Can the Cedars of Lebanon Survive Climate Change?


“So Hiram, King of Tyre, gave King Solomon timber of cedar and timber of cypress according to all his desire.”-Book of Kings vs. 24

A recent article by Ahmed Khatib in the Lebanese Daily Star emphasized the dangers of climate change and global warming to Lebanon‘s remaining cedar groves, which have been a historic national symbol in the country since its founding. According to the article, about 2,000 hectares of cedar trees remain there, with the largest grove located in the Al-Chouf Cedar Nature Reserve, located in the Chouf Mountain area southeast of Beirut.

Besides being the country’s national symbol and prominently situated on Lebanon’s national flag, the cedar trees of the country formerly known as the ancient Kingdom of Tyre, have been famous for their strong and durable wood which was prized by the Ancients for the construction of boats, stately buildings, and (in the case of the ancient Egyptians) for the preservation of the dead. Perhaps the most renowned use of these majestic trees was in the construction of the Israelite Temple in Jerusalem over 2,700 years ago.

The construction of the Temple, said to have been one of the grandest edifices of ancient times, included inner chambers made entirely of cedar and other woods that King Solomon received from King Hiram of Tyre who had the cedar logs “made into rafts to go by sea unto the place that thou shall appoint me, and will cause them to be broken up there.”  What must have been a grand feat of engineering and construction for those times, involved bringing these large tree trunks overland to Jerusalem, cutting them into beams, and then constructing them “with neither hammer nor axe nor tool of iron heard in the House.”

Some of Lebanon’s remaining cedars are estimated to be more than 2,000 years old. Recent changes in weather patterns have resulted in less snow falling in mountain areas during the winter months and a decrease in “summer mists” or fog during summer, both of which are vitally necessary for the tree’s survival.

Nizar Hani, scientific coordinator for the Al-Chouf nature reserve, noted that all efforts must now be made to protect the trees, which are also being threatened by pests such as bark beetles and other insects, including a species of wood wasp,  Cephalcia Tannourinensis, that destroyed cedars in an entire area in northern Lebanon  a number of years ago. The cedars thrive best in elevations of between 1,200 and 1,800 meters above sea level, but recent climate changes have resulted in mountain snows melting quicker, endangering the areas where the cedars usually grow.

Although the results of climate change are occurring at a slow pace, Hani and other agronomists are trying to encourage more national efforts to saving the tress. The importance of preserving the Lebanese cedars, once used by the ancient Phoenicians to construct their palaces and large fleets of military and merchant ships, has been so important that environmental activists like Wael Hmaidan, director of one of the country’s most prominent environmental groups, IndyAct, said that all efforts must be made to deal with this problem “before it is too late.”

The trees have now been placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” as a “heavily threatened” species in a region that could rapidly turn into a desert due to a lack of adequate annual rainfall. Is this a worthy fate for such a tree which God directed to King Solomon to be used to build a House for the Lord?

::Daily Star

More about environmental issues in Lebanon:

Lebanon Celebrates Three Years of Organic Farming Project
Eco-Tourism in the Middle East: Lebanon
Green News From the Arab Blogosphere

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