Occurs in the mountains adjacent to the northeastern Mediterranean coast in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and western Cypress.
Turkey: the main subpopulation runs from the western Taurus Mountains, east to the province of Hayat with two small remnant subpopulations in the Black Sea region of at elevations of 700–1,400 m (Boydak 1996). It has an estimated actual area of occupancy (AOO) of 993 km² (Khuri et al. (1999).
Syria: there is one reported subpopulation in the north, on the eastern side of Jabal an-Nusayriya. This is at an elevation of between 1,200–1,850 m and has an actual AOO of 1.5 km2 (Khouzami 1994).
Lebanon: it has a wider distribution than in Syria and occurs along the Mount Lebanon chain in more or less two subpopulations; one in the south, which includes the Maaser el Shouf and in the north the important site of Horsh Ehden (Talhouk, 2001). The actual AOO of Cedrus libani in Lebanon is 22 km2 (Talhouk 2001).
Cypress: Restricted to the Tripylos area in Paphos State Forest (AOO is less than 8 km2) in the Troodos Mountains (800 to 1,400 m) in western Cyprus (Tsintides et al. 2007, Eliades 2008).
Lebanon Cedar is native to the eastern Mediterranean region, including Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria (Choukas-Bradley 1987; Bird 1994; Kurt et al. 2008). It is more widely planted as a highly regarded ornamental (Dirr 1998).
The Lebanon Cedar has a thick, massive trunk and very wide-spreading branches, the lower ones sweeping the ground. The dark green, densely packed leaves are borne in horizontal tiers. Young trees are slender pyramids, but become flat-topped as they mature. (Bird 1994; Dirr 1998)
Mature height is about 40 meters (a typical 10-year-old specimen would be around 6 meters tall) (Bird 1994).
After 40 to 70 years, Lebanon Cedar reaches 12 to 18 meters, but it can grow to a maximum size of about 23 to 37 meters in height with a 24 to 30 meter spread (Dirr 1998).
Cedrus libani resembles a number of other Cedrus cedars. Cedrus deodara has pendulous leading shoot and branch tips (i.e., the entire new shoot gently droops), whereas C. libani has upright, stiff leading shoots, occasionally with just the branch tips drooping. Cedrus atlantica has densely pubescent (downy) blue leaves, whereas C. libani has glabrous (smooth) or sparsely pubescent green leaves. (Choukas-Bradley and Alexander 1987; Cope 2001)
Habitat and Ecology
Lebanon Cedar is currently found in the mountains of Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon from 1,400 to 2,200 meters above sea level (Quezel and Medail 2003, cited in Fady et al. 2008).
fruitbody of Ganoderma lucidum is saprobic on dead stump of Cedrus libani
Other: minor host/prey
Life History and Behavior
The largest specimens of Lebanon Cedar are several hundred years old, but the tree grows surprisingly quickly in its early years--around 15 cm each year for around 70 years--then slows down (Bird 1994).
Evolution and Systematics
Fady et al. (2008) studied the genetic variation of Cedrus libani across Turkey and Lebanon. Substantial genetic variation was detected, consistent with the general pattern that eastern Mediterranean conifers tend to harbor higher levels of genetic variation than conifer populations elsewhere (likely due to the fact that their populations during the late glacial maximum (18,000 years ago) were somewhat sheltered in favorable environments and did not suffer strong demographic and genetic bottlenecks). However, this high genetic diversity was not evenly partitioned among C. libani populations. Based on their genetic data, Fady et al. support proposals to recognize two divergent C. libani taxa, one in Lebanon and one in Turkey, which they suggest should be treated as distinct subspecies. The authors suggest that the overall lower genetic diversity found in cedars from Lebanon (as compared with Turkey) is likely the result of overexploitation in the form of logging and/or grazing.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The natural habitat of Cedrus libani in the mountains of Lebanon has been substantially impacted by humans over centuries. Intensive logging for ship building and construction, as well as land-clearing for agriculture, were recorded as early as the 3rd millennium B.C. Vanishing forests were already mentioned during the 1st century B.C. and depletion of these forests has continued. It is now estimated that the current 2,000 hectares of patchy cedar forests found in Lebanon are the remnants of more than 500,000 hectares of post-glacial forest. In Turkey, cedar forests cover almost 110,000 hectares and occur primarily in the Taurus mountains, the steep slopes of which have somewhat sheltered its forests from overexploitation and extirpation. (Fady et al. 2008 and references therein)
In Cypress, the main threats are fire and possibly climate changes. Because of the narrow distribution of this species, one fire has the potential of destroying most, if not the entire population. More recently, research has shown a direct correlation between decreasing annual rainfall and canopy die-back. Debilitated trees have also become prone to insect attack (Christou et al. 2001).
In Cypress all the stands have recently been declared as Natura 2000 Sites while some were designated as National Nature Reserves in 1984 and 2000. All human activities and grazing are excluded from the native stands. There is an effective fire protection system in place and a permanent monitoring plan. Gene banks have also been established in the form of ex situ conservation plantations.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Traditional people in southern Turkey produce a wood extract, called katran, from C. libani, and use it to protect wooden structures against insects and fungi, to fight parasites and bacteria, and to heal wounds and cure various diseases in humans and domestic animals, both internally and externally. Kurt et al. (2008) discuss traditional methods of producing katran, its use by local people, and its chemical composition.
The wood of Lebanon Cedar has been greatly appreciated since ancient times for its durability, density, color, and insecticidal properties (Fady et al. 2008). According to biblical references, wood from this tree was used in the construction of King Solomon's temple (Choukas-Bradley and Alexander 1987).
- Lebanon cedar or Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani subsp. libani or var. libani) - grows in Lebanon, Israel, northwest Jordan, western Syria, and south central Turkey.
- Turkish cedar or Taurus cedar (Cedrus libani subsp. stenocoma or var. stenocoma) - grows in southwest Turkey.
Cedrus libani is an evergreen coniferous tree growing up to 40 m (130 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) in diameter. The crown is conic when young, becoming broadly tabular with age with fairly level branches.
The shoots are dimorphic, with long shoots and short shoots. The leaves are needle-like, spaced out on the long shoots, and in clusters of 15-45 on the short shoots; they are 5–30 mm (1⁄4–1 3⁄16 in) in length, quadrangular in cross-section, and vary from green to glaucous blue-green with stomatal bands on all four sides. The seed cones are produced often every second year, and mature in 12 months from pollination; mature cones in late autumn are 8–12 cm (3–4 3⁄4 in) long and 4–6 cm (1 1⁄2–2 3⁄8 in) wide.
Cedrus libani was first classified by the French botanist Achille Richard. There are two distinct types that are considered either as subspecies or varieties:
- Cedrus libani var. libani (Lebanon Cedar)
- Cedrus libani var. stenocoma (Turkish Cedar)
Some botanists also classify the Cyprus Cedar (Cedrus brevifolia) and Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) as subspecies of C. libani. However, a majority of the modern sources consider them distinct species.
In Syria, Lebanon and Turkey it occurs most abundantly at altitudes of 600-2,000 m (1,968–6,500 ft), where it forms pure forests or mixed forests with Cilician Fir (Abies cilicica), European Black Pine (Pinus nigra), and several juniper (Juniperus) species. In Cyprus, it occurs at 1,000-1,525 m (3,300–5,000 ft) (reaching the summit of Mount Paphos). In the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, it occurs at 1,370–2,200 m (4,500–7,200 ft) in pure forests or mixed with Abies species and Juniperus thurifera.
History, symbolism and uses
The Cedar of Lebanon was important to various ancient civilizations. The trees were used by the Phoenicians for building commercial and military ships, as well as houses, palaces, and temples. The ancient Egyptians used its resin in mummification, and its sawdust has been found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh designates the cedar groves of Lebanon as the dwelling of the gods to which Gilgamesh, the hero, ventured.
Hebrew priests were ordered by Moses to use the bark of the Lebanon Cedar in the cleansing ceremony following the conclusion of a period of leprosy. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah used the Lebanon Cedar as a metaphor for the pride of the world. According to the Talmud, Jews once burned Lebanese cedar wood on the Mount of Olives to celebrate the new year. Foreign rulers from both near and far would order the wood for religious and civil construction projects, the most famous of which are King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem and David's and Solomon's Palaces. Because of its significance the word Cedar is mentioned 75 times (Cedar 51 times, Cedars 24 times) in the Bible, and played a pivotal role in the cementing of the Phoenician-Hebrew relationship.[clarification needed] Beyond that, it was also used by Romans, Greeks, Persians, Assyrians and Babylonians.
Over the centuries, extensive deforestation has occurred, with only small remnants of the original forests surviving. Deforestation has been particularly severe in Lebanon and on Cyprus; on Cyprus, only small trees up to 25 m (82 ft) tall survive, though Pliny the Elder recorded cedars 40 m (130 ft) tall there. Extensive reforestation of cedar is carried out in the Mediterranean region, particularly Turkey, where over 50 million young cedars are being planted annually. The Lebanese populations are also now expanding through a combination of replanting and protection of natural regeneration from browsing by goats, hunting, forest fires, and woodworms.
Historically, there were various attempts at conserving the Lebanon Cedars. The first was made by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who issued a decree protecting parts of the Cedars of Lebanon in AD 118. In the Middle Ages, the Mamluk Caliphs also made an attempt at conserving the Cedars and regulating their use, followed by the Maronite Patriarch Yusuf Hbaych, who placed them under his protection in 1832. In 1876, Queen Victoria financed a wall to protect the Cedars of God (near Bsharri) from the ravages of goat herding.
National and regional significance
The Lebanon Cedar is the national emblem of Lebanon, and is displayed on the Lebanese flag and coat of arms. It is also the logo of Middle East Airlines (MEA), which is Lebanon's national carrier. Beyond that, it is also the main symbol of Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution", along with many Lebanese political parties and movements, such as the Kataeb (Phalange), the Lebanese Forces, the National Liberal Party, and the Future Movement. Finally, Lebanon is sometimes metonymically referred to as the Land of the Cedars.
As a result of long exploitation, few old trees remain in Lebanon, but there is now an active program to conserve and regenerate the forests. The Lebanese approach has emphasized natural regeneration rather than planting, and this by creating the right conditions. The Lebanese state has created several Cedar Reserves or nature reserves that contain cedars, including the Chouf Cedar Reserves, the Jaj Cedar Reserve, the Tannourine Reserve, the Ammouaa and Karm Shbat Reserves in the Akkar district, forest Horsh Ehden near the village of Ehden and the Forest of the Cedars of God near Bsharri. Extensive replanting is taking place in Turkey, where approximately 300 square kilometres (74,000 acres) of cedar are planted annually.
The Lebanon Cedar is widely planted as an ornamental tree in parks and large gardens, often being planted in landscape avenues, and as focal point trees in large landscapes. The most prominent landscaping feature in London's historic Highgate Cemetery is its "Circle of Lebanon", where a Lebanon Cedar stands in the centre of a circular trench cut into the ground and lined with mausoleums. Alarmingly, very mature specimens drop branches - perhaps weighing two or three tons - without warning and not necessarily in bad weather. As a result, you may see one where risk to life is more likely, i.e. overhanging pavements or road junctions with restraining 'harnesses' on branches run back up to the central trunk.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cedrus libani.|
- Lebanon cedar forest in Mesopotamian mythology
- old growth Cedrus libani forest and World Heritage Site
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