Protected Areas in Lebanon, an inherited legacy.

Everyone of us has a way of preserving cherished memories. For you, it is probably a photo album where tender intimate moments are dearly kept, for others it is a small secret musical box in a dark corner of the attic. Some simply store them in their heart and close their eyes to remember the intensity of those moments.

Protected Areas are our threatened national living museums reminding us of Earth's bounty and beauty. They represent invaluable scientific treasure and economic security. Above all, they are a share of a heritage we ought to keep for future generations to enjoy.

The uniqueness of Lebanon lies in its endowment with the wealthy biodiversity of those protected areas. This inherent asset attracts nature-lovers around the world, thereby promoting the flourishing of a new form of tourism in the country – ecotourism. Natural beauty is not formed overnight. When it might take decades of interaction between different environmental players, to build the beauty of a landscape, and one hand to easily destroy it, it requires collaborative effort to conserve and maintain the sustainability and integrity of these natural resources.

For the sake of passing on relics of our threatened patrimony to future generations, let's act before our Protected Areas turn into static photo albums on dusty library shelves.

References to the images and informations found in this blog:
info@horshehden.org
www.arztannourine.org
arzshouf@cyberia.net.lb

Arz Al Rab

The Cedars has a lot to offer - scenic beauty, hiking and skiing. And, of course, there are the famous Cedars of Lebanon where some of the oldest and most majestic examples of this ancient tree grow.
Known as "Arz el Rab" or Cedars of God, the trees are among the last survivors of the immense forests that lay across Mount Lebanon in ancient times. Their timber was exploited by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians as well as the residents of Canaan-Phoenicia. The wood was especially prized by Egyptians for shipbuilding and Solomon used it for his temple.Once the plains of Lebanon were shaded by thick cedar forests, so it is no coincidence that the tree is the symbol of the entire country.
Today, after centuries of persistent deforestation, the extent of this forest heritage has been markedly reduced. The trees however, do survive in areas and there they seem to reign supreme. This is the case of the slopes of Jabal Makmel that tower over the Qadisha Valley where, at an altitude of more than 2000 meters, we come to a vast forest known as "The Cedars." Here there are 12 trees that are over one thousand years old, and about 400 that are more than one hundred.The forest is rigorously protected. It is possible to tour it escorted by an authorized guide.
Recently, after a preliminary phase in which the land was cleared of detritus, the sick plants treated, and the ground fertilized, a massive reforestation program was undertaken. The fruits of these efforts, will only be appreciable in a few decades since cedars grow so slowly. In these areas the winter offers incredible scenery, the trees are covered with a blanket of snow.

Bentael


The Bentael Nature Reserve was created by the Law No.11 on February 25, 1999. In the absence of a proper Management team, the site is managed by the Bentael Nature Reserve Committee under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment.

Bentael Nature Reserve is located in the foothills of Mount Lebanon northeast of Byblos. Being one of the smallest nature reserves in Lebanon (1.5 square km), this reserve is noteworthy because of its history. Founded in 1981, this site was bequeathed to the Ministry of the Environment by the people of the village of Bentael. It was one of the first reserves to be created in Lebanon and set an example for the need to conserve Lebanon’s natural heritage. The reserve is situated in the flight path of migratory hawks, eagles and other raptors and is enjoyed by bird enthusiasts. Visitors can access the reserve via one of two entrances: one near the village of Mechehlène and the other in the upper region of Bentael.

Images of Horsh Ehden

Images of Horsh Ehden

Jan 22, 2010

Horsh Ehden


Situated on the upper north western slopes of Mount Lebanon, ranging in altitude from 1200 m to 2000, Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve covers more than 450 ha and is considered as a very important part of the country for its unique biodiversity.

Extending over 3 bio-geographic zones, the forest assembles different species of mammals, birds and plants of which some are nationally rare and threatened such as the imperial eagle and wolf.

The amount of plant species recognized till now accounts for nearly 40% of plant species in Lebanon.
Nowadays, the municipality of Ehden, owner of Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve’s land, is according much more attention on the reserve for its particular importance:

- Outstanding example of Cedrus libani forest (diversity of age classes and species diversity)
- Outstanding ecological condition (minimum degradation and pollution…)
- Habitat of rare, national and threatened animal and plant species
- Potentially outstanding high quality visitor experience in a forest
- 1,058 plant species
- More than 27 mammals species representing the third of the mammals in Lebanon
- Over 300 fungi species which are critical to maintain a healthy forest ecosystem.

Thus, Horsh Ehden is an outstanding example of Lebanese and Mediterranean natural ecosystem especially for its diversity of Cedars and other native plant species.

Al-Shouf Nature Reserve

Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, enclosing the three cedars forests of Maasir Shouf, Barouk and Ain Zhalta/ Bmohray, is located on the western slopes of Mount Lebanon chain and reaches from Dahr al Baidar in the North to Niha Mountain near Jezzine in the South. The Niha Mountain, with only scattered patches of trees, represents the natural southern limit of Lebanese cedar (Cedrus libani).

Covering nearly 2% of Lebanese territory, Al-Shouf Cedar Nature reserve is the largest Nature Reserve in Lebanon and is considered as a suitable location for the conservation of large mammals such as the wolf and the caracal lynx, and eventually an adapted site for the reintroduction of previously extinct species such as the mountain gazelle and the Nubian Ibex.

The importance of Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve is particularly related to the presence of:
- 25% of the remaining cedar forests in Lebanon.
- 32 mammal species.
- Located on the important intercontinental migratory route for birds, the Reserve is considered as an IBA (Important Bird Area).
- Presence of ancient ruins such as the spectacular Niha cave fortress and cultural sites.

Since 2005, Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve as well as Ammiq wetland are part of the Man and the Biosphere Reserves. "The Al-Shouf Biosphere Reserve", covers about 5% of the country and extends along the ridge of Mount Lebanon’s western chain at an altitude of 1000 to 2000 meters, including 24 villages.

Tannourine Nature Reserve

Covering 12 square km, Tannourine Nature Reserve lies in a splendidly beautiful area and protects one of the largest and densest cedar forests in Lebanon.
The area is rocky and mountainous with sharp slopes and a deep valley where cedars defy gravity and grow on extremely vertical slopes.

You can also enjoy the opportunity to discover naturally occurring grottos on their hike, as well as rare flowers particular to this high altitude terrain, like the mountain tulip or Lebanese prickly thrift.

Beside the 70 000 ancient trees, Tannourine Nature Reserves is also known for its various types of birds such as eagles, owls, robins and wild animals such as hyenas, boars, squirrels, snakes and bats.
This reserve is enriched with floating lakes of water. It has more than one hundred springs and water sources.

Outdoor activities include hikes through the forest and treks to visit rock-cut monasteries, as well as cross-country skiing and snow shoeing in the winter.

Jan 20, 2010

Lebanon's cedars threatened by global warming

A cedar is emblazoned on the country’s flag, and another on the planes of the national airline. It is on the currency, on passports and on all official documents. It is proudly worn on the uniforms of soldiers and crudely plastered on tourist knickknacks from ashtrays to fridge magnets.

But the imposing, majestic tree that has defined Lebanon since biblical times now faces a potentially bigger threat to its existence than war or political overkill. Global warming, the scourge of ecosystems worldwide, also is endangering the ancient Lebanon cedars that are native to the Mediterranean, by pushing ever-higher the snow line in the mountains where cedars thrive and jeopardizing the fragile environment that sustains them.

Here, on steep mountainsides dotted with cedars young and old, anecdotal evidence of the threat is clearly visible.Deep snow covers the uppermost reaches of the reserve, as it normally would at this time of year. But lower down, the snow is patchy or non-existent.Cedar cones need several weeks of snow cover every year to germinate properly. Yet this year’s snow arrived late, in February instead of December, and many trees received only 10 days of cover or less, Hani said. Typically, cedars thrive at an altitude of 4,000 to 6,000 feet. This year’s snow descended only to a level of 5,000 feet, leaving lower trees without any cover at all.Another problem is that the lack of snow encourages the proliferation of unwelcome pests. In the most alarming instance of the threat so far, scientists say, a plague of sawflies munched through the cedar forest of Tannourine earlier this decade, killing 12 percent of the trees before it was contained.Now just 5,000 acres of cedars remain, most of them contained in a handful of protected reserves high in the mountains.

More research is urgently needed to understand the effects of global warming if these last trees are to be preserved, said Nemer, the entomologist.“The cedar tree is the symbol of our country, and it would mean a lot if we were to lose it,” he said. “It would be like losing our identity.”