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Biodiversity, the world's natural capital (animals, plants, their habitats and genes), and ecosystem services contribute directly to human well-being. They provide us with air, water and food. Biodiversity is also at the centre of many economic activities, including those related to agriculture, forestry, fishery and tourism. Despite the fundamental role biodiversity plays in our lives, it is however constantly being degraded, thus disappearing faster than ever. Its loss – mainly due to human activities – has become the most critical global environment threat together with climate change. Hence, an urgent need to preserve it and ensure it remains central in our efforts is substantial to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Lebanon has a very rich biodiversity and a large variety of habitats and species. It has also developed a national biodiversity strategy, a key instrument to preserve it. Like elsewhere, its biodiversity is however under great pressure. Threats, affecting each of us, include mass and unregulated urbanisation; air, land and water pollution; illegal hunting practices and climate change – which explain that Lebanon is now considered a "hotspot" for biodiversity in the Mediterranean Basin.
One manifestation of these threats is the felling of forests. Like many other countries, deforestation and land degradation have been observed in Lebanon. Equivalent to 136,900 ha (13.3% of Lebanon's total surface), Lebanon's forests have been severely affected by high risks of degradation as a result notably of outdated forestry laws, uncontrolled quarries and landfills and frequent fires. This loss matters as without trees and plants, there would be no oxygen, and without bees to pollinate there would be no fruit or nuts.
This is why the European Union and its Member States, Italy and France in particular, have been committed to supporting forestry actions in Lebanon for a long time. Most of their efforts have been focusing on building capacity towards the management of natural reserves, strengthening the environmental role played by forests, as well as better integrating forests into local economies. This is the case not only because it is the "right" environmental and "ethical" thing to do, but also because it is in everyone's "self-interest" – citizens, environmentalists, farmers, beekeepers, hikers, and of course all the generations to come.
 According to Lebanon's 2016 National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, there are currently 9,119 known species, including both fauna (4,486 species) and flora (4,633 species).
 This Strategy - The 2016 National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan – was developed by the Lebanese Ministry of Environment (MoE) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – with the financial support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and can be found under the following link: https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/lb/lb-nbsap-v2-en.pdf
 2010 Global Forestry Resource Assessment
According to the EU Ambassador Christina Lassen during a visit to the Shouf Biosphere Reserve with European partners, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and French Development Agency (AFD), "in our interdependent global ecosystem, where threats do not respect national borders and are exacerbated by climate change, we must collectively act to halt Lebanon's loss of its biodiversity. Forests matter to each of us. They are important for rural development, for the environment (especially for biodiversity), for forest-based industries, bioenergy and also in the fight against climate change. None of us could imagine a future without forests and trees. This is why we have been working very closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and a wide range of Lebanese stakeholders (Municipalities, Universities and Civil Society organisations) on supporting afforestation activities, as well as the sustainable management of forest goods and services (e.g. eco-tourism). Several EU-funded interventions have also included forest biomass".
The Italian Ambassador, H.E. Massimo Marotti, underscored that the protection of the environment and an environmentally sustainable economic development are at the center of the Italian aid policy in Lebanon. "During the 10 years of collaboration between Italy and the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, the park has been engaged in international networks aimed at biosphere protection, and today it represents a national asset. Italy remains engaged in Lebanon environmental protection, and approved a new 2-year programme for the management of natural resources in Lebanon".
The director of the French Development Agency, Mr. Olivier Ray, highlighted the importance of going beyond reforestation activities in environmental protection through public policies. AFD is currently supporting the 40 million trees programme of Lebanon by implementing 700 hectares of forests with 7 forestry associations, the Shouf Biosphere Reserve being one of them and engaging in adding 100 hectares of forest in this beautiful greenery, by planting 14 000 Cedrus Libani, the dazzling Lebanese Cedar tree, among 80 000 of all the species of this intervention.
Madame Noura Joumblat and the president of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve committee Mr. Charles Noujaim, were honoured to welcome the EU Ambassador, the Italian Ambassador and the EU Member States at a meeting in Maasser El Shouf. During this meeting and after a field visit to one of the restored lands, participants were able to see what was concretely achieved in forest management, socio-economic development and reforestation through EU support. “I am proud to say that our work has created a momentum in the movement towards sustainable protection in the region and in Lebanon as a whole”, Mr. Charles said.
To know more about the support that the EU and its Member States provide for reforestation in Lebanon, click here.