Nara and Tharparker Deserts: The southern border of district Khairpur in Sindh is known as Nara desert and a vast area in Mirpur Khas and Sangarh districts is known as Tharparker desert Rainfall is extremely low; the area is full of crescent shaped yellow sand dunes. Vegetation is almost absent; nothing is seen except thorny bushes. Extremely hot winds blow at day time, these winds, locally called loo, make life uncomfortable.

Kharan Desert: Kharan Desert is located between the Ras Koh and Siahan hills and Khargoshkan Desert between the Ras Koh and Chaghi hills Local people call them Dasht. Sometimes these areas do not receive rainfall for several consecutive years.

C. Coastal Areas

1. Pakistan’s coastline is 700 kilometers long. Five hundred kilometer coast from Karachi in the east to Jiwani in the west is called Makran Coast. This coastline, mostly straight, is indented on some points near Somniani, Urmara, Gawadar and Pasni.

2. On the back of the narrow coastal strip of the Makran Beach there are 15 to 65 meters high rock cliffs. Behind these cliffs is 16 to 32 kilometers wide coastal plain which is largely covered with sand dunes but small hills are also found here and there. Some points at Makran Coast have been developed as tourist attractions i.e. Clifton, Manora, Hawks Bay, Rasmalan, Urmara, Gawadar, Jiwani.

D. Humid and Semi-humid Mountain Regions

Mountainous regions of Pakistan are divided into different categories:

The Northern Mountains: World’s highest mountain range Himalaya is located in the north of Pakistan. Mountains of this range form a 2700 kilometer long natural border in the northern region of South Asia. Himalaya range runs in east-west direction forming a gigantic bow. Winter sustains from 6 to 8 months in this area. The range is further divided into four sub-ranges.

· The Shiwalik Range

· The Pir Panjal Range

· The Central Himalayas

· The Karakoram Range

Murree and Hazara Hills are a part of the Pir Panjal Mountain Range. Throughout the winter season the peaks remain snow-capped. Abundant vegetation and forests add to the scenic beauty and can provide good source of foreign exchange earnings by developing tourism on international standards. Nanga Parbat is the highest and most famous peak of the Central Himalaya Range. Beautiful Kashmir Valley is located between the Pir Panjal and Greater Himalaya Ranges. Karakoram Range located in the north of the Central Himalayas, includes some parts of northern Kashmir and Gilgit.

Average altitude of the Karakoram Mountains is 7000 meters. This range extends 400 kilometers from Hunza to Shayok. World’s second highest mountain peak and a great tourist and mountaineers attraction- the Mount Godwin Austin commonly known as K2, lies in this range. Major part of the Pakistan’s natural and man-made forests is found in this area, these forests are a good source of firewood and timber. People in the northern areas wear heavy dress, outdoor games like goat-killing (buz kushi), golf and polo are played only in specific seasons and in the areas where playgrounds are available.

During winters people spend most of their time within their homes, in some areas people migrate to plains to earn a living. Due to exquisite scenic beauty and extremely pleasant weather the northern areas of Pakistan offer a number of attractions for the tourists, e.g. Murree, Ayubia, Nathiagali, Abbotabad, Shugran, Naran, Kalam and the valleys of Hunza and Chitral.

The Western Mountains: Western Mountains, like the Northern Mountains, comprise several parallel ranges, they have humid and semi-humid weather but they are not as high as the Himalayas. This series include the following ranges:

a) The Hindu Kush Mountain Range: The Hindu Kush constitutes the main range of the western border mountains. Most of these ranges are located in Afghanistan. In Pakistan territory they send off a number of branches south towards Chitral, Dir and Swat. Trich Mir peak in the north is the highest peak of the range (about 7700 meters). These peaks remain snow-capped throughout the year. The height decreases southwards in Mohmand territory and Malaknd Hills to only 1500 meters. South of the river Kabul, the north-south strike changes to the west-east aligned Safed Koh Range.

b) Safed Koh Range: Mountains of this range are located in the South of the Kabul River. They lie in east-west direction. Their height ranges up to 3600 meters above sea level. These are called White Mountains (Safed Koh) because their peaks are always covered with snow.

The Khyber Pass situated in the close vicinity of Peshawar is the major pass that connects Afghanistan with Pakistan. This pass located in the Safed Koh Range is 48 km long. The River Kurram flows in the south of this mountain range. Kohat valley is located at the extreme end of the Kurram Pass which connects Pakistan with Afghanistan.

c) Waziristan Hills: The fertile Peshawar valley lies in the south of the Kabul River. The valley is irrigated by the River Swat and the Warsak Dam, built on River Kabul. Forming a rampart between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Waziristan Hills lie between the Gomal and Kurrum rivers along the Safed Koh. This area is very rich in mineral wealth. Bannu near Tochi Pass and Dera Ismail Khan near Gomal Pass are the two most important cities of the area. Kurrum Dam and the Kurrum River are the main sources of irrigation in the Bannu valley.

Balochistan Mountain Ranges: The Sulaiman Range lies in the east of the upper Balochistan mountain ranges and the north-eastern part of Balochistan. Toba Kakar Mountains are in the north-west. The Lower Hills include the eastern slants of the Sulaiman Range. Low altitude hill ranges of Makran, Kharan and Chaghi lie in the west. Pab and Kirthar Mountain Ranges are in the south-east.

The Potwar Plateau: Plateau is a large stretch of relatively level land that is higher than the land around it, having at least on one side a steep slope falling abruptly to the lower land. A vast area of Pakistan is covered by Plateaus. The Potwar Plateau is bounded on the east by the River Jhelum, on the west by the River Indus and on the south by the Salt Range. In the north the Plateau extends to the northern slopes of the Kala Chitta Range and to the Margalla Hills.

The Plateau covers a vast area in Rawalpindi, Jhelum and Mianwali and Attock districts of the Punjab. Valleys of Soan and Haro rivers lie across the Potwar Plateau. The Plateau is raised to an altitude of 300 to 600 meters. The plateau generally is poor agriculturally but very rich in minerals.

The Salt Range: The Salt Range begins in the east at Tilla Jogi and Bakralla ridges and extends to the west of the River Jhelum. After covering some distance it turns north-west and crosses the Indus at Kala Bagh. On the west bank of the Indus the Salt Range extends towards south, covering the districts Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan in the KP Province. Average height of the Plateau and the hills of the region are 671 meters, but at a point near Sakesar it rises to about 1525 meters above sea level.

E. Arid and Semi-Arid Mountainous Regions

The areas receiving less than 12cm rain per year are termed as arid regions. Following areas of Pakistan fill in this category:

· The Suleiman Range: (The Suleiman Range lies in the west (on the right bank) of the river Indus Takht-e-Suleiman is the highest peak of the range (height 3535 meters)

· Kirthar Hills: Dry Kirthar Hills lie in the south of the Suleiman Range

· Balochistan Plateau: Balochistan Plateau covers enormous area of land. At different points it 600 to 900 meters high from sea level; its average altitude is 650 meters. The plateau is located the midst of the Kirthar Hill Range. Muslim Bagh and Ziarat Hills are a part of the Balochista Plateau. The area represents a variety of physical features; features of one part drastically diffe from the other part. In the north-western desert area of the plateau, rainfall is scanty and agricultur is impossible. Hamun Mashkhel is a vast salt water lake located in the desert. The mountains Quetta is the capital of the Balochistan province. The Plateau is famous for its wealth of natura Toba Kakar and Chaghi separate the plateau from Afghanistan territory. Beautiful historic city resources of which natural gas is the most important; coal, chromites, copper and iron ore are al found in sizeable quantities.

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