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Land and Resources, Plants and Animals

type of wild goat, Indus dolphin, Marco Polo sheep, houbara bustard, shisham

The vegetation of Pakistan varies with elevation, soil type, and precipitation. Forests are largely confined to the mountain ranges in the north, where coniferous alpine and subalpine trees such as spruce, pine, and deodar cedar grow. The southern ranges of the Himalayas, which are of lower elevation, receive heavy rainfall and have dense forests of deodar, pine, poplar, and willow trees. The more arid Sulaiman and Salt mountain ranges are sparsely forested with a type of mulberry called shisham, a broad-leaved, deciduous tree. Dry-temperate vegetation, such as coarse grasses, scrub plants, and dwarf palm, predominates in the valleys of the North-West Frontier Province and the Baluchistan Plateau. The arid western hills are dotted with juniper, tamarisk (salt cedar), and pistachio trees. The area of Ziarat, Baluchistan, has juniper forests that are believed to be 5,000 years old; however, they are dwindling due to deforestation. Dry-tropical scrub and thorn trees are the predominant vegetation in the Indus River plain. Known as rakh, this vegetation is native to the region and can survive temperatures higher than 45°C (113°F). Riverine forests, found in the Indus floodplain, require six weeks of monsoon flooding to sustain them during the dry months. Irrigated tree plantations are found in Punjab and Sind. Mangrove forests in the coastal wetlands are an integral part of the marine food chain.

Animal life in Pakistan includes deer, boar, bear, crocodile, and waterfowl. The wetlands provide an essential habitat for a number of important mammal species, including coated otter, Indus dolphin, fishing cat, hog deer, and wild boar. During the migration season, at least 1 million waterfowl representing more than 100 species visit the extensive deltas and wetlands of Pakistan. Pakistan’s rivers and coastal waters contain many types of freshwater and saltwater fish, including herring, mackerel, sharks, and shellfish.

Threatened or endangered species include the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, blue sheep, and ibex (a type of wild goat). These animals can still be found in remote and protected areas of the Himalayas. The houbara bustard has been overhunted as a game bird in Pakistan and is officially protected.

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