The Cedars of Lebanon: Significance, Awareness and Management of the Cedrus libani in Lebanon
(This is a transcript of a talk presented at the Cedars Awareness and Salvation Effort seminar on the environment in Lebanon, held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nov. 9, 1995.)
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, Uruk's 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 sun's 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 their luxuriance.
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 forest's 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. Gilgamesh's 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 civilization's 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 services:
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 area 60,000 6 Urbanized land and other 630,000 60 Total 1,050,000 100Table 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 (Table 2).
Type of Forest Property Surface (ha) State woods 46,000 Public woods 16,000 Private woods 18,000 Total 80,000Table 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 significantly.
Forest Type Surface(ha) Oak 45,000 Pine 17,200 Juniper 14,000 Cedar 2,000 Beech 1,500 Cypress 300 Total 80,000Table 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 dramatically declined.
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 trunk.
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 cedar's 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 BirdLife International.
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 stands.
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 thunderbolts.
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 army's 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 road construction.
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 created.
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 activitiesTable 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 SPNL's 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 environment.
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"
Proposal 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 NGO's, 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 reality.
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 Lebanon's 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 environment.
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.
Ph.D. student in Forestry, North Carolina State University.
7309 Haymarket Lane, Raleigh NC 27615, USA
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