Nature reserves consist of an area of land or sea which bears an important ecological aspect and a beautiful landscape. They represent a cultural tourist and charming natural wealth devoted to protect and preserve the natural resources, especially the biological diversity. Nature reserves also represent the various ecological systems in Lebanon and constitute the main foundations of rural development policy. Besides, they are among the most important preventive means against industrial transformations, environmental deterioration, demographic growth, building expansion and the risk of wasting an important part of the country’s natural heritage together with its national wealth. That means nature reserves are considered as live witness to our national heritage, and therefore should be safeguarded for the sake of public interest and the next generations.
Lebanon includes thirteen nature reserves which constitute 3% the country’s total area. They represent a very rich biological diversity that covers around 370 species of residing and migrating birds, and over 2000 species of plants are typically Lebanese and some of them are sorted as medicinal, fragrant and nutritious. These are also around 35 species of mammals including wolves, hyenas, wildcats, porcupines and squirrels.
These nature reserves are founded and monitored under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment.
These nature reserves of Lebanon contain most of the remaining cedar forests in the country of the cedar.
The cedar forests in and out of the Lebanese nature reserves have an area of 2000 hectares distributed over nearly 12 forests and groupings among which “ Al Kamouah ” (nature protect site ), “ Ehden ” (nature reserve ), “ Bcharreh ” (nature reserve ), “ Tannourine ” (nature reserve), “ Hadath El Jebbeh” “ Jaj ”(nature reserve ), “ Ain Zhalta, Bmuhray, Barouk, Maaser El Chouf ”(nature reserve ). Plans are currently underway to join the other reserves to the national network of nature reserves in Lebanon.
The thirteen nature reserves from North to South Lebanon are:
1-Ehden Forest Nature Reserve (Horsh Ehden)
2-The Palm Islands Park and Natural reserve
3-Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature reserve
4-Mshaa Chnanir Nature Reserve
5-Bentael Nature Reserve-Jbeil
6-Yammouneh Nature reserve
7-Al- Shouf Cedar Reserve
8-Tyre Coast Nature Reserve
9-Wadi Hujeir Reserve
10-Nature reserves of “ Ramia, Kafra, Beit Leef and Debel ”, established in 2011.
In addition to nature reserves, there are 28 protected forests and 17 natural sites in Lebanon.
According to international classifications, there are 3 biosphere reserves in Lebanon which were sorted by the UNESCO during its initiative “Man and the Biosphere”. The first biosphere reserve is Al- Shouf Cedar Reserve, nominated in the year 2005, it includes the Cedars of the “ Chouf ” and the swamp of “ Ammiq ”. Later in 2007, the mountain of “Al Rihan” site was also classified as a biosphere reserve, and finally the site of “Jabal Moussa” (Moses Mount) was nominated in 2008. Moreover, there are 4 sites in Lebanon of Ramsar classification for wet lands, that bear an international importance as a refuge for aquatic birds : “ Ras Chaqaa ”, “ Ammiq ” swamp, the two nature reserves of “ Palm Islands” and “Tyre ” which also bear a Mediterranean importance, in addition to 15 important sites for birds, and 5 others that are classified in the World Heritage List, among which the “ Qadisha Valley ” that is listed as a world cultural landscape.
The protected areas, especially the nature reserves play an important role in the safeguard of natural resources, namely bio–diversity. They are also considered as a prominent factor in the local and rural development. Actually, they attract a great number of visitors who carry out eco – tourist activities, thus contributing in raising the income of local societies who live in the vital surroundings of nature reserves.
The local committees of nature reserves and their working teams undertake the management of eco–tourism activities, in coordination and cooperation with a group of partners on the national level, especially the eco-tour operators and eco–tourism firms among others. On the local level, coordination is maintained by the owners of guest houses who offer accommodation and meals to the tourists, in addition to local guides who accompany the visitors and provide them with valuable information, besides ensuring their safety.
Safety Rules and Forbidden Activities
Stay in the officially specified pathways, any violation in this matter could be dangerous and cause serious environmental damage.
Visitors are required to abide by the following rules: Take only memory and leave only your footprints
Forbidden activities inside the nature reserve:
-Smoking, setting fire for any reason
-Taking any kind of animals or plants, especially cedar cones
-Bringing pets (domestic animals)
What should the visitor bring?
Visitors should put on lasting shoes that are suitable for climbing or walking, and comfortable clothes, beside a woolen jacket, a rucksack, a hat, along with a bottle of water. They can also bring a camera, a field guidebook, a binocular and a walking stick.