The forest and landscape restoration approach to managing the Shouf Biosphere Reserve

By By Lina Sarkis, Al-Shouf Cedar Society (ACS)

Vision: “A biosphere reserve where protection of human health, wealth and the environment are overarching goals: where boundaries are delineated, land-use regulations enforced, climate change alleviated, ecosystem services maximized, biodiversity conserved and natural resources protected.”

Declared a nature reserve in 1996, less than 10 years later it was gazetted a biosphere reserve with the name Shouf Biosphere Reserve (SBR), in July 2005. With an area of approximately 50,000 hectares—or 5% of the total area of Lebanon—SBR includes, in addition to Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, 22 surrounding villages and Ammiq Wetland, a Ramsar site and one of the last remaining wetlands in the Middle East.

Shouf Biosphere Reserve is under the authority of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment (MOE), which manages it through the Appointed Protected Area Committee (APAC). Among its members are Al-Shouf Cedar Society (ACS), mayors of the larger villages and independent environment experts. It is home to 1,054 identified plant species distributed over 111 families and is also one of the last remaining areas in Lebanon where the large mammals that once roamed the region can still be found. It has 31 reptile species and 250 recorded bird species. All these contributed to its acknowledgement as a Ramsar site and Important Bird Area. Moreover, SBR led the first reintroduction operation in Lebanon of the Nubian Ibex, a grazing mammal (wild goat) listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, whose presence is vital for the restoration of wildlife corridors at high altitudes. 

The locals living in the surrounding villages preserve Lebanese culture, are well connected to the reserve and carry out ecotourism activities. The Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) approach has been adopted by Shouf Biosphere Reserve as a comprehensive ongoing process aimed at recovering the landscape affected by ecological, socioeconomic and cultural modifications. These modifications, combined with extreme weather conditions, are causing irreversible shifts towards undesirable conditions, all affecting human well-being. 

The FLR approach is based on eight principles whereby it focuses on the entire landscape, addresses the root causes of its degradation, engages all concerned actors and supports participatory governance, restores multiple functions for multiple benefits, invests in capacity building and knowledge generation, considers a wide range of implementation with a cost benefit view, maintains and enhances natural ecosystems within the landscape and manages adaptively for long term resilience.

With the aim of sharing know-how, best practices and lessons learned with practitioners and other protected areas in Lebanon and in the region, Shouf Biosphere Reserve published , a compilation of six fruitful years of work in the reserve that guides us through the management of the landscape based on the eight globally-adopted principles.

Photos: © Al-Shouf Cedar Society (ACS)