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Sacred cedars of Lebanon facing threat of climate change, scientists warn

Dec 08, 2023

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Lebanon’s internationally renowned cedars are in danger of being lost by the next century, according to some ecologists. Known for their beauty and sacredness to many in the Christian faith, these evergreens are mentioned 103 times in the Bible.

Amongst the cedars in the northern part of the country, Lebanese Christians gather each year at a small chapel built in the 19th century to celebrate the place where some believe that the miracle of Jesus Christ’s transfiguration happened.

However, researchers say these iconic trees, which have survived wars, droughts and deforestation through centuries, now face the threat of climate change.

The New York Times reported cedar seeds are falling earlier than normal in mountainous regions because of shorter periods of snow coverage and higher-than-average temperatures, jeopardizing their growth, as one frost could stop their germination.

Additionally, warmer temperatures mean pests like aphids can now survive in higher terrain, harvesting on the trees bark, damaging or stunting the growth of the cedar. Scientists say if these trends continue, many of these evergreens, some that have survived more than a thousand years, could be lost in the next 30 to 40 years.

Heritage sites for many Christians would be forever changed and the sacred trees would be gone. It would be a monumental loss for a nation that reveres these cedars, even featuring one on its flag. Losing them could impact tourism as well, as people of all backgrounds and faiths visit the sites to view these ancient trees.

Priests and scientists have asked government officials for more funding for research, but Lebanon has been in an economic crisis for years and does not have enough money to research the impact of warmer temperatures on the trees, and enhance conservation efforts.

Previous efforts to replant cedars fell by the wayside as war diverted the attention of the government away from these projects. Meanwhile, many ecologists and conservationists have sought work in other countries due to funding drying up.

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[Jack Alymer]
LEBANON’S INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED CEDARS ARE IN DANGER OF BEING LOST BY THE NEXT CENTURY, ACCORDING TO SOME ECOLOGISTS.

KNOWN FOR THEIR BEAUTY AND SACREDNESS TO MANY IN THE CHRISTIAN FAITH, THESE EVERGREENS ARE MENTIONED MORE THAN 100 TIMES IN THE BIBLE.

AMONGST THE CEDARS IN THE NORTHERN PART OF THE COUNTRY, LEBANESE CHRISTIANS GATHER EACH YEAR AT A SMALL CHAPEL BUILT IN THE 19TH CENTURY TO CELEBRATE THE PLACE WHERE SOME BELIEVE THAT THE MIRACLE OF JESUS CHRIST’S TRANSFIGURATION HAPPENED.
BUT RESEARCHERS SAY THESE ICONIC TREES THAT HAVE SURVIVED WARS, DROUGHTS AND DEFORESTATION THROUGH CENTURIES, NOW FACE A NEW THREAT, CLIMATE CHANGE.

THE NEW YORK TIMES REPORTED CEDAR SEEDS ARE FALLING EARLIER THAN NORMAL IN MOUNTAINOUS REGIONS BECAUSE OF SHORTER PERIODS OF SNOW COVERAGE AND HIGHER THAN AVERAGE TEMPERATURES, JEOPARDIZING THEIR GROWTH, AS ONE FROST COULD STOP THEIR GERMINATION, AS THEY LAY VULNERABLE ON THE GROUND.

ON TOP OF THAT, WARMER TEMPERATURES MEAN PESTS LIKE APHIDS CAN NOW SURVIVE IN THESE AREAS, HARVESTING ON THE TREES BARK, DAMAGING THE CEDAR.

SCIENTISTS SAY IF THESE TRENDS CONTINUE, MANY OF THESE EVERGREENS, SOME THAT HAVE SURVIVED MORE THAN A THOUSAND YEARS, COULD BE LOST IN THE NEXT 30 TO 40 YEARS.

HERITAGE SITES FOR MANY CHRISTIANS WOULD BE FOREVER CHANGED, AND THE TREES THAT THEY FIND SO SACRED WOULD BE GONE.

IT WOULD BE SIGNIFICANT FOR A NATION THAT REVERES THESE CEDARS, EVEN FEATURING ONE ON ITS FLAG.

LOSING THEM COULD IMPACT TOURISM, AS PEOPLE OF ALL BACKGROUNDS VISIT THE SITES TO VIEW THESE TREES.

PRIESTS AND SCIENTISTS HAVE ASKED GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS FOR MORE FUNDING FOR RESEARCH, BUT LEBANON HAS BEEN IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS FOR YEARS AND SIMPLY DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO RESEARCH THE IMPACT OF WARMER TEMPERATURES ON THE TREES AND ENHANCE CONSERVATION EFFORTS… AND PREVIOUS EFFORTS TO REPLANT TREES FELL BY THE WAYSIDE AS WAR DIVERTED THE ATTENTION OF THE GOVERNMENT AWAY FROM THESE PROJECTS.