Under the broad heading “wetlands” there are several different types of habitat, from small mountain ponds to the largest of all; Lake Qaraoun in the Bekaa. In between these two extremes are lakes, pools, temporary flooded areas, rivers and the extensive marshes of Aammiq and Kafr – Zabad / Anjar.
Some of the wetland habitats in Lebanon, from top left to bottom right: Jezzine waterfall, Damour river, the outflow from the largely vanished Yammouneh wetland, Lake Qaraoun – the largest freshwater habitat of all, Tanayel pool and the temporary wetland of Aiha that only appears every few years.
Wetlands in Lebanon are the most biodiversity rich habitats of all – they have both plenty of sun and water, and so have plant production levels to rival tropical rain forests. Plants sustain all animal life, so these habitats are also home to more animals than any other habitats in Lebanon. To see Lebanese wetlands at their best you need to visit the wetlands of the Bekaa plain; Aammiq (left) and Kafr Zabad / Anjar.
The Bekaa wetlands are best known for their birds – partly as they lie on the Bekaa bird migration route (see Migration), but also because they have rich populations of breeding birds.
A trip to the Bekaa wetlands, or lake Qaraoun, will certainly yield ducks such as this Garganey (Anas querquedula) top left but not all the birds on the surface are ducks! Top right- the flock are coots (Fulica atra). If you are lucky and quiet you may see a reed bed specialist, such as this Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) bottom left, in the hand as it has just been ringed, (see Birds) or a real rarity such as this Pygmy Cormorant.
It is not just water birds that can be seen at wetlands, as their undisturbed habitat and great feeding opportunities provide refuge for more species than are found any where else in country. See Birds and particularly Birds of Prey and Herons.
There are many birds because there is a lot of food, and this food includes insects and other invertebrates. Most prominent are the dragonflies and butterflies. But there are also many species under the water. From left to right below: Leaches (Hirudinea), Water Boatman (Corixa sp), Pond Snail (Bithynia sp) and even Freshwater Crabs (Potamon potamios).
If you go to the wetlands in the early spring, it is not just the birds that impress you – the noise coming from the recently flooded pools (after the winter rains) is due to the amorous amphibians. Male frogs and toads are competing to attract mates. (See Amphibians.) From left to right below: Marsh frog (Rana ridibunda) Tree Frog (Hyla savignyi) and Green Toad (Bufo viridis).
With all these birds, amphibians, insects not to mention the plants there is a lot of food for larger animals and these include some large snakes and mammals. Amongst the snakes the largest is the Whip Snake (Coluber jugularis) top left, but most common is the water loving Natrix tesselata bottom left.
Large mammals are very rare in Lebanon, as they have been persecuted for so many years – never the less a few remain and food rich wetlands provide a haven for them. Species frequenting wetlands include, illustrated from top left to bottom right:
Wild Boar (Sus scrofa lybicus), Jackal (Canis aureus syriacus), Otter (Lutra lutra seistanica), Swamp Cat (Felis Chaus), Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena), (See Mammals).