Scientific Research in the Nature Reserve

The Rihane that is an important water-catchment’s area protects excellent representation of the Litani, Zahrani, Mechraa, Tasseh rivers; several streams particularly in Sujud and Mlikh; and many springs, mainly in Rihane village, Aichyeh, Mlikh and Aramta; riparian habitats, undisturbed glacial valleys, barren and semi-barren lands, landraces areas, rangelands, huge caves of stalagmites and stalactites, historic agricultural terraces; historic areas with tombs and sarcophagi; old winepress with stone hods; old (more than 500 years) mixed forests with oak (Quercus spp.) as dominant species; pine groves, olive groves, maquis, garrigues, and undisturbed wildlife habitats for hyraxes, birds and reptiles.

In the early December 2001, the Reverend Father Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd has called me on telephone from London to propose the idea of declaring the Jabal Rihane a protected area. Since he is from Mlikh village where he was born and spent his childhood, Dr. Abouzayd showed a constant tendency to protect its environment on the basis of a scientific biodiversity background and cooperation with its inhabitants as well as the local communities of its surroundings. Accordingly, he asked me if I have the willingness to conduct preliminary field studies in Jarjou’a, Loueizeh, Mlikh, Kfarhouneh, Aramta and Rihane villages similarly to what I have previously done, in cooperation with a team of scientists, in five protected areas.

The Jabal Al Rihane represents the thermo (270-500 m. altitude), meso (500-1000 m. altitude) and supra (1000-1500 m. altitude) Mediterranean levels described in Corine classification. Thus its conservation practices can be beneficial to other similar areas in the country and the Mediterranean region and can complement the conservation efforts made at Al_Shouf Biosphere Reserve which lies between 1000 and 2000 m to the north of Rihane, encompassing as such the Supra (1000-1500 m), Montane (1500-1900 m) and the Oro (above 1900 m) Mediterranean levels. Consequently, the thermo and meso-Mediterranean levels were not previously represented in a biosphere reserve in Lebanon.

The Jabal Al Rihane Biosphere Reserve lies along the main regional avian migratory flyway and hosts 168 bird species, of which 15 are regionally and/ or globally threatened. As such it is proposed an Important Bird Area to BirdLife International. Its mammals ranging from bats to wolves and hyenas are also regionally and globally threatened. In addition to 44 endemic plant species (about half of the endemic species of Lebanon), the flora of Jabal Al Rihane include southern species of plants that are not easily found in the other parts of Lebanon.

The Rihane differs from other protected areas in Lebanon by its situation at middle altitudes. All the others are either at high altitude with dominance of cedar trees (Tannourine, Ehden, Al-Chouf Cedar reserves) or at very low altitudes such as Palm Islands or Tyre Beach reserves. Also it differs by its nature from the Aammiq wetland. The main characteristics of the Rihane area are:
o Diversified multi-ecosystems.

Each ecosystem is formed from a biotope (mountains, rivers, valleys, etc.) and its fauna and flora that are living in it. Though, the ecosystem contains an acting community of living organisms (biocoenosis) interacting together as well as with their environment. The term “interacting” used here means that these living organisms influence the environment and are impacted by it. The size of the ecosystem varies from small (e.g. pool) to medium (e.g. swamp) or large (e.g. desert, river, sea, whole earth) through a variety of sizes where ecosystems may even overlap or interfere.

As for the studied Rihane area, which is described in this report, it is characterized by several ecosystems. The main four are: 1) mountainous with mainly limestone rocky substratum, 2) mountainous with sandy and argillaceous substratum, 3) natural humid where the living organisms are adapted or accommodated with the humidity of the soil or the atmosphere and 4) dry, sub-desert with its distinguished community. Between these main four ecosystems, there is a whole chain of biotopes where each is characterized by its dominant species. In some, the woods of oak and juniper trees dominate whilst in others, a variety of pine tree species prevail. In each of these biotopes, the dominant trees have their own associated plant species. Therefore, we have added to the present report a new chapter that wasn’t considered in the other five protected areas. It is entitled: “Identification of habitats in the Jabal Rihane reserve”.

The study area covers the territories of the northwestern corner of Marjayoun 1/50000 scaled map that was prepared by Dubertret in 1950. Though, our studies have covered the areas between Naba el Tasseh at 720 m of altitude and the highest woods of Kfarhouneh at 1370 m. This study area lies between 35º30’30’’- 35º36’30’’E and 33º26’-33º30’N. It includes Jarjou’a, Loueizeh, Mlikh, Aramta, Kfarhouneh, Rihane and Aichyeh as well as their surrounding belts of public properties. The location of the sites is based on the most updated map that was produced by the Directorate of geographical affairs of the Lebanese army. The latter is warmly thanked for its cooperation. The mentioned villages are approachable from several pathways:

1. Habbouch-Arabsalim-Jarjou’a-Loueizeh-Mlikh-Aramta, etc.
2. Nabatyeh-Kfarromman-Jarmq-Aichyeh-Rihane-Aramta, etc.
3. Jezzine-Machghara-Kfarhouneh, etc.
4. Beqaa-Machghara-Kfarhouneh, etc.

The mean annual precipitation at Rihane village (850 m altitude) is, as per the available official sources, c.925 mm. The mean annual temperature is 16.4 °C. Others provided by nearby stations such as those found at Marjayoun, Jezzine, Nabatyeh and Habbouch replaced some of the lacking information. It was noticed that the rainfall slightly varies from village to another but it generally increases with altitude or with rain-attracting topography. Hence, it is necessary to study, in the future, with details the topography of the region and its created environments. The snow may cover the land for few days, as it was the case during the last two years. Freeze-days are much less frequent than in similar areas further to the north.

Read the UNESCO report

The World Network is governed by the Statutory Framework adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 1995 which presents the definition, objectives, criteria and the designation procedure for biosphere reserves.