Lebanon is an important area for plant diversity. Scientist estimate that there are close to 400,000 plant species in the world. These plants species are not evenly distributed, but instead are clustered across the globe.
Scientists have identified 35 hotspot regions that 1) contain a high percentage of plantlife, 2) are found nowhere else on the planet (endemic), and 3) where there is a high risk of losing these plants due to disruptive human activities. Lebanon is included in one of these 35 hotspot areas namely the Mediterranean hotspot.
Important plant areas (IPA) are places that hold an important diversity of wild plants and fungi. IPAs have been defined in 27 countries across Europe and the Mediterranean region.
Normally, national experts define IPAs in their respective countries using unified global standards. A given area is defined as an IPA when experts provide sufficient justification and scientific evidence to prove that it contains exceptional botanical richness, threatened species, and/or threatened habitats. IPAs can overlap with any type of land whether it be private or public, protected or unprotected.
Once experts define IPAs in a country, they communicate these areas to the public and decision makers. For example, decision makers may benefit from identified IPAs to assess whether there are gaps in the national protected areas network of the country. With respect to the public, informing residents who live within the geographic boundaries of IPAs may encourage them to lead community-based conservation and sustainable management actions.
Furthermore, IPAs may become target locations for citizen science monitoring and conservation research led by a partnership between universities and citizens. Although the ideal aim is to achieve conservation of important areas for plant diversity, it may not always be possible to formally protect an IPA.
A large number of rare plant species grow in Lebanon with limited geographic distributions. This richness is due to the location of the country which is at the intersection of different continents. In addition, Lebanon's mountainous nature forms isolated areas with unique local climates.
To define IPAs in Lebanon, national experts worked in collaboration with international conservation organizations, namely, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Plantlife, and WWF (World Wild Fund). The IPAs were identified on base of their richness in plant species and also on the presence of endemic and threatened species.
The level of endemism was detailed by mentioning the different countries in which these species occur. Areas with the highest number of species strictly endemic to Lebanon have an important biological value and effort for conservation should focus on these regions. A total of 26 IPAs were defined in Lebanon. Of these, 16 are in the Mount Lebanon range, on west facing slopes and high mountain plateaux. The remaining ten IPAs are found in the Lebanese coast, the Beqaa valley, and the Anti-Lebanon mountain range.
To know more about each IPA in Lebanon, use the interactive map below (link) or download “Important Plant Areas of Lebanon". Available both in English and Arabic.
An interactive map that features IPAs in Lebanon was developed. You can check it by clicking here