MAIN PHYTOGENETIC RESOURCES OF SYRIA AND THE MAIN THREATS
The National Study on Biological Diversity (1998) recorded 641 species of fungus, 55 bacteria, 754 algae, 10 gymnosperms (8 of them at risk), 3,100 angiosperms (330 being endemic species), 1,439 insects, 452 fish, 16 amphibians (3 at risk), 127 reptiles (31 at risk), 360 birds (15 at risk), and 125 mammals (most of which are at risk).
In Syria forests cover 461,000 ha, of which 232,840 are natural forests. The main threats for biological diversity are forest fires, uncontrolled urbanisation and grazing, excessive hunting and fishing, illicit international trade, uncontrolled tree felling and charcoal production, desertification, forest fragmentation, lack of appropriate regulation, invasion by exotic species, land erosion and degradation, depletion of water resources, chemical pollution, destruction of habitats especially along the coast and rivers, inadequate law enforcement, bad planning of tourism and poor environmental awareness.
STATUS OF IN-SITU AND EX-SITU CONSERVATION
The National Strategy and Plan of Action for the Conservation of Biodiversity include environmental considerations aiming to reduce environmental threats in all development projects and covering the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources. One of the main objectives is to protect natural ecosystems of special biological interest. At present Syria has 23 protected areas, 1.28% of its total surface area, and the aim is to increase the number of protected areas to 10% of the total area. Of these protected areas, 5 are wetlands, 3 coastal and marine areas, 13 forests and 2 are for the protection of endangered fauna. There are also 30 protected pasture areas.
The plan of action has two sections. In the short and medium term (1-5 years), the main objectives are to draw up scientific studies on the situation and trends in biological diversity, with a special focus on rare and endangered species, to establish protected areas representing unique local varieties, to train personnel, to create a germplasm bank and a herbarium, especially for endemic species, to identify the causes of the loss of biodiversity and to develop appropriate policies for biodiversity conservation.
In the long term (6-10 years), the objectives are to create a national network of protected areas representing all the country’s ecosystems based on the IUCN and international criteria for protected areas and bearing in mind the country’s needs and national legislation, and to establish organic framing practices with the aim of using natural resources in a sustainable way.
Work is under way to rehabilitate communities of juniper, pistachio, cedar and fir by propagating them in nurseries and replanting the original habitats. The International Centre for Agricultural Research for Desert Areas (ICARDA) is headquartered in Aleppo and carries out many projects involving research and the conservation of the typical plant biodiversity of desert habitats. It has a number of experimental field stations, arboretums, nurseries, etc.
Centers of plant diversity