MAIN PHYTOGENETIC RESOURCES OF LEBANON AND THE MAIN THREATS
Lebanon has very rich biodiversity, mainly because of its mountainous landscape and the extremely varied climate. Forests cover 7.7% of the country’s land surface. Vegetation is typically Mediterranean along the coastal strip and in most of the lower regions. Firs, beeches and cedars are to be found in some parts of the northern mountains at altitudes of 1,200-2,000 metres. Dense pine and oak forests cover the slopes of the southern mountains.
There are 4,633 plant species and 4,486 animal species. More than half of the forage plants (45.2% of ferns, 41.3% of endemic plants and 6.8% of medicinal plants) are at risk of extinction. Several species of fauna are also at risk of extinction, and many species have been lost over the last century, including the Syrian brown bear, the Asian leopard, the Persian lynx and the gazelle.
Some of the main threats for biological diversity are pressure from urban development, lack of public awareness, monoculture, invasive exotic species, deforestation, pollution, water demand, etc.
STATUS OF IN-SITU AND EX-SITU CONSERVATION
There are 8 protected areas in Lebanon covering 1.8% of the country’s surface area (2006). The National Strategy for Conservation of Biodiversity and the Plan of Action describe the need for a national data base on the country’s biological diversity so that agricultural biodiversity can be monitored, with expansion and management of the protected areas system, and protection of the various ecosystems and biological resources, especially native species.
In order to safeguard the remaining forests, the Forestry Law was amended in 1996 and now stipulates that all cedar, fir, juniper and other conifer forests must be protected. As a result, 15 forests (including the Karma Chbat Reserve, the Saissook Nature Reserve, and the Tannourine-Hadath and el-Jobbe Reserves) were declared protected areas by the Ministry of Agriculture. Moreover, many rivers, mountains and valleys fall under the protection of the Ministry of the Environment. 8 sites in Lebanon were declared nature reserves and another 2 are in process.
The Lebanese have always used native plants as ornamental plants – oaks, cedars and European nettle (Celtis australis). The National Strategy aims to develop the reproduction of native species in nurseries. This strategy lays down a plan of action for the short term (1-3 years), which includes the creation of zoos and aquaria, the fostering of public awareness on the quality of local biological diversity and strict enforcement of regulation on germplasm imports. In the medium term (3-5 years), the plan lays down the following priorities: the creation of botanic gardens in cities and the use and conservation of local germplasm. In the long term (5-10 years), the priorities are programmes to restore degraded zones as well as the creation of germplasm banks and technological facilities for tissue cultivation.
The Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, which is run by the Ministry of Agriculture, has several experimental stations and botanic gardens in different parts of the country. Also, Beirut American University has a Natural History Museum and a Herbarium.
Centers of plant diversity
- Tal Amara Station. Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute
- Kfardan Station. Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute
- Fanar Station. Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute
- Kfarchakhna Station. Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute
- Lebaa Station. Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute
- Tyre Station. Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute
- American University of Beirut