Lebanon’s Cedar Trees Threatened by Climate Change
The Lebanese emblem is at risk as global warming causes shorter winters and more outbreaks of damaging insects.
King Solomon used them in the construction of the temple that would bear his name, the Phoenicians used them to build their merchant ships and the ancient Egyptians used their resin in the mummification process. But now Lebanon‘s cedar trees (Cedrus libani), described in the Scriptures as “the glory of Lebanon” and by the 19th-century French Romantic poet, Alphonse de Lamartine, as “the most famous natural monuments in the world”, face a new threat in the form of climate change.
Emblazoned on the national flag, currency and the country’s national airline, the cedar is the one great unifying emblem of this small Mediterranean nation. Centuries of deforestation have already seen the tree’s 500,000 hectares decimated to its current 2,000 hectares, and has been added to the IUCN’s red list of threatened species, albeit at the lowest level of threat.
The cedars, some up to 3,000 years old and almost all of which are now protected, need a minimum amount of snow and rain for natural regeneration. But global warming has meant Lebanon’s cedars being subjected to shorter winters and less snow, and the Lebanese government estimates that snow cover could be cut by 40% by 2040.
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