Natural Forage Production, Utilization, Constraints and Improvement Potential of High Altitude Alpine Pastures, Saif-ul-Maluk (nwfp), Pakistan Muhammad Rafique Sardar, Pakistan Forest Institute, Peshawar, Pakistan




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Natural Forage Production, Utilization, Constraints and Improvement Potential of High Altitude Alpine Pastures, Saif-ul-Maluk (NWFP), Pakistan

Muhammad Rafique Sardar,

Pakistan Forest Institute, Peshawar, Pakistan

Introduction


Saif-ul-Maluk, a high altitude alpine pasture, is located in the northern mountains of Pakistan in Kaghan valley, Hazara Division, North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The nomadic and semi-nomadic graziers graze this pasture for short periods during each summer. All kinds of livestock are driven up, mostly during the month of June, each year and grazing continues till late autumn. This uncontrolled heavy seasonal grazing is one of the major causes of degradation and retrogression of this pasture. The pasture deterioration is proceeding unchecked as no technical inputs are being provided by any agency. There is need to reverse the degradation processes and to improve the pasture according to its potential productivity. This is possible if the planners, policy makers and resource managers know basic facts about this natural renewable resource.

The pasture area is located approximately 10 km south –east of Naran Town in the Kaghan valley. Its elevation varies from 3300 to 5490 m above sea level. Most of the area has steep slopes and exposed peaks. Some of the peaks remain covered with glaciers and provide melt-water throughout the year. The side slopes of the main valley are heavily dissected and hence all the expositions/ aspects are found in the pasture. The ground moraines composed of stratified drift are also found. In addition, end –moraines and lateral moraines are also met with.

The side valleys and peaks/ ridges have residual shallow soil cover. Some pockets of the side valleys and foothills have deep stratified tills. The colour of the soil is brown to dark-brown and its texture is sandy loam. The soil pH value ranges between 7.0 to 7.7. The soil has adequate organic matter, Phosphorus, Potassium and safe limit of soluble salts. The pasture area has been classified as dry alpine which receives snowfall in the winter. The summers are mild and pleasant and winters are very cold. The area may receive more than 760-cm annual precipitation. The average monthly temperature varies form – 6.9OC to 12.2OC. August is the hottest month having mean temperature of 12.2OC and January is the coldest month with mean temperature of –6.9OC. Five months (November to may remain below –0OC). Accordingly grazing season is very short and consist of about 77 to 99 days.

This research study entitled " Indigenous Production and Utilization System in the High Altitude Alpine Pasture, Saif-ul-Maluk (NWFP), Pakistan " was initiated in June 1996 with the financial and technical support of the Temperate Asia Pasture and Fodder Sub-Regional Working Group, FAO, Rome, Italy. The study area was visited during the last week of the June 1996 when it was observed that 80 percent to its area was covered with snow. It was planned to conduct the preliminary vegetation survey in July 1996. Similarly, the forage production and utilization experiment was laid out in the middle of July 1996 and was continued till mid October 1997.
The major objectives of the study were:

  1. To study the pasture production and utilization systems and identify the constraints/ problems and opportunities.




  1. To study the socio-economical parameters relevant to the high altitude pastoral system.



Material and Methods

The information regarding the forage production and conventional grazing was explored using the caged-paired plots of 1.0 x 0.5 meters size. Before laying-out this experiment a preliminary resource inventory was conducted to explore the important parameters of soil, topography and vegetation. The step-toe method was applied for this inventory.


For resource inventory step-toe method was carried out in July 1996 to know different characteristics of the natural vegetation and other ecological factors. To collect data the study area was stratified into 4 sample units, more or less homogeneous, based on topographical features. It was planned to lay out 4 transect lines, one each in the representative topographic unit, along the contour. The transect lines were aligned to run, more or less, though the centers of the units. The technician, after every 10th step on the transect lines collected data ocularly on different vegetation and ecological parameters. In this exercise the names of the species touching the designated-toe were recorded. The individual plants of the grass/forb species were clipped at 2.5 cm. above ground level. Similarly the current year's growth of the shrub species, if found, was also clipped. The fresh weight of the clipped material was recorded and its air-dried weight was used to estimate the percent species composition on weight basis. Further ocular vegetation conditions (good, fair, poor, very poor) was also recorded around the sample point. The soil protective cover (plant base, litter, cryptogams, rock pavement and bare soil) was recorded. The soil factors (colour, deep, shallow, rocky) and slopes (gentle, steep, precipitous) around sample points were recorded for general description.

Twelve caged paired plots of 0.5 sq. m. size, each, covering all the representative grazing lots in the pasture were laid out. One plot was fenced and one was kept open in each pair/ set randomly for estimation of monthly production and utilization. Data on forage production and utilization including other important aspects of the vegetation and soil protective cover were collected during middle of each month of the growing season (15 June to 15 September) for 2 seasons. The grasses and Forbes were clipped at 2.5 cm above ground level in both the fenced and unfenced plots. Current year's growth of shrubs, where available, was also clipped. After recording fresh weight, separately for each from of vegetation, the clipped material was put in paper bags, was labeled and dried in the open air for about 7 days to record their air dried (AD) weight. Species-wise cover percent with ocular observation in all the plots was also recorded. Similarly the soil protective cover values (plant base, litter, rock pavement and crypogams) were also collected ocularly.

The air-dried forage (herbage + browse) production in kg per ha was estimated by converting the average production values in grams/ sq. m of the plots. Similarly, cumulative forage production for the growing season was estimated. The monthly and seasonal percent forage utilization were estimated using the formula:

Forage production in the fenced plots-forage production in unfenced plot

Utilization (%) = X 100 Forage production in fenced plots

All other values of the species cover; soil protective cover, species frequency and composition were calculated as arithmetic means. No complex Statistical Analysis was carried out for this study.



Results and Discussion

Grasses/ sedges, Forbes and shrubs are commonly found having different groups, scale of patterns, frequency, cover and composition. The micro-topographical features, morphological and physiological characteristics of the vegetation have given rise to the different scale of patterns. These patterns vary in size and are found intermittently. For example junipers communis has prostrate habit of spreading aerial parts so its compact patches are located all over the pasture particularly on rocky ridges. Similarly Salix spp. occupies depressions on cooler aspects. Further the species of Polygonum have extensive rhizome system and hence several patterns are usually visible in the pasture. Iris species and Potentilla species have also, more or less, compact patches distributed all over the pasture. Nine grasses/ sedges, 46 Forbes and 10 shrub species were recorded / identified, most of them were very rare ( Table–I ). It is evident that some of the species are at the risk of disappearance due to heavy grazing pressure. Those, which are locally, abundant, are performing well due to their better morphological and physiological characteristics.

A large number (65) of plant species indicates the richness of the floral diversity in the pasture. The prevailing conditions suggest that the decreaser species (more palatable one) have disappeared due to heavy grazing pressure. The list of species reveals that a majority (17 species) of Forbes has poor palatability (increaser species). Two non-palatable, poisonous, species were also found. Similarly, majority of shrubs species were not browsable. However, woody species were good source of fuelwood and thatching materials for the grazeirs. Dry branches/ stems of Junipers communis and Salix spp. were collected for fuel wood. Following plant species were recorded from the pasture.

Grasses/ Sedges:

Agrostis gigantea, Carex spp., Cyperus spp., Chrysopogon echinulatus, Dactylis glomerata, Pennisetum, Phleum alpinum, Poa annua and Poa alpina.

Forbes:


Acallia mosegeria, Aenomone spica, Allium rubellum, Anaphalis controta, Astragalus leucocephalus, Bupleurum longicaule, Cerastium cerastioides, Cynoglassum spp., Cynoglossum lanceolatum, Dracocephalum nutans, Echinops nivetis, Fern spp., Frageria vesca, Galium aregustie, Gentiana sp., Geranium collinum, Irish hookerianan, Lindelofia longiflora, Lotus corniculatus, Medicago lupulina, Merteusia echoides, Myosotis stricta, Nepeta podostachys, Nepeta spicata, Origanum vaulgare, Oxyria digyna, Phlomis bracteosa, Plantago ovata, Podophyllum emodi, Polygonum aviculare, Polygonum affine, Polygonum amplexicaule, potentialla argyrophylla, Potentilla gelida, Potentilla geradiana, Potentialla sibbaldi, Ranuculus equatalis, Ranuculus lactus, Rumex nepalensis, Sambucus nitiana, Saxifraga ciliata, Sercio chrysanthemoides, Taraxacum officinale, Thymus serpyllum, Trifolium repens and Tulip spp. Chrysanthemoides, Taraxacum officinale, Thymus serpyllum, Trifolium repens and Tulip spp.

Shrubs:


Artemisia laciniata, Astragalus candolleanus, Berberis sp. , Cotoneaster sp., Junipers communis, Lonicera obovata, Plectranthus rugosus, Rosa webbiana, Rosa ecae and Salix spp.

The study has revealed that Potentilla-Sibbaldia-Astragalus, Leucocephalus-Taraxacum officinale-Polygonum amplexicaule-Poa alpina associations exit in the alpine pasture. It appears that this type of vegetation was not a stable or climax form because protection caused changes in the species composition and species frequencies (Table 4).

The cumulative cover percent (foliage density) of different vegetation forms of the unfenced plots was very low. However, in the fenced plots the cover percent had increased to 60.4. The cover percent under grasses was 8.0 as compared to Forbes, which was highest (55.8) of all other forms (Table 1).

Table 1: Percent cover of different vegetation forms during growing season at Saif-ul-Maluk Pasture.

(Average for 2 Seasons)



Month of the season
Vegetation Forms

Grasses

Forbes

Shrubs

Cumulative

Fenced

(F)


Unfenced

(UF)


Fenced

(F)


Unfenced

(UF)


Fenced

(F)


Unfenced

(UF)


Fenced

(F)


Unfenced

(UF)


June

6.4

5.5

37.3

34.7

0.4

0.6

44.1

40.8

July

7.7

6.2

48.5

38.7

0.6

1.0

56.7

45.8

August

8.9

5.8

63.6

39.6

0.8

0.8

73.3

46.1

September

9.0

5.7

57.9

37.0

0.8

0.5

67.6

43.2




8.0

5.8

51.8

37.5

0.7

0.7

60.4

44.0

In the unfenced plots (free grazing) the cover percent values remained almost at June's level. This indicates that the vegetation turf was in stable condition though foliage cover remained very low due to heavy grazing. The data showed that controlled grazing is imperative to improve the vegetation cover, as it was evident from protection for 2 years/seasons.

The species-wise cover percent values (Table – 4) have revealed that highest cover (405%) among the grass species was that of Poa alpina in the fenced plots and 1.7% in the unfenced plots during the growing season of 1997. Similarly the highest cover percent (20.5) was provided by Potentilla-Sibbaldi which was in the fenced plot and 12.5% in the unfenced plot for the same period. Among the shrubs Lonicera obovata had 0.5% cover in the fenced plot. The study revealed that all the species had responded well to the protection. This indicates that pasture needs rest for rehabilitation of vegetal cover.



Monthly Forage Production:

The monthly clippings have revealed that the highest average forage production of 1913 kg/ ha (DM) was produced by the Forbes. The grasses contributed only 184 kg/ ha under the fenced (protected) conditions. The cumulative production was 2141 kg/ ha. This production is quite low which indicates that heavy grazing and poor vegetation cover are the main causes for low production. The month-wise forage production during the growing season is presented in the Table -2. The result indicate that maximum production of 1040 kg/ha (DM) can be obtained during August which is the peak growing period in the summer growing season. This was followed by 639 kg/ ha (DM) during the month of July.



Table 2: Monthly forage production during growing season at Saif-ul-Maluk season

Month of the season

Grasses

Forbes

Shrubs

Total

F

UF

F

UF

F

UF

F

UF

June*

20

13

110

98

6

6

136

117

July

62

16

560

101

17

5

639

122

August

64

23

961

104

15

6

1040

133

September

58

29

392

77

12

6

462

112

Total for the season

184

68

1913

282

44

17

2141

367

* June's data not included in the total value for the season.

Monthly Forage Utilization:

The forage utilization was estimated by actual weight or clipping method. The utilization has been calculated and is expressed as percent utilization of the forage in the fenced plots. The results in the table 3 indicate that the highest utilization was 88% for the month of August followed by 81% for the month of July. The cumulative forage utilization was 83% for Forbes, 62% each for grasses and shrubs. This estimated utilization was much higher than the recommended 50% utilization for most of the ranges in Pakistan. The cumulative utilization for any growing season must remain within the limit of 50% utiliztion so that there is enough stubble for carry over effect as well as for soil protection and soil amelioration purposes.


Table 3: Monthly pasture utilization at Saif-ul-Maluk


(Average values for the season)

Month of the season

Grasses

F

35

75

63



50

Forbes
F

11

80



89

80


Shrubs
F

0

68



63

55


Cumulative
F

14

81



88

75


June*

July

August

September

Average

62

83

62

81

* June, data not included in the average figures.

Resource Constraints

The analysis of pasture production and utilization indicates a number of constraints related to the resource, its management and plant growth. The salient among them is as under:



  1. Land Tenure: The ownership of the pasture rests with one community and its use (grazing) with other. This state encourages its over use as the owners seem interested to enhance their revenue while the users/ buyers want to maximize its seasonal use. Hence none of the groups make any inputs for its proper management.

  2. Inadequate knowledge of the users: Almost all the graziers lack knowledge and skills for proper pasture use. They practice free ranging. Further they bring their animal as early as June when soil is infirm due to enough moisture from snow melt. Or snow cover is already there; hence they do not follow the concept of range readiness.

  3. Unconducive topographic factors: High altitudes, steep slopes, severely dissected and deep gorges, barren mountain peaks and varying micro-aspects are non-conductive to adequate forage production, proper animal distribution and hence proper use.

  4. Inadequate moisture: Poor distribution of seasonal rain particularly during the growing season causes moisture stress and poor plant growth.

  5. Temperature stress: Very low temperature prevailing in the areas cause stress and retard vegetation growth. Growing period is very small.

  6. Soil erosion: Glacial processes cause all types of erosion, which include deep gullies, soil slips, debris flows, rock falls and rock disintegration. In turn the vegetation on valley floor is covered and damaged.

  7. Shallow soils: Most of area has shallow residual soils, which have low water infiltration and moisture retention capacity. The soil fertility may not be a problem as all the required major nutrients are reasonably enough for good growth.

  8. Patchy distribution of vegetation: The pasture area consists of different vegetation patterns of different scales. Generally the individual plants of less palatable species have big patches. They have rendered most of the area less productive as for as forage production or grazing values of the pasture is concerned. Their elimination, to give space to desirable species, may not be economically and environmentally feasible.

Improvement Potential


  1. Forages: The clipping study has indicated that control grazing treatment for one year has increased the forage production. This is indicative of not only the existing high grazing pressure on the natural pasture but also reasonably high potential for pasture productivity under improved management approaches.

  2. Watershed values: The watershed values will improve with improvement in the physical environmental factors. The pasture has the potential to produce good quality and quantity water for downstream consumption as well as for trout fish production in the system.

  3. Bio-diversity values: A large number of species are still growing under unconducive conditions. The area has the potential to grow more species, which have disappeared due to the over use. Proper management will increase its floristic diversity.

  4. Aesthetic values: Good management practice will rehabilitate its vegetal cover. It will add more colour to existing diversified vegetation and will attract more tourists for eco-tourism.

Table 4: Plant Frequency % age of fenced and unfenced plots of high altitude pasture at Saif-ul-Maluk.

Name of Species

September 1996

September 1997

Fenced

Unfenced

Fenced

Unfenced

A – Grass and grass like









Agrostis gigantea

50

42

50

42

Carex spp

58

50

75

50

Cyperus spp

17

17

17

17

Chrysopogon echinulatus

-

17

-

17

Dactylis glomerata

8

8

17

8

Poa annua

8

8

8

8

Poa alpina

92

83

92

83

B- Forbes













Astragalus leucocephalus

58

33

58

33

Anaphalis controta

8

8

8

8

Acallia mosegeria

8

8

17

8

Bupleurum longicaule

3

-

8

-

Cerastium cerastioides

17

17

25

17

Cynoglassum spp

-

8

-

8

Frageria vesca

42

17

42

17

Fern spp

8

8

8

8

Geranium collinum

8

17

17

17

Irish hookerianan

33

17

33

17

Lotus corniculatus

42

42

50

42

Medicago lupulina

17

17

17

17

Plantago ovata

25

8

25

8

Potentialla sibbald

75

83

75

83

Potentilla gelida

17

8

17

25

Phlomis bracteosa

8

25

8

75

Polygonum amplexicaule

67

67

75

67

Polygonum aviculare

8

-

6

-

Rumex nepalensis

-

8

8

8

Sercio chrysanthemoides

3

8

17

8

Taraxacum officinal

83

75

92

75

Thymus serpyllum

50

75

50

75

Tulip spp

-

-

-

-

C- Shrubs













Lonicera obovata

8

8

8

8

Salix spp

8

8

8

8






















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