Unraveling Lebanon’s Biodiversity

How is biodiversity studied in Lebanon? Read this blog post to get an account of biodiversity research activities in the country.

Biodiversity experiments
Photo: Rhéa Kahale

Lebanon, due to its geographic location in the Eastern Mediterranean and one of the 36 world biodiversity hotspots, is recognized as a regional hotspot where species undergo exceptional threats. Add to that an extremely complex geomorphology, allowing a mosaic of habitats for biological diversity. But there is still a lot left to explore.

Amid all crises (political instability, hyperinflation, banking crisis, nation collapse, and more), Lebanon’s dynamic group led researchers from the Faculty of Science at Saint Joseph University (USJ), Biodiversity Conservation Initiative (BCI), Jouzour Loubnan Association, along with field and site coordinators, has been featured in LifePlan’s newsletter as the sampling team of the month!

The LifePlan project aims to study the current biodiversity status around the world. Locally, experimental stations are installed to unravel the biodiversity of Lebanon: camera traps to identify the fauna, audio recorders to target birds and other vocal organisms, cyclone samplers and malaise traps to genetically identify the fungal, pollen and insect diversity respectively.

Photo: Rhéa Kahale.

For the first phase of the project in 2022, Lebanon’s natural exploration was undergone in the Kadisha Valley, recognized as one of the country’s 31 IPA (Important Plant Areas) and an UNESCO World Heritage site. Dominated by pines and oaks, the mixed Mediterranean forest site holds thousands of species of flora and fauna, of which many are endemic either to Lebanon or to the region. In the second phase in 2023, the sampling equipment was transferred to a semi-urban site located in Mrouj. After a full year of monitoring, an anticipated comparative report will highlight the differences between the two sites.

As biodiversity assessments and inventories have long been lacking in Lebanon due to several cumulative factors, this project is providing the tools to identify and understand the biodiversity present locally, promoting bio-literacy and contributing to the understanding of the state of biodiversity worldwide.
Aside from preserving genetic diversity, the aforementioned team is working on all levels to protect Lebanon’s biodiversity. It has already and is still implementing numerous projects in ecosystem restoration, Ex-situ and in-In-situ conservation of critically endangered plants, and most importantly setting the path for younger researchers and practitioners to follow.

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Rhea Kahale
Expert in Biodiversity Conservation and Management, working on setting prioritization schemes in terms of conservation decisions, including which species to conserve, locations to establish protected areas, maintaining genetic diversity, conservation actions and modalities to address specific threats.