Climate drives Lebanon’s cedars up the mountains

Environmentalists are concerned that climate change could affect Lebanon’s emblematic cedar trees, writes Bethany Bell on the BBC News website.

Cedar forests once covered the mountains of Lebanon. But the trees’ wood and resin have been prized since the days of the Ancient Egyptians.

Over the centuries, the trees (Cedrus libani) have been cut down by everyone from the Phoenicians to the Ottomans to the modern Lebanese themselves.

These days most of Lebanon’s cedars are protected, but now there is concern that the trees face a new threat.

A quarter of Lebanon’s cedars are found in the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, in the mountains south-east of Beirut.

Its scientific co-ordinator, Nizar Hani, says global warming could affect the growth of new trees:

“The impact of climate change on the cedar forests of Lebanon will be on natural regeneration because we will have a lack of snow.

“Secondly, there could be an increase of diseases and insect infections because of warmer temperatures.”

The cedar’s natural range is now 1,200-1,800 metres (4,000-6,000 feet) above sea level.

Mr Hani says a warmer climate would mean the trees could only survive at higher altitudes.

“Things could be difficult because the highest point on this mountain is 2,000 metres above sea level, so the cedar forests in Lebanon could disappear,” he warns.

But he stresses these are just predictions:

“Till now, we have healthy cedar forests, especially here in the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve.”

The reserve is attempting to take action to limit the impact of rising temperatures.

Nizar Hani says isolated populations of trees will be more affected by climate change, so increasing the area of the cedar forests could help.

“We are trying to plant new cedar forests – we have a project to plant 100,000 seedlings.”

Source: BBC News website

Date: 28/08/2008

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