During the last 40 years, more than 35 % of the existing 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.
Between 1998 and 2000, according to Ministry of Agriculture statistics in 2005, approximately 3500 ha. (28 million trees) of forests were recorded as affected by fires, and a total of 1200 ha. (9,6 million trees) 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, the Association for Forest Development and Conservation, 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 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.
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). [Reference]
Reasons behind deforestation
Lack of public awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation
Lack of law enforcement prohibiting fire use during the critical period extending from June to November
Randomly spreading agricultural territories on the expense of forests
Abscence of a national government institution which could group resources and coordinate fire fighting operation in a more centralized and effective manner
Consecutive wars (last war in June 2006)
Diminishing the amount of water through natural infiltration
In the old days of green Lebanon more than 50% the land was covered with forests. Today only 13 % of Lebanon are forested ( 4,89 % are dense concentrated forests and the rest is highly dispersed).
To restore a balance in the Lebanese ecosystem at least 20 % of the land should be reforested. Today, only 13 % of the lebanese forests are surviving and .... are highly threatened.
Read more about the continuous historical denudation of the once beautifully forested lands of Lebanon. (read more here)