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PHYTOSOCIOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT OF MARGALLAH HILLS NATIONAL PARK


(2004)

Saadullah Ayaz, Dr. Tahira Ahmad* and Zafeer Saqib**

Department of Biological Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.


E. mail: saadayaz@gmail.com. Ph: 0092-0300-5920377

*Department of Biological Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.


E. mail: taqau@yahoo.com. Ph: 0092-051-2206287

** Department of Biological Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.


E. mail: zafeersaqib@yahoo.com. Ph: 0092-0300-5616050

ABSTRACT

To know the current status of vegetation a phytosociological study of Margallah Hills National Park was carried out during
July and August 2004. A total of 440 vegetation sample plots were studied in 44 stands, randomly selected in the study
area. In each sample plot, species composition and cover abundance for each species was recorded. The collected field data
was compiled in TURBOVEG for MS Windows® (Hennekens 19951) and was analyzed with TWINSPAN (Hill 19792).
The analysis resulted in formation of twelve plant communities. Viz. Pinus roxburghii- Mallotus/ Myrsine africana
Community, Dodonaea- Carissa- Olea cuspidata community, Dodonaea- Carissa opaca community, Dodonaea- Carissa-
Adhatoda vasica community, Dodonaea- Mallotus- Ziziphus nummularia community, Dodonaea- Cassia- Adhatoda vasica
community, Adhatoda- Buxus- Mallotus phillippinensis community, Adhatoda- Buxus/ Dodonaea viscosa community,
Acacia- Carissa/ Dicanthium annulatum community, Acacia- Lantana- Carissa opaca community, Carissa- Cynodon-
Olea cuspidata community and Cynodon- Sageretia- Otostegia limbata community.

KEY WORDS

Phytosociology, Margallah Hills National Park, TURBOVEG, TWINSPAN

INTRODUCTION

The Margallah Hills, declared as National Park on 27th April 1980 is one of the ecologically significant protected areas in
Pakistan. It was declared so in order to preserve the natural landscape of the surrounding of the capital city Islamabad and
preserve the biodiversity of the area. The national park area lies approximately between 330 40’ to 330 44’ N latitude and
720 55’ to 730 20’ E longitudes (Shinwari and Khan 20003). The national park represents sub- tropical vegetation type and
is being studied from various aspects in order to determine its ecological uniqueness.

Phytosociology is the study of the characteristics, classification, relationships, and distribution of plant communities (The
American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edn4). It is useful to collect such data to describe the population dynamics of each
species studied and how they relate to the other species in the same community. Phytosociology attempts to describe the
diversity in plant communities and its methods often involve the quantative estimation of various parameters of vegetation
like cover, abundance and frequency etc.

Previously in Pakistan, some quantitative investigations on plant communities of different areas have been conducted with
much stress on phytosociology. [(Hijazi 19845), (Mohammad 19906), (Ahmad, et al 20017), (Zafar 20028) and (Saqib
20039)].

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

The aims of the present study are:

1. To study state of flora along with the determination of major plant communities in the Margallah Hills National
Park.
2. To facilitate the prediction of changes in floral composition over the different spatio- temporal scales.
3. To examine the influence of demographic and physical factors in the spatial distribution of vegetation.
4. To facilitate future studies for the identification of different habitat types in the area.

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MATERIAL AND METHODS

Site Description

The Margallah Hills National Park is located in the federal Capital Territory of Islamabad. The total area of the National
Park is 15,883 ha. (Management Plan 199210). The combination of different land use types of the park provides excellent
spiritual, scientific, educational, and recreational opportunities to the people. The proximity of the park to the capital city is
its uniqueness. It is a remarkable blend of cultural, biological, physiographic and recreational avenues.

The area abodes diverse ecological features. Due to the variability of its land- types, the national park is divided into three
components, that are; (a) Margallah Hills, a mountainous range stretching in north- west of Islamabad city with an area of
126,05 ha. (b) Rawal Lake having an area of 190,2 ha, that comprises of a perennial water reservoir with a total capacity of
47,500 acre foot and (c) an urban, spacious and partially developed recreational place of Shakarparian with a total area of 1
37,6 ha. (Mgt. Plan 199210).

The area represents the sub- tropical broad leaved evergreen forest type. Such an ecosystem is considered to be of great
ecological importance due to its species diversity. Its flora includes about 608 species of plants, belonging to 104 families
and 465 genera. (Fatima 199911). The park and adjacent areas host 250 species of birds, 38 mammals, 13 taxa of reptiles
and numerous taxa of insects (Mgt. Plan 199210).

Topography of the area varies from steep to precipitous, comprising mainly of steep slopes and gullies of varying elevation
from 465 m to 1600 m (Mgt. Plan 199210). The highest peak is “Chirani” with a height of 1604 m (Mgt. Plan 199210). The
climate is sub- tropical with moderate summers and winters. The average temperature is 34.5 0C (Weather Base 200412).
Snow is rare, the average rainfall being 1200 mm per annum (Hijazi 19845). Human population in the national park is
recorded to be 92,000 individuals, living in 37 villages or small hamlets called Dhok’s or Mora’s. Majority of the people
(60%) living in the park area are engaged in agriculture and livestock production and marketing (Mustafa 200313).

Methodology

The methodology of the study was followed as under:

Field Data Collection: The present study was undertaken in months of July and August 2004. The vegetation data was
collected in a total of 44 stands that were selected to cover maximum geographical extent in the area. Two criteria were
used to describe a stand that were:

1. The stand was large enough to contain all species belonging to plant community.
2. Vegetation was more or less uniform within the stand.

In each stand a total of ten quadrats of 100 m2 (10mx10m) were laid at random. Two criteria were used to describe the
stand. The phytosociological data collected at each sample plot that included its species composition and cover percentage
of individual species. The cover values were determined by visual estimation and registered on eleven- grade Domin and
Hadač scale (Mueller- Dombis et al 197414).

The plant species were collected from each study site and taken to the Herbarium, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad for
identification. Nomenclature follows Nasir & Ali 197215.

Data Analysis: The field data was processed using TURBOVEG for Microsoft Windows®. It is computer software that
comprises easy to use data base management system and provides methods for input, import, selection and export of
phytosociological data in different relevés (Hennekens 19951). TURBOVEG was accepted as the standard computer
package for the European Vegetation Survey. Currently it has been installed in more than 25 countries through-out Europe
and overseas for standardized vegetation data in a computerized data bank. Such a data bank is providing information on
the floristic composition and geographical distribution of plant communities.

The classification of phytosociological data was done by using FORTRAN based software package TWINSPAN (Two
Way INdicator SPecies ANalysis) PC version 1.21 developed by Hill2 (1979).

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RESULTS

The TWINSPAN classification of the floristic data resulted in formation of twelve plant communities: i. e. H, I, P, Q, R, S,
T, U, V, W, X, Y and O (Figure 1).

Pinus roxburghii- Myrsine- Mallotus phillippinensis Community (H).

This community dominated in the upper reaches of Margallah Hill ranges (above 950m). On the higher altitudes (exceeding
1000m) the vegetation totally comprised of pure stands of Pinus roxburghii. At lower elevations P. roxburghii was found
mixed with Myrsine africana. The transition zone between 800-950 m was characterized by the presence of Carissa opaca
bushes and a good cover of Mallotus phillippinensis with M. africana which were found mixed with the P. roxburghii trees.
The ground flora consisted of a variety of perennial grass species such as Dicanthium annulatum and Cynodon dactylon.

Dodonaea- Carissa- Olea cuspidata Community (I).

This type of vegetation dominates the southern slopes or lower altitudes in the park. At southern aspect and altitude below
650 m, the vegetation comprised of pure stands of Dodonaea viscosa At higher altitude or northern, or north- eastern
slopes Dodonaea was mixed with Carissa opaca bushes.

Dodonaea- Carissa- Dicanthium annulatum Community (P).

This community was found in extreme southern aspects with elevation below 650 m. The soils of the area were semi
graveled and dry, with scanty distribution of grasses and other herbs. The signs of soil erosion due to exposed surface were
highly visible in such areas. There was very less ground cover comprising of tufts of grasses.

Dodonaea- Carissa- Adhatoda vasica Community (Q).

This plant community was observed at elevation between 500-750 m. At drier southern aspect and lower elevation the
vegetation composed of stands of Dodonaea along with Carissa. At elevation of 600-750 m and cooler northern aspects the
vegetation comprised of these two species along with good cover of Adhatoda vasica bushes. The soil in such areas was dry
and stony with scanty distribution of grasses like Chrysopogan aucheri and Dicanthium annulatum.

Dodonaea- Mallotus- Ziziphus nummularia Community (R).

Dodonaea viscosa dominated the area with good growth of Mallotus phillippinensis and Ziziphus nummularia. Much of the
area was located in planer regions where the slope was less and the soil was drier. These areas showed higher species
diversity and the edaphic conditions were good for growth of perennial grass species. Such vegetation was found in the
protected pockets of the core zone of the national park.

Dodonaea- Cassia- Adhatoda vasica Community (S).

This type of vegetation was recorded from areas where there was a lot of biotic activity in western part of Margallah range.
Most of the area was occupied by bushes of Dodonaea viscosa and Cassia fistula with a good cover of Adhatoda vasica.
The natural vegetation was very much disturbed with scanty grass cover. The soils in the area were dry and graveled due to
exposed surface and erosion.

Adhatoda- Buxus- Mallotus phillippinensis Community (T).

This plant community dominated the medium elevation throughout the Margallah Hills or some western part with medium
elevation of 600- 800 m and gentle slopes. These areas lie in saddles around human settlements with some signs of gazing
and trespassing. The area had good developed soil. The accessibility is enhanced by less steep slopes. There was poor grass
cover in the area.

Adhatoda- Buxus- Dodonaea viscosa Community (U).

This community was recorded from cooler shady northern aspects with elevation between 650- 800 m elevation. There are
villages and settlements around the area where Adhatoda vasica dominated while Buxus papillosa and Carissa opaca were
found in relatively protected and cooler patches. In drier places Dodonaea vasica was found.

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Acacia- Carissa- Dicanthium annulatum Community (V).

This plant community was recorded from extreme southern areas with low water availability, there was lesser biotic
pressure on the vegetation, but the area was subjected to erosion. The area generally was characterized by plainer regions
of the national park where the slope was very gentle and the open patches were covered with sparse growth of grasses like
Cynodon dactylon and Dicanthium annulatum.

Acacia- Adhatoda- Cynodon dactylon Community (W).

The area was dominated by thick cover of Acacia modesta. The drier open slopes were occupied by Adhatoda vasica
bushes. The ground flora was comprised of a good cover of grass species of Cynodon dactylon. Soil in the area was stony
and dry

Acacia- Lantana- Carissa opaca Community (X).

Such plant communities were reported from southern end of national park that face Islamabad city and around recreational
sites of Daman-e-Koh and Pir Sohawa. The slope was generally gentle and the open spaces in the canopy were occupied by
Lantana camara. The area at places was subjected to soil compaction and erosion. At drier aspect and open patches, the
area was dominated by Adhatoda bushes. The absence of associated species showed grazing of livestock in the area.

Carissa- Cynodon- Olea cuspidata Community (Y).

The area shows lesser influence of human and livestock activities, thus had dense canopy cover. The open patches were
occupied by good ground cover of grasses like Cynodon dactylon. This community represents much of the original flora of
the national park, which is least disturbed by any biotic influence. The high percentage of Olea indicates the lesser grazing
in the area.

Cynodon- Sageretia- Otostegia limbata Community (O).

This vegetation community was reported around tourist’s spots, where there was high human impact and lesser grazing.
Such areas showed high biotic stress due to increased human influence because of the presence of Sageretia and Otostegia.
The soil conditions were mostly very poor with eroded and compacted soils having low moisture contents. The vegetation
is highly disturbed in these areas.

LEVEL I ► 440 Number of Samples Community


A Group/ Sub- Group

LEVEL II ► 240 200


B C

LEVEL III ► 43 197 150 50


D E F G

LEVEL IV ► 24 19 83 114 36 114 41 9


H I J K L M N O

LEVEL V ► 13 70 94 20 16 20 89 25 14 27
P Q R S T U V W X Y

Figure 1. Dendrogram Showing TWINSPAN Vegetation Classification at Five Levels

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CONCLUSION

The TWINSPAN classification of vegetation resulted in identification of 13 plant communities. These communities were
found distributed along altitudinal gradient and some anthropogenic influence. Out of these 1 community was characterized
by presence of conifer and remaining 12 were characterized by presence of scrub type of flora.

Dodonaea viscosa, Adhatoda vasica, Carissa opaca and Acacia modesta were found as most common species in the
national park.

ACKNOWLDEGEMENTS

Authors are extremely grateful to Dr. Ghulam Akbar, Head, WWF- Islamabad for his guidance. The names of Mr. Qasim,
Manager, Mr. Babar Coordinator Environmental Education and Mr. Yasir Aziz, Environmental Education Officer WWF
are specially mentioned for their cooperation.

Mr. Aurangzeb Awan, Deputy Director Forests, at Capital Development Authority, is acknowledged for his kind
cooperation and for being host at the Margallah National Park.

No proper words can be used to thank Prof. Dr. Rizwana Aleem and Prof. Dr. Mir Ajab for being a source of information
on the technical side. They helped in identification of plant species.

The great endurance of Lateef, Arjumand and Lubna, from Arid Agriculture University and Aamir Jadoon and Faisal
Jadoon are praise worthy. Who accompanied in field while facing the rugged conditions and hot weather.

Tribute is paid to Dr. Mohammad Ayaz, Park Planner, WWF- Pakistan and Abdullah Ayaz for their encouragement. In fact
their technical know- how guided us all the way.

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