A Collaborative Approach to Addressing Seed Challenges in Lebanon

Karma Bouazza, Nursery Component Manager,Cooperative of Native Tree Producers of Lebanon

For the past few decades, Lebanon has been facing an ongoing, and rapid, decrease in its natural spaces, with only 13% of forest cover remaining. Several factors contribute to this rapid loss, including urbanization, grazing, climate change and unmanaged natural resources. One of the major challenges facing effective landscape restoration is the proper use of native genetic resources successfully and sustainably. The Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI), a program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented by the United States Forest Service (USFS), has been assisting these efforts since 2011. LRI promotes a participatory approach to reforestation, bringing together diverse committed municipalities, local stakeholders, Lebanese civil society organizations, and other entities, such as the private sector, to restore and replant degraded community lands.

Many Lebanese initiatives focus on managing native genetic resources and improving propagation and field protocols to sustain restoration efforts. Through implemented research and collaborative partnerships on the national level and between the public and private sectors, a data platform under development will integrate all related work, making the resources available for involved stakeholders/public.

Lebanon faces some limitations, in large part due to a previously non-existing central/national management of native seed sources and seed collection and lack of developed practices. Thus, LRI supports dissemination of practices on the national level, with priority the use of native genetic material for native seedling propagation and landscape restoration.

To address seed challenges in landscape restoration, LRI has taken a more scientific approach, based on collaborative partnerships, to help in establishing a baseline for a more sustainable native genetic resource management.

Establishment of the Cooperative of Native Tree Producers of Lebanon (CNTPL)

Officially recognized as a cooperative in September 2013, a group of 19 nursery managers representing 9 leading native tree nurseries throughout Lebanon started working together to produce high-quality native tree seedlings and unify seedling production for reforestation following protocols based on international standards. Among other nursery practices, the nursery growers have focused on native seed management and improving all seed related practices, to ensure sustainability in seed availability and improved seed quality as landscape restoration efforts increase on the national level. Because of the above-mentioned efforts, the CNTPL implements the following approaches:

  • Identification of seed zones with similar ecological conditions as the outplanting sites

  • Development of seed cleaning and seed treatment protocols, defined per species or groups of species

  • Improvement and dissemination of basic seed knowledge to concerned stakeholders

Figure 1 – Distribution of CNTPL Native Nurseries throughout Lebanon

Figure 1 – Distribution of CNTPL Native Nurseries throughout Lebanon

Collaborations with National and Local Academic Institutions

Since 2013, LRI has been collaborating with academic institutions to develop seed management protocols, from seed zoning to seed treatment. The following studies are implemented or ongoing:

  • “Establishment of a national network of forest stands for sustainable native seed production in Lebanon”. The Spanish Center for Applied Research in Agroforestry Development (IDAF) collaborated with LRI to develop a scheme allowing the identification of forest reproductive material according to their origin, their basic materials (seed sources and selected stands) and region of provenance and emphasizes that these materials must be used following the ecological similarity between the place of origin and implementation

  • “Propagating Juniperus excelsa using sexual and asexual methods”. LRI has collaborated with the Lebanese University to be able to identify the best propagation method for Juniperus excelsa, the main tree species of forest stands in the upper elevations of the Lebanese mountains, based on Turkish protocols from the Forestry Department, in the Egirdir region

  • “Effect of seed zoning and seed treatments on seed dormancy and germination of Juniperus excelsa, Juniperus oxycedrus, Juniperus foetodissima and Juniperus drupacea seeds. LRI is currently collaborating with the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) to compare the effects of several stratification and scarification treatments within the same Juniperus species and among Juniperus species

  • “Effect of stratification treatments and sowing time on Juniperus oxycedrus, Prunus amygdalus and Rhus coriaria on seed dormancy and germination rates”. LRI is also currently collaborating with the Nature Conservation Center - American University of Beirut and broadening its research on seed handling and treatment to several species

Figure 2 – Seed separation of Juniperus excelsa

Figure 2 – Seed separation of Juniperus excelsa

Online Mapping Resources

LRI is promoting the use of specialized mapping tools in restoration activities, with the development of a web platform, aiming at rendering data available to the concerned public. The platform would be a reliable decision making tool that would improving native seed management through:

  • Better identification and clear description of the regions of provenance

  • Better identification and mapping of seed sources and seed stands of main native species for restoration

  • Providing accurate spatial information enabling for outlining seed zones and stands

  • Better development of management guidelines for seed stands

  • Better sharing and documentation of information among concerned stakeholders

Figure 3 - Regions of provenances in Lebanon

Figure 3 - Regions of provenances in Lebanon

Collaborations between Public and Private Sectors and International Organizations

LRI is building on its successful experience in collaborating with a wide range of stakeholders from public and private sectors to international organizations, facilitating the creation of a national network to ensure seed availability and proper implementation of restoration projects on a national level. LRI has already collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture, FAO and CNTPL to provide native seedling production trainings and raise issues related to proper seed management.

Within the scope of these projects, LRI is (1) supporting a participatory approach to improve restoration management, (2) creating linkages between different stakeholders to join efforts in improving native seed management at a national level, (3) raising the public’s awareness of the importance of using native genetic material and (4) empowering various local groups, such as municipalities, local communities and others by involving them in seed management and sustainable restoration.

Following the successes seen in Lebanon related to native seed management and seedling production, the U.S. Forest Service International Programs aims to expand further the sharing of best practices throughout the region to promote sustainable landscape restoration approaches. The USFS IP has successfully developed and implemented the Sustainable Economic and Environmental Development project in Jordan, funded by USAID and focusing on improvement of genetic resource management for native seedling propagation. The long-term vision is to develop an environmental regional integration where neighboring countries could collaborate on several environmental issues and implement regional programs that will serve individual countries and all concerned communities.