Human interference in natural ecosystems over the years caused a magnitude damage, the shocking numbers of threatened and extinct species, the decline of forests area, and many other examples are the best proof of the serious problem that we have nowadays.
The concern of losing our unique ecosystems forever called the awareness of scientists, associations and the nature organizations to make a move to stop this continuous decline, And there was the birth of protected areas idea..
Protected areas have many definitions but I will go with the clear and simple one, which is :
”A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”
On this post of Forest monitor, I will be talking about a unique protected area in the east of the Mediterranean and one of my favorite places in Syria, So let’s take a hike (A virtual hike), discover this wonderful place, and see what the war has affected it and how to bring it back to life again.
Cedar and Fir Reservation
Main purposes of the establishment :
1- To conserve the native and threatened Flora and Fauna species.
2- To train the reserve team and motivate stakeholders to participate and generate income for the surrounding population through a series of village meetings, consultations and meetings with key stakeholders.
Area and Location :
The reserve follows the area of Slunfeh in Lattakia governorate, 50 km from the center of Lattakia. Total area of the reserve is 1350 ha. Vegetation :
Cedar and fir forests and their environment:
Cedar and fir forests are located in the upper area of the northern part of the coastal mountains between 900-1560 meters above sea level on the western and eastern aspects of the Mount Matthew.
1 - Fir forest (Abies cilicica) : Fir stands distribute on the western aspect of the summit of the Mount of the Prophet Matthew, where the trees are concentrated at an altitude ranging from 1250 to 1400 meters above sea level between the door of Paradise and the village of Shuoh and the broadcasting station.
2- Lebanese Cedar Forest ( Cedrus libani ) :
Lebanese cedar stands distribute on the eastern Aspect, and they don´t form pure stands due to over-cutting,and they always found mixed with many other woody species.
About the biodiversity in the reserve and the endangered species:
The following table represents a number of animal and plant species in the reserve and their status:
|Dominant tree species||Associating tree species||Endangered plant species||Animal species||Birds||Endangered Animals||Extinct species|
|Abies cilicica||Ostrya carpinifolia||Abies cilicica||Vulpes vulpes||Turdus merula||Gazella gazella||Ursus arctos syriacus|
|Cedrus libani||Juniperus drupacea||Cedrus libani||Sus scrofa||Erithacus rubecula||Rhinopoma ferumequinum||Panthera pardus|
|Quercus libani||Sorbus torminalis||Cerasus mahaleb||Sciurus anomalus syriacus||Gyps fulvus|
|Quercus brantti||Juniperus oxycedrus||corylus avellana||Myotis myotis||Accipiter brevipes|
|Quercus infectoria||Carpinus orientalis||Juniperus drupacea||Gazella gazella||Lullula arborea|
|Quercus calliprinos||Acer spp||Malus trilobata||Lepus capensis syriacus||Sylvia communis|
|Quercus cerris subsp. pseudocerris||Paeonia corallina||Meles meles||Lanius nubicus|
- Some of my favorite plant species in the reserve :
The current status of the reserve during the crisis years experienced by the country (Syria):
1 - The status of plant and animal species is generally good as a result of protection operations by elements of the Department of Forestry represented by the Protection Division (Slunfa Forest Reserve) through continuous and frequent tours of the forest guards and guards on the reserve and prevent the operations of logging, grazing and coaling .
2 - Some of the buildings of the reserve were looted, robbed and vandalized because of the clashes in this region during the past years.
The future vision for the conservation of biodiversity in the reserve requires the following points (the horizon of evolution) in the eyes of the site manager of the reserve ( Bashar tobo and the team of the reserve):
1. Conduct new studies and surveys, especially after the crisis period for the existing plant and animal species, and evaluate these surveys accurately using local and international experts.
2. Rehabilitation of the protected team to enjoy professional and effective capabilities in achieving maintenance and management objectives. The management team is well known for its effective interaction with the local stakeholders,where it builds partnership with them for environmental conservation and sustainable development.
3 . Supporting the local community surrounding the reserve with appropriate development projects that help them improve their standard of living and help preserve the natural resources and biodiversity , after holding meetings and consultations with the people of the surrounding villages on the east and west coasts, through the use of international and local environmental organizations.
4 .Conducting permanent and recurrent scientific activities in cooperation with universities, scientific research centers and local and local organizations to learn about the reality of the protected in a precise and continuous manner.
5 . Establish places for environmental tourism inside the reserve so as not to cause any harm And the existing animal and plant species to attract tourists, especially after the return of safety of the region, in cooperation and coordination with the Ministries of Environment and Tourism.
6. The practical involvement of the local community in the plans and programs concerned with the management of the protected area and ensuring the benefit of the joint and thus less legal violations. 7. Encourage the cooperation of international organizations such as (FAO-UNDP) in the development and service projects that belong to the Al-Shuh and Al-Arz Protected Area. The security situation has become very good and the threat of terrorist groups from the region has not been completely threatened
Short interview with the site manager: Bashar is an Agriculture engineer and a Master's candidate in forestry science doing his thesis about Eucalyptus coaling,, When i asked him about the challenges that he is facing he said: '' The team is working hard to recover the current status of the reserve but we are suffering from the lack of financial support and hoping to get some back up from the Syrian government in addition to the international environmental associations to reach our goals '' .