Country Profiles

Afghanistan - Country Profile

Status and Trends of Biodiversity


Much of the information on Afghanistan’s biodiversity is old and no longer reliable. Little significant information has been added since the onset of war in 1978. The few recent investigations have suggested that Afghanistan’s biodiversity has suffered enormously in the last three decades.

Afghanistan is comprised of 8 unique bio-geographical Provinces of which 7 belong to the Palaearctic Realm. Only a small area in the lower Kabul River Valley is of Indo-Malayan origin. A recent classification breaks Afghanistan down into 15 smaller eco-regions of which four are considered as critical/endangered, 8 as vulnerable and only two as relatively stable and intact.

The species composition of all eco-regions has been significantly reduced through a combination of overgrazing, fuel collection and exploitation of large herbivorous animals. Analysis of recorded species records shows that are there are 118 – 147 species of mammals, 472 – 510 birds, 92 – 112 reptiles, 6 – 8 amphibians, 101 – 139 fish, 245 butterflies, and 3500 – 4000 vascular plant species native to Afghanistan. The range in numbers results from uncertainty in taxonomy and the questionable validity of some records. A total of 39 species and 8 subspecies appear on the IUCN Red List as being globally threatened with extinction. No formal assessment has been made of species at risk at the national scale, but numerous species, particularly large mammals, are certainly at risk of extinction within Afghanistan. Only 7 vertebrate species are known to be endemic to Afghanistan, but estimates for endemic plant species range from 20 – 30%. Afghanistan is an arid country and the few wetlands that do exist are therefore of great significance to biodiversity.

Afghanistan was one of the most significant centres for the origin and development of humanity’s crop plants. Consequently, there are numerous local landraces of wheat and other crops in use by Afghan farmers. Nine local breeds of sheep are found in Afghanistan along with 8 breeds of cattle and 7 of goats.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

The World Database of Protected Areas (UNEP-WCMC 2006) lists 15 protected areas in Afghanistan. Seven were provided with formal recognition by the Government of Afghanistan in the 1970s and are recognized by IUCN (one Category II national park and 6 Category IV wildlife or waterfowl reserves). However, none are officially recognized by the current government (as they were never formally gazetted), none have official boundaries and none are managed as protected areas.

Percentage of Forest Cover

Deciduous and evergreen true forests are limited to the monsoon-influenced eastern part of the country and once comprised about 5% of Afghanistan’s surface area. Recent analyses suggest that only 5% of these original forests may still exist. Open woodlands dominated by pistachio and juniper once comprised about 38% of Afghanistan. Satellite image analysis of selected areas in 2002 found that tree density was too low to be detected anywhere suggesting that this once widespread ecosystem is on the verge of extinction in Afghanistan. The vast areas of sub alpine vegetation was probably originally steppe grassland but is now almost entirely comprised of grazing-resistant cushion shrub land.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

Afghanistan has not yet prepared its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). A proposal for funding to undertake this activity was submitted to GEF through UNEP in April 2006.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

Afghanistan’s post-conflict efforts to implement the Convention are currently focused on the development of its National Capacity Needs Self Assessment (NCSA) project, which is aimed at developing capacity to implement enabling activities under the Rio Conventions. The agreed priorities for implementation of the Convention, which are a combination of Convention obligations and 2010 targets, are the following: (1) Establish priority and feasible protected areas as legally recognized and effectively managed entities. Priority areas should be Band-i-Amir, Ajar Valley, Pamir-i-Buzurg, and Dashte Nawar; (2) Develop a protected areas system plan for Afghanistan designed to protect representative areas of high biodiversity in all major eco-regions; (3) Survey all wetlands and potential protected areas listed in this document to determine current status and suitability for inclusion into the protected areas system plan; (4) Initiate a national Red-Listing process for Afghan mammals with the technical assistance of IUCN, incorporating targeted surveys to establish current status of priority species; (5) Encourage national and international scholars to develop a comprehensive flora of Afghanistan; (6) Develop effective plans to intervene in the destruction of the remaining monsoon-dependent forests of eastern Afghanistan; (7) Develop effective plans for preserving and recovering remnant pistachio and juniper forests in northern Afghanistan; (8) Develop programs to preserve native Afghan landraces of crop plants and livestock; (9) Develop a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Afghanistan.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

This is a high Government priority. A regulatory and legislative framework for protected areas has been established. Work is underway to establish and effectively manage at least three protected areas by 2009.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

In view of Afghanistan’s recent history, low level of development and the current insecure environment, traditional knowledge is not as under threat as in many other countries. Accordingly, it is not an immediate priority action.