Heidelberg University > South Asia Institute > Dept. of. Geography >

Human-Ecological Dynamics of Land-Use in Chitral, Eastern Hindu Kush, Pakistan

Project Team:
Prof. Dr. Marcus Nüsser
(affiliation at that time: Department of Geography, University Bonn)

Duration & Funding:
1997 - 1998: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Priority Programme "Culture Area Karakorum" (CAK)

The project has three main research goals, analyzing the human-ecological dynamics in terms of distribution of vegetation, pastoral practices and recent landscape transformation in Chitral.

Chitral is the meeting ground of three major climatic, floristic and ecological regions. The eastern Hindu Kush delimit the Irano-Turanian (winter rain), Sino-Himalayan (summer rain), and the Central Asiatic (permanently arid) regions. Flora and vegetation mirror the transitional status of the Chitral triangle. Arranged along prominent altitudinal belts, the vegetation of the eastern Hindukush displays complex regional and local patterns. The most prominent climate gradient of Chitral is a sharp decrease of precipitation from south to north. This is overlaid and modified by a general trend towards winter precipitation in the west and summer rain in the east. The vegetation of Chitral includes a fairly diverse array of formations ranging from various forest types to desert, along an altitudinal gradient covering more than 4000 m. Besides these prominent climatic gradients, properties and distribution features of vegetation types have been modified, to a locally different extent, by human impact in the context of mixed mountain agriculture and forest exploitation (Vegetation Map in Nüsser & Dickorè 2002).

Likewise the pastoral migration patterns as strategies for utilising the grazing resources at the marginal belts of human habitation in Chitral are examined. Beyond the common features of combined mountain agriculture, pastoral utilisation strategies vary between different tributary valleys in the region. Although the influence of heterogeneous environmental settings needs to be considered, differences in resource utilisation mainly stem from distinct settlement processes and territorial rights of access and utilisation, which in turn evolved from ethnic and social segregation (Nüsser 1999, Nüsser et al. 2012).

Furthermore, the project investigates cultural landscape transformation in Chitral. Comparisons of historical photographs and replicates serve to demonstrate change and persistence of cultural landscape structures. Due to the general population growth, the development of the cultural landscape is characterized by recent village enlargements and corresponding extensions of cultivated areas while the individual field sizes decrease. The regional centre of Chitral Town is characterized by a higher building density and expansion of urban structures (Nüsser 2001, Dittmann & Nüsser 2002).

Chitral Town, The Central Place of the Eastern Hindu Kush (M. Nüsser 1997).
Herding near Kiyar High Camp, Ojhor Valley, 3500 m (M. Nüsser 1997).
Selected publications