Devastating fires caused by climate change are threatening forests in Lebanon, in turn accelerating the pace of global warming, an environmental activist has warned.
“We are witnessing a rise in temperature which leads to the dryness of forest soil and pushes it towards desertification,” Sawsan Bou Fakhreddine, director-general of the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation (AFDC), a local NGO, told the UN’s IRIN news service.
She added that the country was witnessing forest fires earlier in the season than usual.
“We noticed that fires are starting in April, three months earlier than the usual season, which commences in June or July.
“With the ongoing increase in temperature, the land is losing much of its humidity and trees are becoming drier. This causes severe fires that are difficult to suppress.”
Ms Fakhreddine said, on average, about 1,500 hectares of woodland were affected by fires annually, yet more than 4,000 hectares of forests were ravaged in 2007 – the worst fires to hit Lebanon for decades.
“In one day we lost three times what we planted in 17 years,” she observed.
According to AFDC, forests covered 35 percent of Lebanon in 1965, but that figure had fallen to 13 percent in 2007.
Ms Fakhreddine warned: “If we witness fires like the ones that erupted last year, Lebanon will lose its forests completely in 15 to 20 years.”