Cedar Forest

Once covering much of the Lebanese high mountains from 1200m to 1900m the Cedar forests are now reduced to just 12 stands from North Lebanon to Maasser el Shouf. Most iconic of all Lebanese trees, they have been used as a source of timber for thousands of years. Nevertheless they are superb survivors, managing to grow where no other tree can survive. In fact, their survival strategy is to cope with the most extreme conditions where there are few competing trees for the resources of water and sunlight. With the exception of Horsh Ehden, this means most Cedar forest is composed of only cedars. Most of the biological material is locked up in wood and resinous needles, which in turn means there is little plant material to eat for herbivores. This, together with the harsh environment make Cedar forests quiet places with little in the way of bird and animal life.

Three Cedar forests, Horsh Ehden (left), Tannourine (middle), and the Cedars above Becharre (right)

Although reduced in numbers of animal species, there are some specialists that make their living amongst the high altitude trees. Birds that can be found include; The Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros), Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) right in the hand (see Birds), Coal Tit (Parus ater) and Great Tit (Parus major)

Although the number of resident birds is few, these magnificent forests are the setting for some of the most spectacular migrating species such as the Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) shown left –thousands can pass over these ancient trees in a day. (See Birds & Migration)

Cedar forests, and the associated rocky ledges are the home of high altitude mammal specialists too. If you are lucky you might see the Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis), right. You will find it hard to believe, its closest living relative is the Elephant!