American University of Beirut

Conserving wild plants and habitats for people across the Mediterranean


This project represents an ambitious initiative to develop plant conservation actions in the South and East of the Mediterranean region (including North Africa, Middle East and Balkans) combining the experience and expertise of Plantlife International and IUCN.

  • ​Context and challenges 

The Mediterranean basin is one of the world's major centers of plant diversity, with 10% of the world's higher plants. The flora has around 25'000 species with exceptionally high endemicity; approximately 13'000 species are found only within the Mediterranean region. A series of partnership studies carried out across the region involving PlantlifeWWF and IUCN; North Africa and the Middle East, Balkan countries, and Turkey, has begun to document the diversity on the best sites for wild plants (Important Plant Areas) and have demonstrated that despite the importance of the Mediterranean flora in defining the region as a biodiversity hotspot, there is a lack of capacity to undertake plant conservation.

Many of the Important Plant Areas in the Mediterranean region contain plants that support livelihoods, it is critical that these plant resources are managed properly to secure the livelihoods they support for the long term alongside safeguarding the biodiversity.​

  • Objectives 

The project focused on Important Plant Areas (IPAs); sites of international importance for plants - a sub set of Key Biodiversity Areas. IUCN and Plantlife worked work together with IUCN Members of the Mediterranean Plant Specialist group and numerous in-country partner organizations, to help and encourage public citizens, management authorities, local and national governments, experts and NGOs to conserve Important Plant Areas.

  • ​​Plants of Lebanon

Lebanon is an important area for plant diversity. Scientist estimate that there are close to 400,000 plant species in the world. These plants species are not evenly distributed, but instead are clustered across the globe.

Scientists have identified 35 hotspot regions that 1) contain a high percentage of plantlife, 2) are found nowhere else on the planet (endemic), and 3) where there is a high risk of losing these plants due to disruptive human activities. Lebanon is included in one of these 35 hotspot areas namely the Mediterranean hotspot.​

  • How do we define areas important to plants

Important plant areas (IPA) are places that hold an important diversity of wild plants and fungi. IPAs have been defined in 27 countries across Europe and the Mediterranean region.

Normally, national experts define IPAs in their respective countries using unified global standards. A given area is defined as an IPA when experts provide sufficient justification and scientific evidence to prove that it contains exceptional botanical richness, threatened species, and/or threatened habitats. IPAs can overlap with any type of land whether it be private or public, protected or unprotected.

Once experts define IPAs in a country, they communicate these areas to the public and decision makers. For example, decision makers may benefit from identified IPAs to assess whether there are gaps in the national protected areas network of the country. With respect to the public, informing residents who live within the geographic boundaries of IPAs may encourage them to lead community-based conservation and sustainable management actions.

Furthermore, IPAs may become target locations for citizen science monitoring and conservation research led by a partnership between universities and citizens. Although the ideal aim is to achieve conservation of important areas for plant diversity, it may not always be possible to formally protect an IPA.

  • IPAs in Lebanon 

A large number of rare plant species grow in Lebanon with limited geographic distributions. This richness is due to the location of the country which is at the intersection of different continents. In addition, Lebanon's mountainous nature forms isolated areas with unique local climates.

To define IPAs in Lebanon, national experts worked in collaboration with international conservation organizations, namely, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Plantlife, and WWF (World Wild Fund). The IPAs were identified on base of their richness in plant species and also on the presence of endemic and threatened species.

The level of endemism was detailed by mentioning the different countries in which these species occur. Areas with the highest number of species strictly endemic to Lebanon have an important biological value and effort for conservation should focus on these regions. A total of 26 IPAs were defined in Lebanon. Of these, 16 are in the Mount Lebanon range, on west facing slopes and high mountain plateaux. The remaining ten IPAs are found in the Lebanese coast, the Beqaa valley, and the Anti-Lebanon mountain range.

  • Products developed
To know more about each IPA in Lebanon, use the interactive map below (link) or download “Important Plant Areas of Lebanon". Available both in English and Arabic.

Interactive map: 

An interactive map that features IPAs in Lebanon was developed. You can check it by clicking here

Important Plant Areas in Lebanon.pdf (English Version)

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