Association for Forests, Development and Conservation
(AFDC): An Overview
Lebanon’s Forests: Species and Distribution
the Book: Green Lebanon<
AFDC was established in 1993 to achieve sustainable
conservation of natural resources, raise awareness
and build capacities to contribute to the national
efforts for better environmental management. Fundamental
to AFDC’s mission is the pursuit of community-based
conservation for the sustainable livelihoods of people.
This comes from the idea that conservation will fail
if local communities do not benefit from it.
AFDC’s objectives include:
- Developing local communities while maintaining conservation
and the sustainable management of forests and natural
- Capacity building and public awareness in fields
and issues related to the environment and sustainable
- Conducting and disseminating studies and research
related to different environmental and sustainable
- Lobbying for changes in environmental and sustainable
- Encouraging youth involvement and participation
in development practices including working towards
the establishment of youth centers and hostels.
AFDC works at the national level in 17 different locations
in North, South and Mount Lebanon through its volunteers
units from the local communities that involve up to
date more than 500 volunteers.
Trough the units, AFDC implements its various programs
aiming at achieving its mission. These programs are:
- Nature and Conservation and Development Programme
(Forest fire fighting, Reforestation, Rural development,
- Outreach and Communication Programme (Environmental
education, Capacity building, Media).
- Research and Project Development Programme (Environmental
monitoring, Project development, Internships).
- Advocacy Programme (Environmental policies, Faith
and Conservation, Relief).
AFDC strategy in Forest and Natural Resources
1. Identify important forest areas in Lebanon.
2. Establish units of volunteers from the local community
around important forest areas.
3. Assess local environmental needs.
4. Set priorities and develop and implement relevant
projects and activities.
5. Implement AFDC Programmes.
More than 500 volunteers representing various local
groups from different social, religious and cultural
backgrounds are currently involved in AFDC programs
AFDC has a long record in implementing forest and
forest fire-fighting projects in different areas in
Lebanon and it works in partnership with public institutions
like the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry
of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Interior, and
the Ministry of Defense, as well as with municipalities
and private sectors.
It is worth noting that AFDC projects are in line
with the national and international agendas of environmental
AFDC Forest Center:
- MFDCL Center (Mediterranean Forest Development and
Conservation Center of Lebanon) located in Ramlieh
village, Mount Lebanon.
- Mimess Forest Center located in Mimess village in
Hasbaya, South Lebanon.
- Dmit Forest Center located in the Shouf area in
Dmit village (to be inaugurated during 2008).
- Maten Forest Center located in Qornayel village
in Baabda, Mount Lebanon (to be inaugurated during
- Andket Forest Center located in the village of Andket,
North Lebanon (to be inaugurated during 2009).
AFDC Tree Nurseries:
- Ramlieh nursery (200000 seedlings annually).
- Mimess nursery (100000 seedlings annually).
- Ammatour nursery in Shouf area (200000 seedlings
- Andket nursery in North (100000 seedlings annually).
Association for Forests, Development and Conservation
Marinian Center, 8th Floor
Near AUH , Hamra
“A Forest”, as defined by the Global Forest
Resources assessment (FRA) report issued by the Food
and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2005, “is
a land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees
higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than
10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds
in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly
under agriculture or urban use”.
Forests are one of Lebanon’s most important
natural assets. They have many uses and provide a
range of valuable products and benefits. They offer
not only environmental protection but also income
and livelihood options for forest-dependent communities.
Forests provide essential services such as carbon
sequestration, shade, beautification, erosion control,
and soil fertility; their trees can provide essential
products such as timber, fruit, and medicine. Forests
play an important cultural role, offering recreational
opportunities and spiritual solace in urban societies.
They are universally powerful symbols – a physical
expression of life, growth and vigor.
The Forests of Lebanon are very particular in their
variation and characteristics. They represent a unique
feature in the arid environment of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Until June 2006, they covered 13.2% of the overall
area of Lebanon. A considerable number of forest species
inhabit Lebanon’s mountains. These species can
be regarded as relics of past humid vegetation and
still grow sporadically in the remaining forest patches.
The bulk of Lebanon’s forest area consists of
oak and pine stands. In addition Lebanese forests
contain a wide range of aromatic, wild and medicinal
plants. In Lebanon, forests and other wooded land
cover seem to be regressing, subject as they are to
natural and human threats rapidly leading to their
decline. Yet despite degradation of the vegetation
cover, Lebanon is still regarded as very diverse,
sheltering an estimated 4200 species. This diversity
is mostly the result of the landscape’s physiography
and the country’s strategic location at the
crossroad of continents.
As for Lebanon’s terrestrial biodiversity, half
the wild species of fodder plants are endangered due
to uncontrolled urban development, over-grazing and
land reclamation, which constitute a great threat
to the habitat. Other types of plants are estimated
to have a higher endemism and are not a great risk
Following is a brief on the species and distribution
of forests in Lebanon, courtesy of the State of Lebanon’s
Forests 2007, a milestone report recently issued by
AFDC (Association for Forests, Development and Conservation),
Lebanon’s leading environmental NGO.
The Calliprine oak forests are currently found at
the lower altitudes of the western slopes of the Mount
Lebanon chain, covering an area of approximately 40000
ha. Also on the eastern slopes of Mount Lebanon, oak
forests discontinuously extend, on low altitudes,
between Yammouneh and Hermel and on the slopes of
Jabal Barouk/Niha. On the western slopes of the Anti-Lebanon
chain, only a few and diminutive oak stands persist,
mainly east of Baalbeck, Masnaa and around Rachaya.
Similary, in the south, only few degraded overgrazed
oak forests still persist (in Jabal Amel).
Pine forests are found on the western slopes of the
Mount Lebanon chain where they occupy an area of not
more than 17000 ha. Stone pine forests extend on altitudes
ranging between sea level and 1500 m, particularly
in the Metn, Baabda, and Jezzine areas. Other types
of pine forests are located at middle elevation where
Calabrian Pine forests occupy a large area in the
North, and Aleppo Pine forests extend over an area
of 400-500 ha. in the southern part of the country
(Cazas of Marjaaoun and Hasbaya).
Cedar, Fir and Juniper
The remaining evergreen cedar forests are distributed
in patches on the western slopes of the Mount Lebanon
Chain, accounting for an area not more than 2200 ha.
due to severe degradation over the years. These cedar
assortments are located in the northern part of the
country in Karm Shbat, Ehden, Qamou’a, Danie,
Bsharre, Hadeth- Tannourine and in Mount Lebanon in
Jaj Bmohray, Ain-Zhalta, Barouk Maasser al-Shouf,
Mixed forests of fir and cedar (with the latter in
higher densities) are found in Qamou’a and in
the southern-most limits of Ehden. On the other hand,
around 2000 ha. of extremely degraded cedar stands
are located, often within dominant strands of fir,
juniper, and oak.
Sparse Grecian Juniper forests can be found also in
patches on the eastern slopes of the mountain chain,
specifically in the district of Hermel.
Since ancient times, all these forests have endured
severe deforestation leading to their current degraded
state, which is resulting in an intensively eroded
soil. Yet these forests can be a main source of seed
for further reforestation campaigns.
Evergreen Cypress forests are almost extinct in Lebanon;
some remaining patches grow in Akkar, Ras Chekka area,
Ehden, Karm-Sadet and Aito areas in combination with
other tree types.
During the last 40 years, more than 35 % of the initial
forest cover in Lebanon has deteriorated. Forest fires,
among other natural and human threats, have a major
cause of this decline. To date, they continue to be
one of the most dangerous threats endangering Lebanon’s
forest and causing their decline.
Forest fires range in many parts of the country. Data
on the number and extent of forest fires were sketchy
until recently. Today, more data is available from
several sources (Ministry of Agriculture, Civil Defense,
Lebanese Army, local NGOs) but these data are not
always mutually consistent. Current statistics refer
to all forested areas affected by fires, whether charred
or just superficially burned.
Between 1998 and 2000, according to Ministry of Agriculture
statistics in 2005, approximately 3500 ha. Of forests
were recorded as affected by fires, and a total of
1200 ha. of natural forests are burned annually. Forest
fire data related to the last three years, as extracted
from the Ministry of Environment’s forest fire
database based on the Internal Security Forces report,
indicated 129 fires in 2004 (resulting in 585 ha.
of burned forest areas), 117 fires in 2005 (approximately
440 ha. of burned forest areas), and 144 fires in
2006 (approximately 874 ha. of burned forest areas),
spread all over Lebanon.
According to AFDC, forest fires that occurred between
1993 and 2005 amount to 70.600 fires in different
parts of the country. The number of yearly burned
areas has tremendously increased in the year 2006-2007
due to the July war 2006 and to the October 2007 fires,
which burned huge forested areas in only a few days.
October 2, 2007 was a black day for the environment
in Lebanon. Enormous and simultaneous fires broke
out in several forests and led to the deterioration,
in some locations irreversibly, of more than 1500
ha of forest (12 million trees) of different land
cover types. The total burned are in one day was approximately
equal to three times what has been reforested in the
country during the past 17 years.
Many of the forests destroyed by the flames were lost
permanently without the possibility of regeneration
(i.e. the forests which were burned down twice within
a period of 10 to 15 years cannot produce any cones
and cannot naturally regenerate anymore). Replanting
of only 1500 hectares would cost no less than $7 million.
According to available data, humans are the primary
causative agent of forest fires in Lebanon, either
voluntarily or indirectly as a result of their activities,
such as agricultural practices. The general public,
through its lifestyle or livelihood activities, represents
an important initiator of forest fires mainly due
to lack of understanding cause of forest fires in
Lebanon is lack of forest management.
Reason behind forest fire initiation, spread
and high occurrence, include:
- Inadequate agricultural practices consisting of
clearing large fields during the dry summer season
using fire which can be easily spread to neighboring
- Lack of law enforcement prohibiting fire use during
the critical period extending from June to November.
- Limited availability of skilled human resources
able to detect early fires and intervene on time.
- Lack of adequate equipment to protect against the
fast spread of forest fires.
- Unavailability and inconsistency of available data
pertaining to forest fire occurrence, resulting in
incorrect and imprecise knowledge of the causes, behavior,
and consequences of possible fires.
- Lack of public awareness of the importance of biodiversity
- Absence of a national government institution for
forests that would integrate efforts of different
parties and create a mechanism at the national level
for fire assessment and monitoring, which can largely
control forest fire occurrence and expansion. Such
an agency could group resources and coordinate fire
fighting operation in a more centralized and effective
An important and useful forest fire database was created
in a project implemented by AFDC, Arz Al Shouf Association,
and Green Line (Masri 2005) by collecting, from different
sources, information on forest fire occurrence between
1983 and 2003. Statistical analysis of the collected
data indicated that: 1) August and September are the
two months having the highest frequency of forest
fires (25% to 27% of the occurred fires); 2) the majority
of forest fires (70%) occur in the afternoon; 3) the
average starting time of forest fires is 14:00 pm;
4) the tree types most affected by fires are thickets,
olives, and fruit trees; and 5) the majority of fires
are occurring in Mount Lebanon province or mohafaza
(40 to 51%), followed respectively by the North (24
to 37%), the South (2 to 19%), and finally by Nabatieh
in the South (1 to 9%).
The consequences of forest fires are disastrous on
the natural environment and ecological systems not
to mention the population, by increasing poverty and
lowering the quality of life. In most burned areas,
the damage and decrease of vegetation cover during
dry summer periods is followed by rain, during which
the unprotected topsoil is subject to severe erosion
processes. The increasing frequency and intensity
of fires can threaten floristic species diversity
in Lebanon, even those plant communities which have
been adapted to naturally occurring fires or are depending
on fires to maintain themselves. On the other hand,
the abandonment of controlled grazing activities in
some areas can further contribute to the forest fire
Finally, according to the World Bank report on the
cost of environmental degradation in Lebanon (published
in 2004), the cost associated with the deterioration
of land and wildlife amounts to approximately 100
million USD/year (i.e. 0.6% of the GDP of Lebanon)
Information courtesy of State of Lebanon’s
Forests 2007, the first report of its type in Lebanon.
Published by AFDC, the report serves as a baseline
database on Lebanese forests’ state, management,
uses, and users while examining recent policy and
institutional developments and key issues in the forestry
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