Lebanon's abundant cedar forests make it a unique country in the Middle East. These trees are the symbol of resilience, immortality, and elevation. The cedars witnessed the ancient civilizations that settled in Lebanon. According to The New York Times, climate change could finish them off by the end of the century.
The natural habitat of cedar trees is characterized by cool and moist winters. Their ideal altitude is between 1,400 and 1,800 meters. As the temperature rises, their comfort zone is moving to higher altitudes. Until when will the cedar trees chase cold winters? There isn’t much farther up to go.
If the climate warms at the rates expected, scholars say that the cedar trees in only three areas in Mount Lebanon may survive by the year 2100.
The warm and dry climate killed 7% of the trees in the densest cedar trees forest; the Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve. Lebanon consists of only 17% of cedar forests. That's an alarming rate because the Phoenicians exported cedar woods which were considered luxurious. In fact, King Salomon used cedar wood for his temple.
The Cedars of God, which is the most famous cedar patch, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although the forest is rigorously protected, it is vulnerable to global warming since its ability to expand is limited.
The climate is changing, and the cedar trees cannot adapt to warm temperatures and dry atmospheres. It typically rains and snows 105 days a year. The past winter, Lebanon witnessed only 40 days of rain and one month of snow.
The temperature is changing the ecosystem, and it is unclear how Lebanon's nature will adapt to this extreme and unprecedented climate.
The cedars can survive in a challenging environment. After all, that's how it survived for five millenniums. It's majestic, powerful, and resilient just like Lebanon that survived many wars and conflicts. That's why the Lebanese people placed the cedar tree at the center of Lebanon's flag.