FAO forest health project - Lebanon

Bulgaria

Protection of the forests with particular emphasis on the new pest Cephalcia tannourinensis infesting Lebanon cedars

Project code: TCP/LEB/0169 (E)
Project duration: April 2001 - April 2003
Implementing agencies: Ministry of Agriculture, Lebanon

Cedrus libani occurs in Lebanon (approximately 1,700 ha), Syria (20,000 ha), and within a large area in Southern Anatolia in particular, Taurus Mountain in Turkey (150,000 ha) which has the densest cover. Cedars of Lebanon, despite their relatively low density, are of great importance in preserving the genetic diversity of the species, and constitute the southernmost cedar population. They are also the primary source of ornamental cedars widespread globally.

During the late 1990s, one of the largest of the remaining 12 cedar stands in Lebanon, the cedar forest of Tannourine, became severely infested by a new insect species, a sawfly, recently identified as Cephalcia tannourinensis. The situation was very severe, the whole stand was attacked and the possibility of the pest spreading to the surrounding forests, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab) at Bcharreh, was a real threat. The neighbouring countries of Cyprus, Syria and Turkey expressed justifiable concern about transboundary spread of the new insect pest.

Lebanon cedars damaged by Cephalcia tannourinensis (Photos: G. Allard)

The web-spinning sawfly lays eggs on new cedar buds in late April and during the month of May. As the buds open, the eggs hatch and the larvae feed upon the needles; feeding and development of the larvae lasts 6-8 weeks. After the last moult, the larvae cease to eat, drop to the ground from the crowns and penetrate the soil often to the boundary of mineral soil at a depth of 15-35 cm, where they make a hole for hibernation. In 1998 and 1999, the percentage attack recorded in Lebanon was 70% and 80% respectively, as determined by a random sample of branches taken from 60 trees. The severity of attack can also be evaluated by other criteria such as percent bud formation and width and length of the developing needles. Crucial to managing these pests is the prediction of attacks and timing of adult emergence.

In response to the emergency nature of the outbreak, the Rural Development and Natural Resources Directorate (RDNRD) of the Ministry of Agriculture initiated a joint venture with the American University of Beirut and with experts from the Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA-France). This group was responsible for making the preliminary identification of the insect pest, for determining its life cycle and natural enemy complex and for making recommendations for immediate control noting the critical situation and for long-term management using pheromones (insect sex attractants). Spray operations were undertaken with assistance from the Lebanese army.

FAO was requested to provide technical assistance to cover resource and information gaps including detailed investigations into the pest life cycle - essential in terms of long-term pest management strategies. National capacity building through in-country training was requested for personnel in the Ministry of Agriculture in order to provide the expertise to create a forest protection unit within RDNRD.

Objectives

The direct objective of the assistance was the protection and preservation of health and vitality of scarce and precious forest resources, to be achieved through improved pest management practices. Long-term management of the forest will go a long way to preserving the ecosystem of this semi-arid zone as well as preserving a sacred tree species. Foresters will benefit from training in forest protection approaches. Communities, through national awareness campaigns, will be part of the equation in protecting the trees.

Surveying damage to cedars (Photo: G. Allard)

The objectives of the project included, but were not limited to: development of methodology of monitoring insect populations; utilization of pheromones in monitoring and mass trapping; introduction of an integrated pest management program (IPM) against the insect; training of young scientists; and the preparation of publications on cedar insects to be used in public awareness campaigns on forest health issues.

Activities

The project was divided into three phases.

In the first phase of the project from July 2001 to January 2002, activities concentrated on the development of survey techniques and procedures to collect data on Cephalcia populations and damage to determine any necessary intervention. A first inception workshop on cedar forest insect pests, identification and control with particular focus on Cephalcia tannourinensis was also held which included both lectures and hands-on field work in the cedar forests of Tannourine and Bcharreh. Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as students from the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the American University of Beirut attended the workshop.  A study tour in France was organized for three engineers from the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss population dynamics and technological advances in aerial application.

Preparation of non-toxic spray product (Photo: G. Allard)

The second phase from 15 April - 15 October 2002, covered the spray operation, monitoring surveys of entomofauna and evaluation surveys of the insect pest Cephalcia before and after spraying. A second training course was held. Trainees learned how to recognize the damage caused by each of the major insects and how to use the various trapping techniques including the pheromone traps and their utilization in insect trapping through a combination of lectures and field work in the cedar forests of Tannourine, Chouf and Bcharreh. The course was attended by 26 people including representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment, the Lebanese Agriculture Research Institute, private agricultural companies, NGOs, and students from the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut and the Faculty of Agriculture, Lebanese University.

During the final phase of the project, laboratory identification of the entomofauna collected from the cedars continued. Publications on cedar forest insects were prepared including two pamphlets in Arabic and English: Insects Pests of Cedars of Lebanon and The Web-Spinning Sawfly Cephalcia tannourinensis Chevin. A final technical workshop was held to present the results of the project to government officials and other interested parties.

Field training (Photo: G. Allard)

Conclusions

The project has enabled the Ministry of Agriculture and particularly the Directorate of Rural Development and Natural Resources to manage and contain a potentially serious pest problem affecting cedars. The activities of the project, coupled with those undertaken by the Lebanese government with support from INRA, have ensured that the pest populations have fallen and that spread of the insect both within and outside Lebanon has been prevented. Training in modern technologies and alternative strategies in pest management, including biological control for the major pest of cedars, will ensure sustainability of the activities and forest health is now prioritized.

Cephalcia tannourinensis is to be considered among, if not the most, damaging insect to cedars, and monitoring of this pest will continue to be carried out regularly in all cedar forests in Lebanon in order to prevent outbreaks which can threaten the cedars of Lebanon and the Mediterranean region. Further work on improving the management of biodiversity of cedar forests and their protection from serious insect pests is being addressed by a regional UNEP/GEF project which was approved in January 2003.

Related information

Country information

FAO Forestry Department country profile - Lebanon

Project documents

Insect pests of cedars of Lebanon.  Prepared by N.S. Kawar & N.M. Nemer.

The cedar web-spinning sawfly, Cephalcia tannourinensis Chevin.  Prepared by N.S. Kawar & N.M. Nemer.

Colour printed copies are available by request to Gillian Allard.

Other related documents

FAO Newsroom: Field projects - Cedars of Lebanon rescued from new insect

Biocontrol News and Information 25(1): IPM Systems - Saving the Cedars of Lebanon
last updated:  Monday, October 16, 2017