Nature and Biosphere Reserves
Nature and biosphere reserves are protected areas that provide natural habitats for various wildlife, flora, and fauna, and might contain historically-significant geological or archeological remains. Lebanon’s Environment Ministry is proud to be safeguarding 14 nature reserves and three biosphere reserves. Besides working against industrial encroachment and environmental deterioration, these reserves memorialize what is left of Lebanon’s natural wealth and attract tourists from around the world.
Lebanon’s reserves boast a rich and diverse wealth of flora and fauna, with over 370 species of residing and migratory birds, over 2,000 types of endemic Lebanese plants – some of which serve medicinal and nutritious, others aesthetic and aromatic purposes – and around 57 species of mammals, including wolves, hyenas, wildcats, porcupines, and squirrels.
But perhaps the reserves’ most prized possessions are the ancient cedar forests, which are emblazoned on the national flag. Within and beyond Lebanon’s reserves, the cedars cover an area of 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) and fall into 12 main forests: Al-Qammouah (protected site), Ehden (nature reserve), Bcharreh (nature reserve), Tannourine (nature reserve), Hadath al-Jebbeh, Jaj (nature reserve), Ain Zhalta, Bmuhray, Barouk, and Maaser al-Chouf. Plans are currently underway to include other reserves in the national network of nature reserves in Lebanon.
The nature and biospehre reserves from North to South Lebanon are:
- Ehden Forest Nature Reserve (Horsh Ehden)
- The Palm Islands Park and Nature Reserve (aka Rabbit's Island)
- Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve
- Mshaa Chnanir Nature Reserve
- Bentael Nature Reserve – Jbeil
- Yammouneh Nature Reserve
- The Chouf Biosphere Reserve (including the Chouf Cedars Nature Reserve and Aammiq Wetlands)
- Tyre Coast Nature Reserve
- Wadi Hujeir Reserve
- The nature reserves of Ramia, Kafra, Beit Leef, and Debel
- Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve
- Jabal el-Rihane Biosphere Reserve
- Karm Chbat Nature Reserve
In addition to nature and biosphere reserves, there are 28 protected forests and 17 natural sites in Lebanon.
Moreover, there are four Ramsar classified wetlands in Lebanon that are vital natural sanctuaries for aquatic birds: Ras Chekaa, Ammiq swamp, the two nature reserves of Palm Islands and Tyre, in addition to 15 important bird sites, and five others that fall under the World Heritage List, including Qadisha Valley, which is considered a world cultural landscape.
The protected areas - especially the nature reserves - are crucial for protecting natural resources and maintaining bio-diversity. They also nurture local development as they attract many visitors who carry out eco-tourist activities, which in turn raises the income of towns and villages in the reserves’ vicinities.
Local committees and teams manage ecotourism activities in coordination and cooperation with national partners, operators and firms. At the reserves, guest house owners offer accommodation and meals to tourists and local guides are available to accompany visitors and provide them with valuable information besides ensuring their safety.