General Info

According to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), biological diversity, generally shortened to ‘biodiversity’, is “the variety of life on earth“ and it includes diversity of ecosystems, species and genes and the ecological processes that support them.

Lebanon has a very rich and unique biodiversity mainly due to its geographic location at the far eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, its mountainous topography and the great diversity in its climatic conditions. Lebanon is part of the Mediterranean region that is considered to be a true “hotspot” and ranks third in plant diversity and endemism after the Tropical Andes and Sundaland (Figure 1). 

Figure 2
Figure 1. Lebanon in the Mediterranean Hotspot
Source: www.cepf.net

There are 9,116 known species in Lebanon, fauna (4,486 species) and flora (4,630 species) (BCS-MOA/UNEP/GEF, 1996) distributed over five geomorphological regions:

  1. The Coastal Zone: includes the shoreline and continental shelf, the coastal plains and the foothills of Mount Lebanon up to elevations of 250 meters. It extends over 250 km;
  2. The Mount Lebanon Range: includes middle and high elevation zones above 250 meters. It rises from Akkar in the North and extends south to the hills of Jabal Amel. Mount Lebanon peaks at 3,088 meters at Kornetes- Saouda in the north. It extends over 160 km long and 25-40 km wide;
  3. The Beqaa Plain: a land depression separating the Mount Lebanon and Anti- Lebanon ranges. It comprises an 8-12 km wide fertile corridor and is about 120 km from north to south. The Beqaa Plain is drained by the Aassi River from the north and by the Litani River from the south;
  4. The Anti-Lebanon Range: extends across the Lebanese-Syrian borders and peaks at 2,600 meters (TallatMoussa). The southern sections of the Anti-Lebanon range include Jabal el Cheikh (Mount Hermon), which intercepts rainwater and redistributes water into at least three main watersheds across Lebanon, Syria and Palestine; and
  5. South Lebanon: an elevated plateau that extends a short distance inland from the western shores of South Lebanon to the Mount Hermon foothills in the East. This region is intersected by many seasonal streams flowing from west to east and discharging into the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the most remarkable features about Lebanon is the presence of such biodiversity in a very limited area of land. Lebanon covers 0.007% of the world’s land surface area and hosts about 0.8% of the world’s recorded and catalogued species. Table 1 presents the recoded number of species in Lebanon for each major taxon.

This high diversity over small surfaces is clear in terms of species-area ratio, Lebanon’s vegetation has a very high species-area ratio of 0.25 species/kmcompared to other countries that supposedly have larger green lands and occupy areas that are outstandingly wider than Lebanon (e.g. Brazil’s species-area ratio is 0.0044 per km2 and South Africa’s species-area ratio is 0.0081 per km2). The fauna species-area ratio in Lebanon is considered high a well and reaches 0.028 species/km2 compared to neighbouring countries (e.g. Syria with 0.019 species/km2) (SOER, 2010).

 

Table 1. Species Richness in Lebanon

Taxon

Number of Described Species in Lebanon

Reference for Species Number

Freshwater

610

BCS, 1996

Reptiles

54

Hraouiet al., 2002

Birds

395

Ramadan-Jaradiet al., 2008

Marine Fish

367

BCS, 1996

Mammals

59

Ramadan-Jaradiet al., 2008

Terrestrial Plants

3,790

BCS, 1996

Invertebrates

3,835

BCS, 1996

Amphibians

6

Hraouiet al.,2001