The Cedars of Lebanon: Significance, Awareness and Management of the
Cedrus libani in Lebanon
Introduction: The Effects of Deforestation
The first procurement and subsequent deforestation originates from the
site where civilization first emerged, the Fertile Crescent. I would like
to share with you an episode from the Epic of Gilgamesh known as the
Forest Journey. Through this story lies the understanding of ecological
processes and the consequences of human action.
Approximately 4700 years ago in Uruk, a city-kingdom in southern
Mesopotamia, Uruks ruler Gilgamesh sog ht to ensur ehis immortality
through the material greatness of his city. He wanted large amounts of
timber to accomplish his plans, and he set his sight on the cedars of
Lebanon. Extending before Gilgamesh lay an area of land so large its
exact size was not known. An almost unbroken forest flourished near
southern Mesopotamia, in the hills and mountains surrounding the Fertile
Crescent. The forest was so dense that the suns light barely penetrated
through its foliage.
The chief Sumerian deity Enlil protected these glorious forests by
entrusting the ferocious demigod Humbaba to protect the interests of
nature against the desires of civilization. Enlil understood the
unlimited appetite of civilization, and predicted that once humans would
enter the fo rest, they would remove all the gods beautiful garden of
trees; they would destroy the divine beauty where the cedars raise aloft
After a moment of enjoying the glory and awe of the magnificent, virgin
cedar forest, Gilgamesh and his lumberjack companions began destroying the
abode of the gods. They cut the cedars, chopped their branches and
trunks into transportable sizes. A fight erupted between the intruders and
the mighty forest demigod... the greed of civilization won; the forests
guardian lost his head; and the cedars wailed with fear now that Gilgamesh
was master of the forest. The trees were correct to cry, for the men
stripped the mountains of their cover, leaving bare rock . When Enlil,
who forever must watch over t he well-being of the earth, learned of the
destruction of the cedar forest, he sent down a series of ecological
curses on the offenders: May the food you eat be eaten by fire; may the
water you drink be drunk by fire.
So ended the tale, lamenting the soon-to-be sorry state of southern
Mesopotamia...and the many other civilizations bent on destroying their
forests. Gilgameshs war against the forest - a war in which there are
only losers - has been repeated for generations in every corner of the
globe to satisfy civilizations ever increasing appetite formaterial growth
Gilgamesh was succeeded by numerous other rulers in southern Mesopotamia,
each striving to accumulate more material wealth than their own
predecessor. The savage deforestation that ensued resulting in the
decline of the Sumerian Civilization. Once large quantities of trees were
felled near the banks of the upper courses of the Euphrates, Tigris, and
Karun rivers and tributaries, salt and silt as well as timber filled the
waters, and threatened to clog up the irrigation canals. Deforestation
also exposed salt-rich sedimentary rocks of the northern mountains to
erosion. After 1,500 years of successful farming, a serious salinity
problem suddenly developed. Declining food product ion due to increased
salinity was one of the factors that contributed to the fall of the
Sumerian civilization. The building schemes that sought to strengthen
this great empire brought on the very destruction of the civilization.
Forests of Lebanon
As is evident through history and science, deforestation affects the
foundation of society. Forests provide numerous significant services. In
Lebanon, the forests are desperately needed to provide the following
1. Reduction in airborne pollution
2. Protection against erosion
3. Water conservation: A judicious reforestation policy could reduce by
20% water lost into the sea; water availability in the country could
increase by 50 to 100%.
4. Supplying the country with timber: The production of wood a s a
raw-material (mainly for case manufacture) and a source of heating is in
normal times 300,000 m3 per year.
5. Wildlife habitat / ecosystem protection
6. Tourism and recreation
In addition, the reforestation of the mountains could provide employment
for the Lebanese workers.
At present the wooded areas in Lebanon cover some 60,000 hectares,
approximately 5.7% of the area of Lebanon (Table 1). This percentage is
dangerously low, for it is recommended that a country's forest area
approximate 20 percent. The current reforestation rate in Lebanon (5 to
7%) is definitely insufficient for a country in which mountains cover 73%
of the territory.
Land Utilization Area (Hectares) Percentage of Total land area
Irrigated cultivated land 67,000 6.4
Non-irrigated cultivated land 218,000 27
Uncultivated agricultural land 75,000 34
Wooded areas 60,000 6
Urbanized land and other 630,000 60
Total 1,050,000 100
Table 1: Current Land Utilization in Lebanon, 1991
The war in Lebanon prevented the development
of woods and seriously hampered the control and conservation of forest
resources. Before the war in 1975, the wooded areas in Lebanon occupied
some 80,000 hectares. The state was the largest owner of forest property
Type of Forest Property Surface (ha)
State woods 46,000
Public woods 16,000
Private woods 18,000
Table 2: Types of Forest Property (1975)
The main forest types in 1975 were dominated primarily by Oak, Pine, and
Juniper species (Table 3). The area of the woods has decreased since
1975, but, most likely, the species percentage has not changed
Forest Type Surface(ha)
Table 3: Forest Types (1975)
Presently, the wooded area in Lebanon is estimated to be 60,000 hectares,
with cedars comprising only approximately 1,700 hectares., a mere 2.8 % of
the total wooded area. The current reforestation rate in Lebanon (5 to
7%) is definitely insufficient for a country in which mountains cover 73%
of the territory.
It is to be expected when the total wooded area is less than 6% that a
number of tree species, along with vegetation and animal species, become
endangered and consequently in danger of local ext inction. In Lebanon,
the known endangered trees are the Abies cilica (Cicilian Fir), the
Quercus cerris (Turkey Oak), and the Ceratonia silica (True Locust Bean).
In addition, due to its low germination rate in nurseries and small total
area, the Junipe rus excelsa (Grecian Juniper) could likely be endangered.
The Cedar of Lebanon: Culture, History, and Ecology
Among the native tree species present in Lebanon, the most famous, most
treasured species both nationally and internationally is the Cedar of
Lebanon, known scientifically as the Cedrus libani. The Cedar of Lebanon
is cited numerous times in religion and mythology. In addition to its
significant role in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Cedar of Lebanon is
regarded as a world tree in several mytholog ical passages. One deeply
mythological passage sees the imperial nation, the embodiment of history,
under the figure of something like a world-tree [Ezekiel 31.1-18]. The
cutting of the cedar is seen as the destruction of world-empires - really,
as the end of history. Our understanding of ecology, the dependence of
human history on maintenance of the natural environment, simply makes this
primitive insight explicit.
Medicinally, the Cedar of Lebanon also made its mark. The pitch of the
cedar was utilized for easing the pain of toothaches. The sawdust of the
cedar puts snakes to flight, and thus makes sleeping under the shade of a
cedar a relatively safe siesta. Furthermore, based upon historical
analyses, it is believed that the cedar was used in the preservation of
the corpses in Egypt.
Naturally, both the religious and mythological recordings and the
medicinal employment reflect the importance of the Cedar of Lebanon
historically, and have contributed to making the cedar one of the most
signifi cant tree species in world history. The Cedar of Lebanon aided
society not only culturally but was the basis of numerous economies for
ancient civilizations. The cedar had been used for the construction of
temples, palaces, and boats. The export of cedar wood to Egypt was an
important factor in the growth of Phoenician prosperity and provided
capital to launch the more ambitious enterprises in international trading,
navigation, and arts and crafts. The Phoenicians and the Egyptians were
not alone in utilizing the cedar. The Assyrians, Nebuchdrezzar, the
Romans, King David, King of Babylonia, Herod the Great, and the Turks in
the Ottoman Empire all exploited the cedars. During the War of 1914-1918,
most of the remaining stands were exploited and dest royed for railroad
fuel. As a consequence, the extent of the cedars in Lebanon has
The Cedar forests at one time probably covered large areas in the
mountains of the Near East. The ancient Mediterranean would look to our
eyes like northern Europe today, with great coniferous forests in Lebanon,
Turkey, and Corsica, and oaks and beeches in Italy. It is a general rule
that when those northern climax forests are cut, they are replaced by a
scrubby southern flora; most of the soil is lost, water cannot be
retained, and the period required to restore the stable climax is unknown.
Thus, based upon historical data and scientific estimates, the perennial
springs of higher Lebanon today must formerly have been much fuller and
more constant, the lower slopes green and moist. There may even have been
greater annual rainfall through the recirculation of water on the western
slopes by the transpiration of the forest. The forest and its animals
were thought to be inexhaustible... and so blind deforestation continued
until the wooded area in Lebanon became a mere 60,000 hectares, and the
cedar only accounting for a small percentage. Now, the Cedar of Lebanon
is limited to twelve stands, a total of approximately 1,700 hectares, a
far cry from its previous flourishment over the conservative estimate of
81,000 hectares in Lebanon.
Among all the conifers, the Cedar of Lebanon is one of the most majestic.
The Cedrus libani is native to Lebanon and to the Taurus Mountains of
Syria and Sou thern Turkey. A distinct relict population occurs in
Northern Turkey near the Black Sea.
The Cedrus libani is in the Pine Family (Pinaceae). The cedar is
monoecious; it has unisexual flowers with both the male and female sex
being borne on the same plant. The male inflorescences are solitary,
erect, approximately 5 cm long, and occur at the ends of short shoots.
The female cones are reddish and smaller, and can occur singly at the tips
of the dwarf shoots. When mature, they are large, barrel-shaped, and
break up while still attached to the branches. Female cones mature in the
second year, requiring about 17 to 18 months for full development. Young
cones are light green, mature cones dull brown. The branches of the young
trees are often erect or a scending. The trunks of old trees are usually
divided into several stout, erect branches, the side-branches being
horizontal and sometimes extended for a considerable distance from the
The shape of the tree, specifically the form of its trunk, changes
depending on the density of the stand. When located in a high density
stand, the Cedrus libani grows straighter, whereas when growing in a low
density stand, the Cedrus libani develops its lower horizontal branches
and spreads them out over long distances.
The fruiting cones, which take two or three years to mature, are oval to
oblong. On average, trees do not bear cones until they are 40 or 50 years
old. Propagation is from seed. The seeds germinate in late winter, when
either rain or snowmelt are still available.
The Cedrus libani is most abundant and best developed on North-facing
slopes, where the impact of radiation is less severe, but in wetter
locations it grows equally well on the mountain sides exposed to the
prevailing rain-bringing winds. In the Mediterranean, these slopes are
facing the sea. Winter snow is an important source of water in the
spring. Annual precipitation in Lebanon usually exceeds 1000 millimeters
where Cedrus forests occur.
The extensive soil erosion over the Lebanon range may have rendered the
forest species more sensitive to atmospheric conditions, and the
denudation of vegetation may have reduced the amount of cloud formation.
Shade tolerance is generally low; cedars require abundant sunlight through
out their life. Cedrus often forms pure, rather open forests, with only
low undergrowth of grasses of low shrubs, but it is also mixed with other
conifers and oaks.
Present Situation of the Cedrus libani in Lebanon
Currently, the Cedrus libani in Leban on is limited to twelve, separate
stands. From north to south, these stands are: Jabal Qammoua forest,
Wadi Jahannam in the Akkar area, Ehden, Bcharre, Tannourine-Hadeth, Jeij
in the Jubail mountains of central Lebanon, and in the Jabal el-Barouk
forest s of the Chouf mountains, Ain Zhalta/Bmohrain, Barouk, and Maasser
el-Chouf. The areas are briefly described below, and Bcharre and Jabal
el-Barouk will be discussed in further depth and detail.
The Jabal Qammoua is a large forest area of several hund red hectares. It
is highly degraded and only about 30 hectares are closed forest. It is a
mixture of Cedrus, Abies cilicica, and Juniperus species, with Abies
dominating on northwest and north slopes, and Cedrus on northeast and east
slopes. Jabal Qammoua supports a high population of goats, which damage
seedlings and the lower parts of trees.
Ehden forest, located northeast of the village Ehden, is approximately 140
hectares of closed and well-protected forest. Ehden forest is
floristically the rich est locality in Lebanon. There is very little
sheep and goat-grazing.
The Bcharre cedars, also known as Arz el-Rab [the cedars of the Lord] is
the most famous stand of cedars in Lebanon. It comprises only 7 hectares,
and contains the oldest and largest specimens of Cedrus libani, reported
to be over 2000 years old. There is scant cedar reproduction. Mistakenly,
the literature often suggests that it is the very last remnant of cedar
forest in Lebanon. Bcharre cedars have been nominated as a World Her
itage area by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon.
Tannourine and Hadeth forests are located on Jabal Mar Moroune and Jabal
es Sair between the villages Hadeth ej Joube and Tannourine et Tahta.
They encompass about 200 hectares of forest of which only 85 hectares can
be called closed.
Jeij cedars, located above the village of Jeij, comprise a mere, but
beautiful, 2 hectares.
Jabal el-Barouk is located on the slopes of the central portion of the
Mount Lebanon chain, at the southern-most limit of the cedars growing
range in Lebanon. It has the largest self-regenerating stand of the
Cedrus libani in Lebanon. Jabal el-Barouk is comprised of three adjacent
but separate stands of cedars on communal land belonging to the respective
municip alities, and covering an area of about 3509 hectares. The
forested area, however, covers a total of only 216 hectares, a mere 8.6%
of the 3509 hectares. The cedars have adapted to the heat and dryness of
the area by sending down deep roots. Every three years an abundant
production of seeds allows the only significant natural propagation of
this tree in Lebanon. It is one the last remaining areas in Lebanon were
larger mammals such as the wolf and the wild boar can still be found, and
where the ibex an d the mountain gazelle can be reintroduced. In
addition, Jabal el-Barouk has been cited as an important bird area by
Closer Examination of Two Cedar Areas: Bcharre and Jabal el-Barouk
In order to protect and manage the cedar, it is necessary to understand
that aspects of the ecosystem are closely interlinked. For example, to
manage the cedars of Bcharre, one needs to be aware of more than the mere
7 hectares of the area and the trees within that confine; water pollution,
air po llution, soil erosion could all negatively contribute to the stress
of the tree and thus lead to its weakening state. Simply, the environment
of a plant may be defined as the sum of all external forces and substances
affecting the growth, structure, and reproduction of that plant.
Five main factors of the environment: climate, parent material,
organisms, relief, and time.
Utilizing this foundation and in an effort to obtain a general picture of
the state of the cedars in Lebanon, two important cedar areas and the
problems they face will be discussed in further depth: Bcharre, the
oldest, most famous stand of cedar; and Jabal el-Barouk, the largest
naturally regenerating cedar forest comprising of three separate cedar
The much loved cedars of Bcharre are under significant stress. The
symptoms and problems they face include:
twigs die-back and desiccation; some needle spots and blotches; general
weakness and malnutrition symptoms; desiccation and death of some trees;
very poor cone production; rotting symptoms and wood decay of dying
trees; abundant tunnels and mines on desiccated branches and dead trees
caused by borers; absence or very poor presence of accompanying flora;
absence of all kinds of beneficial birds; important weakness symptoms on
all newly planted trees (10-30 years) caused by competition for light,
food, and water due to the very high density of trees (4-5 trees/m2);
severe engravings performed by visitors on bark of trees and huge wood
cuttings left for fire setting during visits; presence of lichens on the
bark of trees reaching high and non-beneficial levels in some areas; soil
erosion;significant effect of grazing on seedlings and young trees caused
by the goats; several trees hit and broken or uprooted by lightning and
The causal agents comprise one or a combination of factors of weakness,
stress, and malnutrition. These factors are affected by age, drought;
macro and micro element deficiency clear on young trees and older trees;
soil erosion, and the previous irresponsible use of the forest.
Armallaria species was detected; at worse, it could be a secondary
pathogen of stressed trees. Also detected, but of little significance,
were the Parasyndemis cedricola insect and Botryodiplodia fungus.
Friends of the Cedars Committee at Bcharre is currently working on the
protection of this cedar stand. The committee is starting a Cedrus libani
nursery, plan to plant a new forest neighboring the stand on a 200 hectare
surface. In addition, they aim to cultivate cedar understory plants, dig
channels to drain stagnant water retained in the region neighboring the
armys casern, and transform the cedar stand into an eco-museum.
The most beneficial act to manage and protect the cedars in Bcharre is
simply to reforest cedars in the neighboring area, and to increase the
cedar area from a 7 hectare stand to a several hundred hectare forest.
Jabal el-Barouk is comprised of three adjacent but separate stands of
cedars: Maasser el-Ch ouf, Ain Zhalta, and Arz el-Barouk. The forested
area covers a total of only 216 hectares. Jabal el-Barouk has a
fascinating, important history in regards to the management and current
situation of the cedars.
Jabal el-Barouk had been grazed extensively from the months of May to
October by an estimated 2,000 goats. In addition, about every twenty
years, the oak forests had been cut for commercial purposes, until 1960,
when the Forest Department and the FAO began the reforestation efforts
throughout Ja bal el-Barouk known as the Green Plan. Terraces were
created throughout the forests of Jabal el-Barouk, and cedars were planted
at relatively close, regular intervals, resulting in the reforestation of
52 hectares in Ain Zhalta. In 1975, reforestation e fforts stopped with
the start of the war. Jabal el-Barouk was closed off to civilians and
grazing in the forest was prohibited. In 1982, the Israeli army occupied
Ain Zhalta. The Israeli occupation of Arz Ain Zhalta resulted in, among
many other things , the spread of the war to the cedar forest, thus
causing shrapnel damage and mortality to some cedars. More significantly,
the Israeli army caused almost permanent destruction of close to 5% of the
cedar forest due to the intense compaction by their heavy machinery and
One of the main roads leading to Arz Ain Zhalta is used as a landfill for
nearby villages. Trash is dumped by the truck-load, and then regularly
burned to provide room for additional garbage. Not only does trash att
ract insect and possibly pathogens, which may prove to be harmful to the
trees, but trash fires may spread to the forest itself. Until now, the
fires have been limited to the outskirts of the forest, and have not yet
extended further. The potential for the spread of the fire exists, and
therefore an alternative to the dumpsite and the burning needs to be
Cedars in Arz el-Barouk have been infected with what is presumed to be a
fungal disease. Stagheading and crown defoliation are the main symptoms.
(Stagheading could be a physiological reaction to stress, and not
necessarily a symptom of a fungus disease or infection.). Research on the
fungal disease should be conducted to identify the disease, the cause, and
the means by which to combat it. In addition, Arz el-Barouk is suffering
from soil erosion.
Research on the fungus disease and on the other environmental stresses the
cedars are under, as well as providing an alternative to the waste
disposal problem, would not be sufficient, regardl ess of how well they
are implemented and managed. By concentrating finite energy and resources
on the healing of a select number of trees in Arz el-Barouk, for example,
energy would be diverted from the more beneficial and necessary remedy:
reforestatio n. Jabal el-Barouk comprises an area of 3509 hectares; only
8.6% of this area is forested. Reforestation and rehabilitation of the
entire area is indispensable. In an optimum situation, efforts should be
concentrated on reforestation and researching the fungus disease.
However, if choices need to be made, then reforestation should be chosen.
As with any natural resources management plan, be it relating to Jabal
el-Barouk, Bcharre, or any other area, the local community needs to be
involved. One esse ntial mean by which to ensure the success of such
plans, and thus the health of the Cedrus, is through cooperation and
collaboration with nearby villages. The effective, long-term means to
this goal is through education.
Recommendations: What you can do
Above all else, what is needed is a firm understanding of the connections
and relations in the ecosystem. Nothing is completely separate from
anything else. On a more concrete level, there are four recommendations
for managing and protecting the cedars in Lebanon, recommendations to
which each person can contribute (Table 4).
Support Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Support the United Nations proposal
Support or conduct research
Extend awareness, education, and outreach activities
Table 4: Recommendations
There are 120 environmental associations in Lebanon. Most of these
organizations are local and regional, with an active minority acting
nationally. Among the numerous national NGOs working towards
environmental protection, three stand out: The Green Line, the Society
for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, and The René Moawad Foundation.
The Green Line
The Green Line is a non-political, national association independent of any
government, group, or individual. It embraces the principle of
environmentally sound development. It is Lebanon's Greenpeace based upon
scientific foundations. Green Line was established in 1991 with
membership primarily from the American University of Beirut (students,
professors, and alumni).
Green Line brings together all those who are concerned with preserving the
past, conserving the present, and giving the future a better chance. The
objectives of the organization are to: 1) expose environmental threats; 2)
popularize enviro nmental awareness; and 3) contribute towards a
scientific framework for a sustainable environmental management policy.
All projects are implemented through the volunteer work of its members.
Green Line is the founder and coordinator of the Reforestat ion Network,
an umbrella organization that unites those organizations throughout
Lebanon that are involved in reforestation projects. For more
information, or to become a part of the Green Line, write to The Green
Line, c/o Dr. Shady Hamadeh, American Un iversity of Beirut, P.O. Box
11-0236, Lebanon, or to the New York office at AUB New York Office, 850
Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022.
Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL)
The SPNL was established in 1985 with the aims of stopping the
deterioration of the environment in Lebanon. Among SPNLs
manyaccomplishments are the publication of three books in Arabic on the
birds and mammals of Lebanon, four documentaries and fifteen TV spots on
the environment. In addition, SPNL and the Leban ese government have
requested the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO to nominate the
main cedar forests of Lebanon as historic sites of international
importance. A visit to Lebanon by Mr. Jim Thorsell of WHC was sponsored
by SPNL in April 1993, but the Ministry of the Environment has yet to
bring this idea into actuality.
SPNL is currently conducting a campaign to plant new cedar trees. To this
end, SPNL welcomes financial contributions for planting cedar trees in
various areas where Cedrus liba ni already occur in Lebanon. SPNL will
plant one cedar tree in your name for a contribution of $30. Address:
SPNL, PO Box 11-5665, Beirut, Lebanon.
The René Moawad Foundation(RMF)
The René Moawad Foundation was established in 1990 as a non profit
humanitarian organization. It is headed by Mrs. Nayla Moawad, the wife of
the late President and a member of the Lebanese Parliament. The goal of
the Foundation is, in their own words, to consolidate peace and national
unity in Lebanon by promoting liberal values and by contributing to social
progress, economic development, cultural life and the protection of the
With regards to the environment, and forests in particular, the Foundation
has planted the largest nursery in Lebanon. Ten thousand cedar trees were
planted in 1994, and their growth was aided through effective irrigation
and preventive systems against heat stress. In addition, the Foundation
is creating a network of all the 120 environmental protection associations
existing in Lebanon in order to achieve effective cooperation and
coordination. For further information or to join the Foundation, write to
the René Moawad Foundation at 1730 K Street N.W., Suite 1206, Washington,
D.C. 20006, call at 202-466-3383, or fax at 202-466 -3382.
Support the United Nations Protected Areas for Sustainable Development
The creation of protected areas in Lebanon is a necessary step towards the
protection of the Lebanese natural resources and the Lebanese natural
heritage. The United Nations proposal is an excellent means towards this
end. In addition, the UN will fund the project with 3 million US dollars.
In its own words:
The project will put into place an effectively managed system of
protected areas to safeguard endemic and endan gered species of
flora and fauna, conserve their habitats and incorporate
biodiversity conservation as an integral part of sustainable human
development. The project will test a specific model of three
demonstration parks where the Ministry of Environment, local NGOs, and
in-country scientific institutions will cooperate and coordinate their
activities to promote both the long term ecological and the short term
economic objectives of wildlife conservation. It will also reach
out to the public and decision makers with documentary films and
TV spots, and test the hypothesis concerning the possibility of
promoting national reconciliation by bringing people and
institutions together for the conservation of nature.
The proposal recommends three areas in Lebanon to become protected: Edhen
Forest, Jabal el-Barouk, and Palm Islands. Ehden Forest, also known as
Horsh Ehden, is a floristically diverse forest of Cedrus, Abies, and
Quercus. It was declared a forest reserve in 1992 by the Lebanese
government, yet protective measures are unenforced. Ehden Forest is home
to numerous endemic plants, and to globally and regionally threatened bird
species. Jabal el-Barouk, as has been previously described, is comprised
of three adjacent stands of Cedrus. In addition, it is one of the few
remaining localities where large mammals can be found, and where the Ibex
and the Mountain Gazelle can be reintroduced. The Palm Islands are
comprised of three flat, rocky islands 13 kilometers offshore and
north-wes t of Tripoli. It is a key area for the migration of waterbirds
and passerine migrants, and home to numerous nationally endangered
species. The Palm Islands were declared a marine reserve in 1992, yet
here too the protective measures are not enforced. Quite the contrary,
hunting persists to this day.
In May 1995, the Protected Areas for Sustainable Development proposal was
accepted by the UN. The Ministry of the Environment in Lebanon still has
to make a decision and take the necessary action to make this project
Support or conduct research
Lebanon is in dire need of environmental information, data, and basic
research. All sectors of the environment are in need of research -- be it
research in air pollution, water pollution, soil erosion, or plant
pathology. All these factors, and numerous others, affect the state of
the forests in Lebanon, and thus affect the Cedrus libani in Lebanon.
Research should be conducted on the identification of the possible fungal
disease affecting the cedars in Arz el-Barouk, Jabal el-Barouk. What
environmental stress are the cedars withstanding? Is it a fungus
infection, or are the symptoms physiological? If it is a fungus
infection, is the fungus a primary or secondary pathogen? In other words,
did the fungus arise because the trees were weakened by environmental
predisposing factors such as drought and malnutrition possibly increased
by the soil erosion? What are the causes of the fungus infection, and how
could it be treated and managed, containedso that it will not spread to
the cedars in Arz Ain Zhalta and in Arz Maasser el-Chouf? These
questions, and many more, would need to be answered if the possible fungus
infection is to be managed.
However, treating and managing the cedars in Arz el-Barouk is not
sufficient if the goal is -- as it should be -- the long-term protection
and management of the Cedar of Lebanon. It is more critical to regenerate
and reforest the cedars than it is to attempt to heal the cedars.
Cedar forests in Lebanon have been reduced to approximately 2% of their
former area. The best means to protect the cedars are to increase the
area in which they exist, to reforest suitable regions with cedar.
Although this may seem to be a simple process, it is not. Research needs
to be conducted on the optimal means by which to reforest the mountains
with Cedrus libani. Specifically, research is needed to discover the
optimal methods to meet each of the following objectives, with regards to
Cedrus libani: seed storage, seed germination, nursery practices, and
plantation treatments. Numerous questions need to be resolved in each
category. Such research would benefit all environmental associations
working towards the restoration of the cedar, since it would provide a
solid scientific foundation upon which work would be conducted.
Support for research is essential if research is to take place. In
addition, qualified personnel willing to research environmental issues in
Lebanon are needed, and would be benefiting future generations as they
enter into exciting scientific grounds.
Extend awareness, education, and outreach activities
In addition to supporting environmental associations, working to implement
the United Nations proposal, and supporting scientific research, it is
fundamental to increase awareness of environmental issues in Lebanon, both
within Lebanon and internationally. Outreach activities, such as this
seminar hosted by the International Relief Fund, contribute to the spread
of information, and thus empower the efforts to protect the Lebanese
natural heritage. The key is education. Each person concerned about the
Lebanese environment should first be informed, then work to inform others
of the tragic situation in Lebanon. Education, on an official scale, sh
ould be integrated in the schools in Lebanon, from kindergarten to college
levels. An agreement was signed in 1994 between Lebanons Education and
Environmental ministries to include courses on ecological problems in
school curricula starting in the academic year of 1995. Strengthening of
such efforts is fundamental to the protection of the
A viable Cedrus libani population is needed to best protect the cedars.
Clearly, the state of the cedars in particular, and the woods in
particular, is dangerous and detrimental to the health of the environment
in Lebanon, as well as injurious to the natural history and natural
culture of this magnificent country. If intense reforestation does not
occur, the natural foundation of Lebanon will suffer extensively.
It is wise to remember that numerous civilizations, such as the Sumerian
civilization, have been weakened not by military means, but through the
effects of deforestation on their society.
Masri,Rania. (1995) Change in the Cedar Forest of Ain Zhalta, Jabal
el-Barouk, Lebanon, 1965-1994. Duke University.
National Report on the Environment and Development in Lebanon. (1991)
Ministry of State for the Environment. Republic of Lebanon.
Perlin, John. (1991) A Forest Journey: Role of Wood in the Development
of Civilization. Harvard University Press.
Tohmé, Georges and Henriette. (1985) Ecology of Lebanon: Facts and
Examples. Lebanese University. Natural Science Section 17. [published
in Arabic as: ÃíßæáæÌíÉ áÈäÇä: æÞÇÆÚ æÔæÇåÏand in French as: Ecologie du
Liban: Faits et exemples.]
United Nations Development Program. (1994) Protected Areas for
Ph.D. student in Forestry, North Carolina State University.
7309 Haymarket Lane, Raleigh NC 27615, USA
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