The Juniper Forest of Ziarat in Balochistan, which is believed to be the second largest of its kind in the world, has been declared as Biosphere Reserve.
The International Coordinating Council of Man and Biosphere (ICCMAB) Programme of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which announced the title for Juniper Forest of Ziarat had earlier in 1977, declared Lal Suhanra in Cholistan desert of southern Punjab province as Biosphere Reserve. Thus, the development is considered historic in many ways.
According to Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH), the Biosphere Reserve of Ziarat is habitat to the largest patch of Juniper forests (juniperus excelsa polycarpos) in Pakistan and measures about 110,000 HA.
Juniper tree species of Ziarat have a global significance because of their old age and slow growth rate. The species finds its place in the list of the oldest living trees on earth.
Though no dendrological study has yet been conducted, the age of a mature tree, according to an estimate, exceeds 4000 to 5000 years and precisely because of this, they are locally termed as “Living Fossils”.
The Juniper Forest of Ziarat provides habitat for endangered wildlife species, including Suleiman Markhor, Urial, Black Bear and Wolf.
The forests also serve as habitat for a number of other species such as Afghan Pica, foxes, jackals and several species of migratory birds. The forest is also rich in diversity of plant species of medicinal significance.
Of the 54 available species, more than 50 percent are of medicinal/ethno-botanic value and are being traditionally used by the local communities as panacea to treat various diseases.
Moreover, the forest also provides valuable services of regulating aquifers, by protecting watersheds in the catchments that conserve and sustain provision of water resources for various production functions that support livelihoods of the local communities.
The department said biosphere reserves provide important areas of study to enrich the knowledge base and generate ideas to maintain a healthy relationship between mankind and nature. Biosphere reserves are not only a habitat for vegetation, but also for animals, insects and mankind as part of one nature reserve.