Lebanon, the land of diversity …

The diversity of Lebanon’s complex terrain, varying altitude and diverse microclimates, as well as its geographic location has also resulted in a magnificent diversity of animals and plants. Lebanon is the point where the European and African environment meet. It is one of the few countries in the world that has the biodiversity of both, Europe and Africa. It is the place where the Syrian lion, an animal associated with African environment, and Syrian bear, an animal associated with the European environment, coexisted. Mount Lebanon had a similar biodiversity of Europe with bears, wolves, wild boars, etc.; while Beqaa valley was similar to the swamps and savanna of Africa with lions, leopards, and gazelles. If we calculate the number of species per kilometer squared in Lebanon the results would be astonishing. The report “Biological Diversity of Lebanon”, published by the UN Environmental Program and the Ministry of Environment under the Convention of Biological Diversity, lists more than 9,000 species of plants and animals, with several species being endemic to Lebanon. 15 This is estimated to represent only 20% of existing species, i.e. the number of species in Lebanon should be above 45,000. The United States native animal and plant species number is 21,000; while in Germany the number is 72,000. Considering the size of these two countries, Lebanon definitely stands out. In addition, many wild relatives from which certain crops have been domesticated exist in Lebanon, making it an important gene-pool for food security. Lastly in relation to biodiversity, Lebanon is one of the three main bird migratory routes between Europe and Africa.