Lebanon’s forests fires ‘product of climate change’


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.”

Source: IRIN

Date: 25/09/2008

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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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