Lebanon’s famed Cedar tree adorned for centuries the center of the country’s red and white flag, and sat proudly on the mountains of this small Mediterranean state.
It is an enduring symbol of resistance and unity in a country that has seen war and sectarian division.
The historic trees were lifelines for the old world, giving the Phoenicians wood to build their trade ships. The Assyrian and Egyptian empires were also built with the cedar timber. Even in death, the ancient Egyptians used cedar oil for mummification.
The trees are now under threat from climate change and other challenges.
Climate change is affecting all forests, not just the cedars, she said.
“It’s affecting the insects in the earth, and the birds and the animals that transport seeds – the whole biodiversity is being affected,” she said.
Forest fires have been another plague for the cedar.
In October 2019, more than 100 forest fires ravaged the cedar woodlands. This summer, fires broke out in Lebanon’s north, destroying homes and devastating wildlands – including cedar forests.
While all may seem well, the death of the cedars might not be visible for decades, Dr Bou Dagher said. By then, it will be too late.
“We won’t be able to see the impact tomorrow,” she said. “When you look at the forest you can see trees that are still green and in good shape – everything seems fine. In some cases, the leaves dry up, especially if insects are feeding on them.
“But in many cases, there are microscopic changes, that you cannot see with the naked eye. We will only feel the impact after 20 or 30 years and by then it will be too late.”