IUCN News Release
International Day of Biodiversity: May 22, 2006
Pakistan’s Rich Biodiversity Faces Serious Threats
These Trends Can However be Reversed
Pakistan is a country of tremendous uniqueness, with its dramatic ecological diversity, broad latitudinal spread and immense altitudinal range. Housing the second highest point of the world -K2 - at 8,611m to the lowest point in the Arabian Sea at 0 m, it presents varied ecosystems, which support a large variety of biodiversity. These range from the mangrove forests fringing the Arabian Sea to the spectacular mountaintops where the Western Himalayas, Hindukush and Karakorums meet. Constituting as many as 18 distinct habitats, they support a rich variety of species (plants, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, invertebrates) that contribute to the overall biodiversity of Pakistan. These include more than 5,700 species of plants, 194 species of mammals, 668 species of migratory and resident birds, 400 marine and 125 freshwater fish species, 174 species of reptiles, 16 species of amphibians, about 20,000 species of insects and terrestrial and freshwater invertebrates, and 700 species of marine invertebrates.
The International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD) is celebrated all over the world, on May 22, to highlight the significance of biodiversity conservation. It symbolizes the collective will of the world to cooperate in halting and reversing the accelerating loss of biological and genetic resources of the planet. It gives an opportunity to all, to join hands and talk about the existing and emerging problems caused by biodiversity loss and prospects of biodiversity conservation. The theme for IBD 2006 is Protecting Biodiversity in Drylands.
47% of the land surface of the earth is drylands. This includes semi-arid lands such as the Karoo and the Horn of Africa, savannah landscapes such as the Eurasian steppes and the North American Great Plains, and so-called Mediterranean landscapes. A major portion of Pakistan’s area, especially in Sindh and Balochistan, also falls under this category. Home to a richness of biological diversity, they are also central to the livelihoods of almost 2 billion people. Drylands ecosystems receive very erratic rainfall, and as a result are very fragile.
Biodiversity in these ecosystems is under threat from a variety of human activities. The transformation of habitats for human use, mostly agricultural, and overexploitation, including overgrazing, has led to the degradation of up to 20% of drylands ecosystems – with stark results: desertification and drought, the endangerment of 2,311 species, the loss of over 40 billion dollars a year in lost agricultural production and the resulting rise of social, economic, and political tensions. Poverty has forced populations who are dependent on natural resources to overexploit already marginal lands in order to sustain their livelihoods. Existing incentive frameworks do not encourage the sustainable use of resources. The urgency of these issues has been recognized in the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to proclaim 2006 the International Year of Deserts and Desertification.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most authoritative assessment of the global status of plants and animals Its 2006 report, released at the beginning of this month, brings into sharp focus the ongoing decline of the earth’s biodiversity and the impact mankind is having upon life on earth. It provides an accurate measure of progress, or lack of it, in achieving the globally agreed target to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Unfortunately it shows a clear trend: the biodiversity loss is increasing not decreasing. Of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria, 16,119 are now listed as threatened with extinction. This includes one in three amphibians and a quarter of the world’s coniferous trees, on top of the one in eight birds and one in four mammals known to be in jeopardy.
The Red List of Mammals of Pakistan compiled last year reinforces this global assessment. Out of eighteen orders of mammals in the world, Pakistan has the representative species of ten orders that are among the most threatened in the world. Endangered mammals include the Indus dolphin and the woolly flying squirrel. Threatened mammals include, among others, the Ibex, Markhor, Urial, goitred gazelle, Marco Polo sheep, snow leopard, Balochistan black bear, common leopard, wild ass and houbara bustard. IUCN Pakistan has also conducted an assessment of Freshwater Biodiversity – to be published later in the year – with the disturbing trend hardly being different. For information on these assessments, see: www.biodiversity.iucnp.org.
However, all is not gloom and doom. Reversing this trend is possible, as numerous conservation success stories have proven. One of them is the large Mountain Areas Conservancy Project (MACP) being implemented in parts of NWFP and Northern Areas of Pakistan. The project mobilizes local communities to protect threatened species, especially hoofed mammals like Ibex, Markhor, Urial, Marco Polo sheep etc. The communities also have an incentive to earn substantial sum of money – for community uplift - through a trophy hunting programme. This initiative, which is an excellent example of sustainable use of natural resources, has shown significant results with quite a remarkable increase in the number of these animals over the last few years (see www.macp-pk.org)
Preserving biodiversity means preserving ourselves for it is the life support system for our planet. It is the direct source of our food, and the livelihoods of every one of us, in some way or another, depend on our planet’s biodiversity, in the form of ecosystems, species and genetic material. Thus it is at the core of our quest for sustainable development. Biodiversity impacts the quality of human life and is an essential component to the sustainability of all human activity.
In order to conserve biodiversity, the exhortation by Achim Steiner, the Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), on the eve of the release of 2006 Red List also applies equally at the national level: “To succeed on a global scale, we need new alliances across all sectors of society. Biodiversity cannot be saved by environmentalists alone – it must become the responsibility of everyone with the power and resources to act.”
Created in 1948, The World Conservation Union brings together about 1100 members (states, government agencies, NGOs and affiliates) and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. IUCN's mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.
IUCN is the world's largest environmental knowledge network and has helped over 75 countries to prepare and implement national conservation and biodiversity strategies. IUCN is a multi-cultural, multilingual organization with some 1000 staff located in 62 countries. Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.
IUCN Pakistan has five programme offices in cities from the north to the south, multiple field offices and a large portfolio of projects. It is one of the nine Country Offices of IUCN's Asia Programme, covering 23 countries with a workforce of nearly 500.
For more information contact:
Hasan Akhtar Rizvi,
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Pakistan.
tel ++92 21 5861540/41/42/43
fax ++92 21 5861448/5835760
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