Thursday, 25 September 2008

Forest fires

The UN news agency warns:

Devastating fires caused by climate change are threatening forests in Lebanon, in turn accelerating the pace of global warming.

"We are witnessing a rise in temperature which leads to the dryness of forest soil and pushes it towards desertification," Sawsan Bou Fakhreddine, director-general of the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation (AFDC), a local NGO, told IRIN from Beirut

The country is witnessing forest fires earlier than usual. "We noticed that fires are starting in April, three months earlier than the usual season, which commences in June or July.

With the ongoing increase in temperature, the land is losing much of its humidity and trees are becoming drier. This causes severe fires that are difficult to suppress," she added.

Fakhreddine said on average, about 1,500 hectares of woodland were affected by fires annually, but in 2007 more than 4,000 hectares of forests were ravaged in the worst fires to hit Lebanon for decades. "In one day we lost three times what we planted in 17 years."

According to AFDC, forests covered 35 percent of the country in 1965 - against 13 percent in 2007. "If we witness fires like the ones that erupted last year, Lebanon will lose its forests completely in 15 to 20 years," Fakhreddine warned.