Students help save forests in Lebanon

April 25, 2003

Specialists and students from two Lebanese universities joined international experts in saving Lebanon's historic cedar woodlands from a newly discovered species of parasitic wasp.

Lebanon's agriculture ministry, the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese University, Beirut, teamed up with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation to fight the wood wasp, Cephalcia tannourinensis.

Much of the Mount Lebanon range used to be covered by cedars, but in the past 100 years the country's national tree has retreated to isolated clumps. By 1999 these remnants were being attacked by the wasp.

In Tannourine-Hadath El-Jebbeh Forest in northern Lebanon, 80 per cent of the trees have become infested.

The first step was to research the wasp's life cycle, a task taken on by AUB student Nabil Nemer. He suggested setting ground-level sticky traps to catch newly hatched wasps. These proved more effective than pesticide sprays.

Anna Manikowska of the FAO said: "It has worked. The forest is out of danger."

Now the group is trying to impregnate the traps with pheromones to attract greater numbers of the pest.

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