Balochistan, Lower Indus, and Kathiawar

Map of the Month: Balochistan, Lower Indus River and Kathiawar
Map boundaries: 20 to 30 degrees North; 63 to 72 degrees East
Countries: Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan

One of the cradles of civilization, the area surrounding the lower Indus River includes both temperate and tropical arid areas. The Indus civilization dwarfed Egypt and Mesopotamia in land area, population, and engineering. There were at least six large cities, with trading posts stretching from northern Afghanistan to Oman (Lawler, 2008a). The urban areas collapsed in 1800 BCE (Lawler, 2008b). The boundary between the Indo-Malayan and Palearctic Biomes is just west of the Indus River and shown as a red line on the map. The Kirthar and Brahui mountain ranges define part of this boundary. To the west of the Indus, the largest ecological region includes xeric woodlands covering a series of mountain ranges. However, to the northwest of the Balochistan Mountains, the woodlands grade into deserts extending south from Afghanistan and east from Iran. These deserts contain small areas of irrigated fruit trees and orchards of date palms. There is also a coastal desert and plain region along the Arabian Sea. Along the Indus River and in the Kathiawar Peninsula of India is the tropical thorn scrub region that dominates much of the Indian subcontinent. Tropical fruit and grain crops are grown in Punjab and Sindh using irrigation. Further east along the Pakistan-India border is the Thar Desert and the Rann of Kutch seasonal salt marsh. A small area of dry deciduous forests is found in the Kathiawar peninsula area. Diu is an island at the south part of the Kathiawar Peninsula which is governed as part of the separate state of Daman and Diu.

World Wildlife Fund Terrestrial Ecoregions and Provinces/Political Subdivisions

Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests
IM 206, Kathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests. Forests of teak (Tectona), Bowellia, Diospyros, and Sterculia along with thorny scrub and rock outcrops. Found in India—Gujarat.

Temperate Coniferous Forests
PA506, East Afghan montane conifer forests. Pine, fir, oak, juniper. Found in Pakistan-Balochistan, Mastung and Quetta Districts.

Flooded Grasslands and Savannas
IM 901, Rann of Kutch seasonal salt marsh. A saline clay desert with grasses and dry thorn scrub. Aploda, Cenchrus, Pennisetum, Prosopis,and Euphorbia are common plants. The area provides refuge for Asiatic wild ass and flamingos. Found in India—Gujarat and Pakistan—Sindh

Montane Grasslands and Shrublands
PA1009, Kuhrud-Kohbanan Mountains forest steppe. Pistachio and almond forest on dry steppe. Found in Iran—Sistan and Baluchestan and Pakistan—Balochistan.
PA1018, Sulaiman Range alpine meadows. Pine, juniper, steppe, western Himalayan evergreen forests, Fagaceae, and alpine steppe. Found in Pakiistan—Balochistan.

Deserts and Xeric Shrublands
IM 1302, Indus Valley Desert. Found in Pakistan—Punjab. A small tongue of this ecoregion enters the map at 71 degrees east and 30 degrees north. Plants are desert thorn scrub of Prosopis and Acacia.
IM 1303, Northwestern thorn scrub forests. Believed to be a remnant of a tropical dry deciduous forest, now dominated by Acacia and Prosopis. Found in India—Daman and Diu, Gujarat and Rajasthan; and Pakistan—Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh
IM 1304, Thar Desert. The world’s 7th largest desert with vegetation of grasses such as Eragrostic and thorn scrub like Acacia and Prosopis. Found in India—Rajasthan and Pakistan—Punjab and Sindh.
PA 1307, Baluchistan xeric woodlands. Above 1500 m, pistachio, almond, sage, and juniper woodlands. Below 1500 m, tropical steppe flora and thorny small trees such as Acacia. Found in Afghanistan—Kandahar; and Pakistan—Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh
PA1326, Registan-North Pakistan sandy desert. Shrubs, sedges, grasses. Found in Afghanistan—Helmand and Kandahar; and Pakistan—Balochistan.
PA 1328, South Iran Nubo-Sindian desert and semi-desert. An area with patches of scrub and grasses interspersed with woodlands. Found in Iran—Sistan and Baluchestan; and Pakistan—Balochistan.

IM 1403, Indus River Delta—Arabian Sea mangroves. The coastal mangrove forests are dominated by monospecific stands of Avicennia. Found in India—Gujarat; and Pakistan—Balochistan and Sindh.

Marine Ecoregions of the World
Western Indo-Pacific Realm, Somali/Arabian Province
91. Gulf of Oman. Found west of 66 degrees East longitude and encompassing the Makran Coast of Balochistan, including Astola Island.
West and South Indian Shelf Province
103. Western India. Found east of 66 degrees East longitude and encompassing the coasts of Balochistan (Lasbela District), Sindh, Gujarat, and Daman and Diu.

Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (not shown on map)
Southern Asia
701. Baluchistan. Xeric freshwater and closed basins. Found west of 67 degrees East and south of 29 degrees North, Pakistan—Balochistan; Iran—Sistan and Baluchestan.
702. Helman-Sistan. Xeric freshwater and closed basins. Found north of 29 degrees north and west of 67 degrees east. Afthanistan—Helmand and Khandahar; and Pakistan—Balochistan.
703. Lower and Middle Indus. Tropical and subtropical floodplain rivers and wetlands. Found east of 67 degrees east and west of 71 degrees east. India—Gujarat and Rajasthan; Pakistan—Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh.
708. Namuda-Tapi. Tropical and subtropical floodplain rivers and wetlands. Found east of 71 degrees East and south of 23 degrees north. India—Gujarat, and Daman and Diu.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Moenjodaro (Mohenjo Daro), Sindh Province, Pakistan. The huge city of Mohenjo Daro was built in the third millennium, BCE. The acropolis, ramparts, and lower town show evidence of careful city planning. The city housed from 20,000 to 40,000 people (Lawler, 2008a), and may have encompassed 300 ha (Lawler, 2008c). On the highest mound rises a ruined dome, originally thought to be a Buddhist stupa, now thought to be a monument from Indus times (Lawler, 2008d). Ecoregion IM 1303.
Thatta, Sindh Province, Pakistan. The capital of three dynasties, from the 14th to 18th century. Ecoregions IM 1303 and IM 1403.

Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance
Astola Island, Balochistan, Ecoregion PA 1328
Deh Akro—II Desert Wetland Complex, Sindh (no. 3 on map), Ecoregion IM 1303
Drigh Lake, Sindh (no. 4 on map), Ecoregion IM 1303
Haleji Lake, Sindh (no. 5 on map), Ecoregion IM 1403
Hab Dam, Balochistan and Sindh (no. 6 on map), Ecoregion IM 1303
Indus Delta, Sindh (no. 7 on map), Ecoregions IM 1403 and IM 1303
Indus Dolphin Reserve, Sindh (no. 8 on map), Ecoregion IM 1303
Jubho Lagoon, Sindh (no. 9 on map), Ecoregion IM 1303
Kinjhar Lake, Sindh (no. 10 on map), Ecoregion IM 1303
Miani Hor, Balochistan (no 11 on map), Ecoregion IM 1403
Nurri Lagoon, Sindh (no. 12 on map), Ecoregion IM 1303
Ormara Turtle Beaches, Balochistan, Ecoregion PA 1328
Runn of Kutch, Sindh, Ecoregion IM 901

Other points of interest:

Dholavira, Gujarat, India. This archaeological site, covering 60 square hectares, was an outpost of ancient Indus civilization. The city exhibits meticulous planning, monumental and aesthetic architecture, a large stadium stretching the length of three football fields, and an efficient water management system (Lawler, 2008a). Ecoregions 1303 and 901.

Gir National Park, Gujarat, India, Ecoregion IM 206 and IM 1303. Home of lions and leopards in a sanctuary of riparian woodlands and grasslands (Riley and Riley, 2005)

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, Ecoregion IM 1304. Jaisalmer, the Golden City, located along the caravan route to the Khyber Pass, is a medieval sandstone fort structure with 99 carved spires. There are five interlinked palaces, three Jain temples and a Hindu temple within the fort. Nearby is Desert National Park and Akai wood fossil park (Beare, 2006; Schultz, 2003).

Abell, Robin and 27 others. 2008. Freshwater Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Biogeographic Units for Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation. Bioscience 58:403-414.
Beare, Emma, ed. 2006. 501 Must-Visit Destinations. Bounty Books.
Lawler, Andrew. 2008a. Boring No More, a Trade-Savvy Indus Emerges. Science 320:1276-1281.
Lawler, Andrew. 2008b. Indus Collapse: The End or the Beginning of an Asian Culture? Science 320:1281-1283.
Lawler, Andrew. 2008c. Trying to Make Way for the Old. Science 320:1284-1285.
Lawler, Andrew. 2008d. Buddhist Stupa or Indus Temple? Science 320:1280.
National Geographic Society and World Wildlife Fund, WildWorld map.
Riley, Laura and William. 2005. Nature’s Strongholds. Princeton University Press.
Schultz, Patricia. 2003. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Workman Publishing.
World Heritage List,
Spalding, Mark D. and 14 others. 2007. Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas. Bioscience 57:573-583.

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