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Central Afghan Mountains xeric woodlands (PA1309)

Central Afghan Mountains xeric woodlands
Between Kandahar and Gazni, eastern Afghanistan
Photograph by Jerry Hassinger


Southern central Asia: Southeastern Afganistan
Deserts and Xeric Shrublands

53,800 square miles (139,400 square kilometers) -- about the size of Florida

· Disappearing Diversity
· Special Features
· Did You Know?
· Wild Side
· Cause for Concern
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Disappearing Diversity

If you traveled to the Central Afghan Mountains Xeric Woodlands ecoregion today, you’d see mostly dry shrubland where once there were forests. A variety of human pressures have degraded this ecoregion, which forms a transitional zone from the southern desert at lower elevations to the upper slopes of the Afghan Mountains. But wildlife sanctuaries and pockets of native habitats still provide opportunities to see the biodiversity this ecoregion is known for--pistachio trees, jungle cats, wild pigs, rare cranes, and more.

Special Features Special Features

Rains from India’s monsoons reach the Central Afghan Mountains and provide water for a variety of plant species. Shrub steppes form a transitional belt between the southern deserts at lower elevations and deciduous forests at higher elevations. Pistachio woodlands can be found at the higher elevations where precipitation is greater.

Did You Know?
The Siberian crane is the third rarest and, arguably, the most endangered crane in the world. It is also the most specialized, having a serrated bill for grasping plant tubers, frogs, and other slimy and slippery foods. They have the second longest migration, with only the lesser sandhill crane migrating farther.

Wild Side

The Central Afghan Mountains Xeric Woodlands ecoregion is home to a wide variety of mammals, birds, and amphibians. The Afghan pika (a rabbit-like animal), Cape hare, and fulvous ground squirrel are widespread, and jungle cats, wild pigs, and goitered gazelles are also found here. The endemic Batrachuperus mustersi is Afghanistan’s only salamander and is found in streams at higher elevations. At the Ab-I-Estada Waterfowl Sanctuary, visitors can see greater flamingos, black-winged stilts, and great sandplovers. The reserve is also an important stopover site for the rare Siberian crane.

Cause for Concern

Most of the forests that once covered a large part of Afghanistan are severely degraded. Wood is constantly cut for timber and firewood. Cultivation and grazing have caused severe soil erosion. And a civil war in the region could be severely threatening biodiversity; its effects are not yet known. Hunting of wildlife, including Siberian cranes, is also of great concern.

For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.

All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001