UNESCO’s Approved Biosphere Reserves in Pakistan

  1. Lal Suhanra Biosphere Reserve, Pakistan


Lal Suhanra Biosphere Reserve and National Park is situated in the north-west edge of the Cholistan Desert in the Punjab Province of Pakistan. This arid landscape is relatively flat and interspersed with sand dunes up to 1,000 hectares in extent and 4 meters in height, some of which are unstable. The biosphere reserve is crossed by the dried-up bed of the Hakra River and comprises Patisar Lake and irrigated land. The lake (1,935 hectares) was originally built as a water reservoir and used to be an important wetland as a wintering site of many waterfowls. However, today the pond supports extensive reed beds, submerged and floating aquatic vegetation, thus it has lost its habitat function for most birds.

Sub-tropical thorn forest with Calligonum polygonoides, Calotropis procera, Capparis decidua, Prosopis cineraria Tamarix aphylla etc.; lesser Cholistan desert characterized by Crotalaria burhia, Zizyphus mauritania, Haloxylon recurvum, Aerva javanica etc.; irrigated plantations with Acacia nilotica, Dalbergia sisso, Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Prosopis cineraria, Tamarix aphylla, Capparis decidua, Salvadora oleoides; freshwater wetlands including species such as Eichornia crassipes, Hydrilla verticillata, Nelumbo nucifera, Nymphaea lotus, Phragmites karka and Typha domingensis.

  1. Ziarat Juniper Forest Biosphere Reserve


The biosphere reserve is home to the largest area of juniper forest (juniperus excelsa polycarpus) in Pakistan, covering about 110 000 ha. It is believed that the forest is the second largest of its kind in the world. The juniper tree species found there are of global significance because of their advanced age and slow growth rate. In fact, the junipers of Ziarat are among the oldest living trees in the world. Although no Dendrological study has yet been conducted, according to one estimate the age of a mature tree can exceed 1 500 years. Local people refer to the trees as ‘living fossils’ and this remarkable longevity allows research into past weather conditions in the region, making the species of special significance for climate change and ecological studies.

The juniper forest ecosystem of Ziarat provides a habitat for endangered wildlife species and supports a rich diversity of plant species. Because of its rich biodiversity the different areas of the ecosystem have been assigned the status of protected areas, including wildlife sanctuaries and game reserves. The mountain ranges, including Khalifat mountain, consist of a core habitat reportedly hosting several globally important wild species, among them Suleman Markhor, Urial, black bears and wolves. The forests also serve as a habitat for a number of other species: Afghan Pica, foxes, jackals and several species of migratory birds. However, various anthropological factors such as illegal hunting, human habitations and livestock grazing have encroached on the wildlife habitats leading to their fragmentation.

The following two Biosphere Reserves have been approved by the National Committee and submitted for approval of UNESCO Headquarters, Paris.

  1. Gallies Biosphere Reserve
  2. Chitral Bashkar Garamchashma Biosphere Reserve