Suleiman Mountain Range is an extension of the Hindu Kush and lies at the junction of three provincial borders of Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab. It lies at 310 – 36’ North and from 690 – 59’ East. With elevation range of 500 to 3441 meters, the steep mountainous terrain of the project area with arid ecology provides suitable climatic and topographical conditions for growth of pure Chilghoza forest.
The famous Takht-I-Sulaiman or Solomon's Throne is the highest peak of this range. It is about 3441 meters above sea level and located just outside the boundary. Hot and dry summers and cold winters mark climate of the area. Mean maximum day temperatures range from about 37°C in June to about 13°C in January. Rainfall is scanty (320mm per year), varies with altitude and is highest during the winter season.
Suleiman Range contains the world’s largest pure stand of Chilghoza (Pinus gerardiana) forests is spaced over 260km2. These forests play an important role, providing both ecological and environmental services besides being a credible source of income to local communities.
Due to increase in population coupled with lack of alternate livelihood opportunities, Chilghoza Forests are under constant pressure for timber. Compared to poor quality timber for which Chilghoza trees are harvested, the same trees produce good quality nuts that have market, both national and international.
Since local people are not aware of even reasonable good marketing practices, they are mostly at the mercy of middlemen. And the result is not difficult to imagine: local people do not get even a fraction of what they should. However, if
(a) they adopt proper collection, roasting, sorting, and packing practices; and
(b) they get a direct access to national and later, to international market, they can increase their income at least 4-fold.
This in turn, results in cutting of trees for timber extraction and selling at through-away prices.
Forest type According to species composition, the area can be divided into the following forest types:
- Dry temperate forest
- Sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forest /scrub forest
Dry temperate forestWith elevation ranges from 7,000 to 10,000 feet, the dry temperate forest is represented by Chilghoza (Pinus gerardiana) and Kail or Nashtar (Pinus wallichiana). Pinus gerardiana is the dominant species of Chilghoza forest ecosystem. It occupies a particularly waterless tract, chiefly on limestone, growing at times on what appears to be solid rock. The forests are chiefly uneven aged, often fairly dense.
Sub-tropical broadleaved ever green forestOn the hills, upto an elevation of 7,000 ft (ca 2150 m) amsl are to be found species of showan (Olea ferrugenia), ozgai (Pistachio cabulica), sharawan (Pistachio khinjuk), wild almond (Prunus eburnean), shinshab (Peroswskia abrotanoides), Lani (Salsola foetida), Laghunrd (Daphne spp), Phulai (Acacia modesta, Jhau (Artimisia maritime), Karkanda (Zizyphus nummularia), Shang (Fraxinus zanthoxyloides) and Gurgura (Monothica buxifolia).
RangelandsRangelands provide maximum feed to livestock throughout the year that is supplemented with lopped fodder from trees and agriculture produce in winter. Sedentary and semi-nomadic grazing is practiced in the area. In winter when range grasses are dry and dormant, fodder trees/shrubs are used as livestock feed. The farmers grow wheat for the production of staple food and straw. The straw is stored in the shed and is used as winter feed to livestock.
Grasses include Chrysopogon aucheri, Cymbopogon jawarancusa, Eleulopsis binata, Pennisitum sp., Eleusine sp., Bothriochloa sp., Bromus sp., Tetrapogon sp., Sadium sp., Poa sinaica. Forbs include Lectoca sp., Vicia sp., Polygonum sp., Plantago sp. Shrubs include Caragana ambiqua, Convolvolus sp., Sophora sp., Brasica sp. Rumex hastatus, Haloxylon recurum, Artemisia maritina, Salsola festida, Ephedra dulgahs.
FaunaWildlife species that merit attention are the endemic and endangered straight horned Suleiman markhor (Capra falconeri jerdoni, listed as Endangered in IUCN redlist), black bear (Ursus thibetanus), common leopard (Panthra pardus), wolf (Cannis lupus) chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar), Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and Eurasian kestrel (Falco tinanculus).
Because of the importance of Suleiman Markhor from the socio-economic perspective and also being the key animal species of the local ecosystem, WWF-Pakistan focuses on its population status and distribution assessment.