Pakistani Juniper facing threats of depletion

Juniper trees are called living fossils as they slowly grow to be thousands of years old. The world’s second largest such forest is in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Despite being declared a UNESCO reserve, it is facing many threats.

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Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, there are between 50-67 species of juniper, widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa in the Old World, and to the mountains of Central America.

Junipers vary in size and shape from tall trees, 20–40 m tall, to columnar or low spreading shrubs with long trailing branches. They are evergreen with needle-like and/or scale-like leaves. They can be either monoecious or dioecious. The female seed cones are very distinctive, with fleshy, fruit-like coalescing scales which fuse together to form a “berry”-like structure, 4–27 mm long, with 1-12 unwinged, hard-shelled seeds. In some species these “berries” are red-brown or orange but in most they are blue; they are often aromatic and can be used as a spice. The seed maturation time varies between species from 6–18 months after pollination. The male cones are similar to those of other Cupressaceae, with 6-20 scales; most shed their pollen in early spring, but some species pollinate in the autumn.

Many junipers (e.g. J. chinensis, J. virginiana) have two types of leaves: seedlings and some twigs of older trees have needle-like leaves 5–25 mm long; and the leaves on mature plants are (mostly) tiny (2–4 mm long), overlapping and scale-like. When juvenile foliage occurs on mature plants, it is most often found on shaded shoots, with adult foliage in full sunlight. Leaves on fast-growing ‘whip’ shoots are often intermediate between juvenile and adult.

In some species (e. g. J. communis, J. squamata), all the foliage is of the juvenile needle-like type, with no scale leaves. In some of these (e.g. J. communis), the needles are jointed at the base, in others (e.g. J. squamata), the needles merge smoothly with the stem, not jointed.
The needle-leaves of junipers are hard and sharp, making the juvenile foliage very prickly to handle. This can be a valuable identification feature in seedlings, as the otherwise very similar juvenile foliage of cypresses (Cupressus, Chamaecyparis) and other related genera is soft and not prickly.

Juniper is the exclusive food plant of the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Bucculatrix inusitata and Juniper Carpet, and is also eaten by the larvae of other Lepidoptera species such as Chionodes electella, Chionodes viduella, Juniper Pug and Pine Beauty; those of the tortrix moth C. duplicana feed on the bark around injuries or canker.

Junipers species Juniperus macropoda, Juniperous exceisa polycarpus or Pashthani Juniper are found in Ziarat districts and Zarghoon mount and some other mounted areas of Balochistan known as the second largest Juniper forest in the world, which covers an area of about 247,000 acres (1,000 km2). There are many important species of animals and birds (such as the Chukar partridge), bushes and ground flora within this ecosystem, many of which are used by the local people to treat disease. However, Ziarat is best known for its juniper trees, some of which are 5000 to 7000 years old. In Ziarat a herb called Ephedra sinica is found in abundance from which a chemical called ephedrine is extracted, an important constituent of various medicines, especially cough syrups. Chiltan Adventurers Association Balochistan has been raising awareness on both the national and international levels on the need for conservation of this unique heritage site since 1984.

 

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This entry was posted in EFFECTS AS RESULT OVEREXPLOITATION, excessive forest destruction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Pakistani Juniper facing threats of depletion

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