Academic journal article The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dynamics of Natural Vegetation Cover: It's Human and Environmental Dimensions in Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Academic journal article The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dynamics of Natural Vegetation Cover: It's Human and Environmental Dimensions in Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Article excerpt

Introduction

Currently one of the most important but highly complex challenges of environmental conservation is to reconcile human needs for food, fiber, and fuel with the need to maintain and restore ecological processes and ecosystem (Boelee, 2011; MEA, 2005). This issue is even more crucial in dry mountains having delicate ecological balance and fragile natural resource base particularly natural vegetation. Generally, environmental factors such as climate, topography and soils, at a regional scale, control vegetation distribution patterns and plant communities (Van de Ven et al., 2007). However, vegetation patterns can also influence the ecological balance through variations in environmental components like soil water content and soil nutrients in dry areas (Zhang et al, 2012). Here the delicate ecological balance and natural vegetation cover are exposed to a variety of threats and can be disturbed by slight intervention either through natural or anthropogenic factors (Jiggins, 1994). The local people heavily depend on the vegetation cover for grazing, fuel wood and fodder collection and for medicinal herbs. In addition to economic benefits, an adequate cover of natural vegetation is essential for the protection of watershed and prevention of soil loss especially in these areas. The present paper is focused to study and asses the changes occurred in natural vegetation cover during the last two decades in dry areas of Karak, Pakistan. It will further investigate the causes and consequences of these changes and responses of the local inhabitants.

Background

Arid and semiarid areas especially dry mountains around the globe are naturally disadvantages due to their geographical characteristics. In such areas natural resource base is poor and regeneration process is quite slow which needs special care for subsistence survival. Communities living in this area are prone to higher risk in terms of seasonality, natural resource degradation and related shocks due to geo-ecological conditions as well as their high vulnerability and limited capacity (Parvez and Rasmussen, 2004). Therefore, these are the areas of poverty and the local inhabitants have high dependency on ecosystem services (MEA, 2005).

Dry land usually covers wide variety of environmental setting; they are all characterized by climatic extremes and uncertainty. Shortage of water is the key production constraint that is further compounded by rapid population growth, extreme temperatures, poor soils conditions, crop diseases and pests attack (cf. Roy and Ram 2011). These constrains restrict agricultural practice and rangeland become the most dominant land use which is often extensively overgrazed. In such areas the present rate of exploitation under the increasing impacts of climate change is feared to exceed the regeneration rate (cf. Stringer et al., 2009). Factors such as climatic regime, introduction of exotic species, degree of site disturbance and evolutionary history are important in shaping vegetation response (Milchunas et al., 1993; Milchunas et al., 1988; Westoby et al., 1989). Loss of vegetation in such areas could result in issues highly intricate and disastrous. At the local scale, natural vegetation loss, affect watersheds and the streams by increasing runoff, erosion and sediment loads (Claudia et al., 2009). At larger scale, however, they also influence climate and quantity of surface water resources by altering the partitioning of incoming precipitation and radiation among sensible and latent heat fluxes, runoff, and discharge (Costa and Foley, 1997; Bonan et al., 2004; Li et al., 2007). Therefore, vegetation cover and its dynamics in these areas need in depth study and careful management.

Methodology

Study area

The study area, district Karak, is located in southern part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Generally the area is hilly and has a moderate relief. Climatically, the district is classified as semiarid however; intra-district variation in rainfall distribution is significant particularly in north south direction. …

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