Indus Valley desert

Content Cover Image

Indus desert, Pakistan. (Source: Photograph by G. S. Rawat)

The Indus Valley Desert, like the larger Thar Desert, is one of the most inhospitable ecoregions in the Indo-Pacific region. Biodiversity conservation should focus on the large mammals and birds of the region.

Location and General Description

caption Source WWF This arid ecoregion is located in Pakistan's Indus Valley. The foothills of the Glaiman Range and the Chenab River define its western and eastern limits, respectively.

The extreme annual temperature variations can range from near-freezing in the winter to highs of more than 45 oC during the summer. Annual rainfall averages from 640 to 760 millimeters, which is slightly more than in the Thar Desert.

The vegetation is greatly influenced by the extreme climatic regime. The desert thorn scrub vegetation is characterized by isolated clumps of Prosopis spp., Salvadora oleoides and Caparis spp., and taller thorn-scrub forests of Acacia spp., Tamarix spp., Albizzia lebbek, and Morus alba.

Biodiversity Features

This desert ecoregion is not high in richness or endemism, but it does harbor a few large vertebrates that can serve as focal species for conservation. These include the wolf (Canis lupus), hyena (Hyaena hyaena), caracal (Felis caracal), leopard (Panthera pardus), and Punjab urial (Ovis orientalis punjabensis). The overall mammal fauna consists of thirty-two species, but none are endemic to the ecoregion.

Bird richness is higher, with 190 species, but none are considered endemic species.

Current Status

The single protected area covers more than 13,000 square kilometers (km2), or almost 70 percent of the ecoregion area (Table 1).

Types and Severity of Threats

Table 1. WCMC (1997) Protected Areas that Overlap with the Ecoregion.
Protected Area Area (km2) IUCN Category
Thal 13,290 UA
Ecoregion numbers of protected areas that overlap with additional ecoregions are listed in brac

Because the harsh climate is unsuited for settlement, agriculture, and livestock grazing, direct human threats are not as significant as in other ecoregions.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation

MacKinnon placed the deserts of northwestern India and Pakistan into four subunits (I3a-d). We reclassified these subunits into eight ecoregions based on the extent of distinctive habitat of regional spatial scales. Using MacKinnon's biounit framework and his digital map of original habitat, we delineated the desert habitat in subunit I3c as the Indus Valley Desert. Both the Rann of Kutch seasonal salt marsh and the Indus Valley Desert lie within Udvardy's Thar Desert biogeographic province.

Additional Information on this Ecoregion

Further Reading

  • Grewal, B. (ed.), 1992. Insight guides: Indian wildlife. Singapore: APA Publications.
  • MacKinnon, J., 1997. Protected areas systems review of the Indo-Malayan realm. Canterbury, UK: The Asian Bureau for Conservation (ABC) and The World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC)/ World Bank Publication. ISBN: 2880326095




Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the World Wildlife Fund. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the World Wildlife Fund should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.










Fund, W. (2014). Indus Valley desert. Retrieved from


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