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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 615: IV International Conifer Conference

CONIFER CONSERVATION IN LEBANON

Authors:   S.N. Talhouk, R. Zurayk, S. Khuri
Keywords:   Abies, Cedrus, Juniperus, Pinus, reforestation
Abstract:
Conifers form a characteristic part of the Lebanese mountain landscapes, with fragmented forest habitats extending all along the western mountain range. Ten conifer species in five genera are found as wild populations in Lebanon; these are Abies cilicica, Cedrus libani, Cupressus sempervirens, Juniperus excelsa, J. foetidissima, J. oxycedrus, Pinus brutia, P. halepensis and P. pinea. Of these, the cedar, having a well-documented history of exploitation going back over 4000 years and being the symbol at the centre of the Lebanese flag, is receiving the most attention. Two cedar forests have recently been designated as National Heritage Sites, one mainly cedar and the other a mixed forest where other conifer species benefit from the protected status of the site. However, conifer populations outside the nature reserves are declining significantly in area and quality. This is mainly due to urbanisation and agricultural demands for land, especially over the last 20 years. This puts at risk not only the species themselves, but also the associated wildlife, and allows further damage to the ecosystem in terms of soil erosion and an increased fire risk. Environmental awareness in Lebanon has increased dramatically in recent years, and today there are ongoing efforts on academic, governmental and non-governmental fronts, tackling the loss of genetic diversity, reforestation and protection of natural habitats. It is becoming evident that an integrated ecosystem approach, with the involvement of local communities, is the most effective method of conservation in Lebanon.
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