Geography and climate
Pakistan covers 796,796 square kilometres (307,643 square miles), approximately the combined land areas of France and the United Kingdom, with its eastern regions located on the Indian tectonic plate and the western and northern regions on the Iranian plateau and Eurasian land plate. Apart from the 1,046 kilometre Arabian Sea coastline, Pakistan's land borders total 6,774 kilometres; 2,430 kilometres with Afghanistan to the northwest, 523 kilometres with China to the northeast, 2,912 kilometres with India to the east and 909 kilometres with Iran to the southwest.
The different types of natural features range from the sandy beaches, lagoons, and mangrove swamps of the southern coast to preserved beautiful moist temperate forests and the icy peaks of the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains in the north. There are an estimated 108 peaks above 7,000 metres high that are covered in snow and glaciers. Five of the mountains in Pakistan (including K2 and Nanga Parbat) are over 8,000 metres. Indian-controlled Kashmir to the Northern Areas of Pakistan and running the length of the country is the Indus River with its many tributaries. Every year the northern parts of Pakistan attract a large number of foreign tourists. Climbers from all around the world have had Pakistan as their prime destination for over many decades now. To the west of the Indus are the dry, hilly deserts of Balochistan; to the east are the rolling sand dunes of the Thar Desert. The Tharparkar desert in the southern province of Sindh is 17th largest desert in the world and the only fertile desert in the world. Most areas of Punjab and parts of Sindh are fertile plains where agriculture is of great importance.
The climate varies as much as the scenery, with cold winters and hot summers in the north and a mild climate in the south, moderated by the influence of the ocean. The central parts have extremely hot summers with temperatures rising to 45 °C (113 °F), followed by very cold winters, often falling below freezing. There is very little rainfall ranging from less than 250 millimetres to more than 1,250 millimetres (9.8–49.2 in), mostly brought by the unreliable south-westerly monsoon winds during the late summer. Water shortages have been eased by the construction of dams on the rivers and the drilling of water wells in many drier areas.
Flora and fauna
The wide variety of landscapes and climates in Pakistan allows for a wide variety of wild animals and birds. The forests range from coniferous alpine and subalpine trees such as spruce, pine, and deodar cedar in the northern mountains to deciduous trees such as the mulberry-type Shisham in the Sulaiman range in the south. The western hills have juniper and tamarisk as well as coarse grasses and scrub plants. Along the coast are mangrove forests which form much of the coastal wetlands.
In the south, there are crocodiles in the murky waters at the mouth of the Indus River whilst on the banks of the river, there are boars, deer, porcupines, and small rodents. In the sandy scrublands of central Pakistan are found jackals, hyenas, wild cats, panthers, and leopards while the clear blue skies abound with hawks, falcons, and eagles. In the southwestern deserts are rare Asiatic cheetahs. In the northern mountains are a variety of endangered animals including Marco Polo sheep, Urial sheep, Markhor and Ibex goats, Asiatic black bear and brown Himalayan bears, and the rare Snow Leopard. During August 2006, Pakistan donated an orphaned snow leopard cub called Leo to USA. Another rare species is the blind Indus River Dolphin of which there are believed to be about 1,000 remaining, protected in two major sanctuaries. In recent years the number of wild animals being killed for fur and leather trading led to a new law banning the hunting of wild animals and birds and the establishment of several wildlife sanctuaries and game reserves.