Reforestation

 

Content:

  1. Reforestation and restoration

  2. AFDC’s Nurseries

  3. Species produced

  4. Reforestation guidelines

       4.1 Production techniques

       4.2 Outplanting

  5. Reforestation procedure

  6. Offered services

 

1. AFDC’s outlook on reforestation and restoration

Lebanon and the Near East region lost vast expanses of forest and scrublands through the millennia, therefore reforestation and afforestation become vital.  AFDC works in close collaboration with the various local community groups to restore and rehabilitate forest degraded lands using native species and taking into consideration the biodiversity of intervention areas.

Looking back at its rich reforestation experience, as well as that of other major stakeholders in the country, AFDC went on to upgrade its reforestation skills and knowhow in collaboration with various international and local experts in the field. Additionally, as of 2009, the organization began a transition from mere reforestation towards the more holistic restoration approach. Restoring landscapes, especially forest landscapes, is a holistic approach that aims to restore all the ecological services the forests used to provide and not limited to a small number of priorities such as pine nut production.

A key element in forest landscape restoration is the understanding of the complexity of forest species make-up. Trees alone do not make a forest. A forest is composed of a large number of annual plants, perennial shrubs, and dominant trees species along with secondary tree species and all the fauna that calls these species as home. A healthy and diverse forest is more resilient to challenges and can adapt better to foreseen future changes such as climate change. Mediterranean forests are blessed with an impressive diversity, which unfortunately has not been always respected in reforestation campaigns. Therefore the production of forest seedlings that mirror at least part of the diversity present in our forests is essential. In addition to the production of major forest tree species, it is important to produce aromatic and medicinal plants which have besides their ecological value further economic benefits.

Plants such as thyme, sage, laurel, myrtle, lavender, rosemary among many others have been long valued for their multiple uses as landscape plants, as condiments in traditional Mediterranean food and as source of chemical compounds used in medicine and should be integrated in reforestation campaigns.

AFDC favors forest landscape restoration of degraded forest lands as it meets several priorities, out of which:

  • Prioritize soil conservation and water regulation: loss of fertile soil remains the main reason for land degradation.
  • Use native species: non-native species often lack natural control mechanisms like pests or competition, and can become invasive thereby threatening local biodiversity.
  • Conserve and support biodiversity: restoration must safeguard the biological diversity of species at all scales.
  • Promote diversity and heterogeneity at landscape scale: varied patches of vegetation at landscape level reduce vulnerability to perturbations and increase resilience.
  • Design reforestation activities according to forest-fire prevention principles: although restoration techniques very often imitate the succession stages of the vegetation, intermediate stages with highly flammable components must be avoided.
  •  Promote forest multi-functionality and productivity: strike a balance between traditional goods and services, such as timber products, and new values demanded by society, including recreation and carbon sequestration.

 

2. AFDC’s Nurseries

AFDC owns and operates six large and small nurseries across Lebanon. 

The large nurseries include:

 

  • Ramlieh (Mount Lebanon): The oldest of AFDC’s nurseries established in 1995. All of the required skills and knowledge needed to produce forest seedlings were gained at this nursery. Throughout the years, several workshops and seminars were conducted there making it a meeting point and a learning center for local and international forestry experts. The annual production capacity of this nursery hovers above 100,000 seedlings.
  • Ammatour (Mount Lebanon): Established in 2009, this nursery is equipped with a large greenhouse and a modern irrigation system. This large nursery can easily accommodate an annual production of over 300,000 seedlings.
  • Andket (North Lebanon): Established in 2010, this nursery is among the very few forest nurseries in North Lebanon. It is able to produce around 100,000 seedlings per year.
  • Jdeidet Chouf (Mount Lebanon): Established in 2011, it is the largest operational forest tree nursery in Lebanon with a yearly production capacity well over 1 million seedlings. It has several sections and terraces in addition to a large greenhouse, a storage shed and a modern irrigation system.

 

As for the smaller nurseries:

  • Mimes (South Lebanon): Established in 2007, this nursery can produce not more than 50,000 seedlings per year.
  • Ras el Maten (Mount Lebanon): Established in 2010, the nursery can produce around 25,000 seedlings per year.

 

3. Species produced

  To reflect its outlook on reforestation and forest landscape restoration, AFDC acquired knowledge in the production of many native trees, shrubs and aromatic plants that are typical of Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean.

  AFDC has acquired knowledge in seed collection timing which differs according to species and post collection handling and storage.  All the necessary techniques needed to break seed dormancy (stratification, scarification...) are conducted with success even on difficult species such as Juniperus excelsa. Seeds are then grown in proper media and irrigated and fertilized carefully till they are ready to be hardened and planted on site.

 

Full Species List:

Kermess oak

Cyprus oak

Look’s oak

Cedar oak

Turkey oak

Cilician fir

Cedar oak

Cypress

Grecian juniper

Stone pine

Oriental alder

Oriental plane

White poplar

White willow

Taurus maple

Syrian maple

European nettle-tree

Oriental strawberry-tree

Azarole

Whitehorn

Laurel

Common myrtle

Oleander

Palestine pistachio

Bear plum

Short-fruit rhododendron

Tanner’s sumach

Dog rose

Carob

Cilician bladder-senna

Spanish broom

Syrian marjoram

Common rosemary

Lebanon shrubby sage

Spiked thymbra

 

 

4. Reforestation guidelines

AFDC along with other local stakeholders worked on harmonizing the guidelines for reforestation applicable throughout the country. These conditions and recommendations outlined in the guidelines will direct all reforestation efforts across the country, including that of AFDC. These guidelines tackle the following:

          4.1 Production techniques

  • Containers:  The use of nylon bags, favored for a long time among forest nurseries is no longer accepted. Plastic or Styrofoam containers that air-prune the plants’ roots to encourage healthy and vigorous root growth should be used.  The containers can be a single block with many holes or can be separate, either way, they should be raised from the ground and allow air to circulate freely underneath them for efficient air pruning.  Different sizes of cells are used to different species.
  • Growth media: should be 100% composed of organic compounds containing a mixture of sphagnum peat and coco peat. It should be free from animal manure and have a mild pH of around 5.5
  • Seedlings: should be free of apparent diseases and of a healthy green color. The stem length should be proportional to that of the roots. The seedlings should be supplied with all the macro and micro nutrients plants need, but fertilization should be stopped in August to harden the plants.
  • Hardening: is achieved by reducing fertilization and stopping it altogether and gradually reducing irrigation frequency and seedlings are exposed to direct sunlight. The process prepares seedlings to face the harsh conditions outside the nursery. When hardened, the stem is no longer green but becomes of a woody nature.
  • Roots: should be disease free, numerous, filling the container cells, especially the lower parts.

 

        4.2 Outplanting (planting on site)

  • Seedling transportation: Seedlings can be transported in two ways:
  • Direct transportation in the container they are growing in
  • Seedlings are removed from the containers, placed in nylon bags and packed in strong cardboard boxes. It is preferred to cool the boxes in refrigerators at 0 °C and to transport them on site in covered vehicles to avoid exposure to direct sunlight.

In any case, the seedlings should arrive to the site within two days maximum if they are    refrigerated and within a week maximum if they are in the containers. The seedlings should be put in a cool place away from direct sunlight until they are ready to be planted.

  • Planting the seedlings:
  • Planting season should occur after the start of the rain season with at least 50 mm of precipitation accumulated.
  • It is best to moisten the seedlings by immersing the roots in clean water
  • The prepared holes consisting of soft soil below the surface level should be at least 35 cm in depth. In case gravel and stones are found while digging, they are used to build small walls around the hole.
  • Put the seedlings in the holes ensuring that the roots are in an upright position
  • The soil around the roots are pressed to hold the seedling in place
  • Cover the stem with soil until the point where the branching starts while avoiding to cover the branches
  • It is best to plant 500 plants per hectare
  • Mulch the soil with stones, plastic, or plant material to prevent the growth of weeds and loss of soil humidity
    • In drier regions with less than 300 mm of rain per year, it would be more appropriate to dig certain types of holes in which a mix of gravel and nylon sheets are positioned in such a way to collect more rain water and divert it to the seedling. Of course, in drier regions, the appropriate choice of species is equally vital.
  • Maintenance:

       Weeding should be done on at least one meter in diameter from the seedling starting from the first week of April. Additionally, the seedlings should be irrigated after the rain stops for a few times during the first growth season and the second if deemed necessary.

 

5. Reforestation procedure

AFDC reforests in both private and public lands provided there is enough interest from the local communities. For that aim, AFDC engages with the local community, usually represented by the municipality, in the area to be reforested and seeks a verbal but more often a written commitment that details the duties of each party. Whereas AFDC takes care of the planted site for the first couple of years, it is the duty of the local community to look after the site on the long term and prevent any trespassing or grazing that put the success of the plantation at risk. 

After being approached by an interested party such as a municipality, AFDC examines the site to be planted, studies its physical characteristics and determines the suitable mix of species that can be planted in that specific region. The technical details of the actual reforestation procedure were previously detailed.

When restoring and reforesting for holistic ecological purposes a survival rate of 70% and up is accepted, especially in the Mediterranean region with its long and pronounced drought periods. If higher mortality rates occur, AFDC replaces the dead seedlings and replants new ones.

 

6. Offered services

Based on its long expertise and its outlook to reforestation, AFDC can offer the following:

  • Produce seedlings through its 6 tree nurseries that produce annually over 1.5 million trees of different species.
  • Conduct field assessment for degraded lands and develop and design restoration projects accordingly.
  • Implement reforestation projects and activities including preparation of sites for plantation, provision of seedlings, plantation and maintenance for several years after plantation. Reforestation is implemented in both public and private land.
  • Conduct related research and studies concerning reforestation, propagation of native species, etc. For example, in 2011, AFDC in collaboration with the University of Cordoba and supported by IUCN produced Lebanon’s first book on native forest trees production in nurseries.
  • Provide training on different topics related to reforestation from seed collection, to production techniques to outplanting.