Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

War Lays Waste to Syria’s Forestland, Wildlife | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Fighters from the Free Syrian Army’s Al Majd Brigades dig a trench in the rebel held besieged area of al-Marj in the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus, Syria February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

London- The civil war waged by the Syrian regime against its own people cast a shadow over forest life in the country through the indiscriminate bombardment with barrel bombs, missiles and other means of mass destruction that affect entire natural landscapes, particularly in hot spots close to Turkish and Jordanian borders.

An economy-based report published by the Syrian Economic Action Group discussed the ecological future of Syria, and environmental and social services the group provides in the war-torn country.

With its diverse terrain and climate, Syria’s environmental scope is rich in varied plant and animal life.

However, taking its toll over nature, war has threatened all living organisms whether on land, underwater or in the skies, and has destroyed natural habitats for unique animals and germplasm.

Most Syrian water bodies have registered serious signs of pollution spreading throughout its network. Some birds and rare animals threatened with extinction have been either looted or overhunted, especially those resting as easy prey in wildlife reserves, such as deer, eagles, and ostriches.

A decline in vegetation in many forest areas and reserves has also been reported— such an occurrence resulted in either the migration or extinction of some birds. Biodiversity in Syria has been notably disrupted by the deteriorating environmental conditions.

Among the threatened species are northern Ibis, a group of long-legged wading birds, sociable lapwing birds and the Arabian ostrich.

The report shows that the war sparked large forest fires in Al-Farlaq, which resulted in losing hundreds of hectares of forestland.

Other fires in Qusab forests and the Abu Qabis area burnt hectares of natural reserves- home to rare species- to the ground.

Qusab-based reserves suffered major fires in 2012, which burned groves of oak trees.

However, the report failed to mention the damage caused by civilians — forced by the lack of electricity and fuel access — who have chopped down trees, using logs for reasons of cooking and as a source of heat.

Areas strangled by regime-imposed economic siege, those located in eastern Aleppo and Damascus’ countryside, registered the highest rates of civilians resorting to destroying natural wildlife as a means for survival.

Forests account for 2.7 percent of Syria, estimated to be somewhere around 491,000 hectares. Syria is home to 35,000 hectares of forestland and 231,000 hectares of tree-covered landscapes.

Although modest compared to other Arab countries, Syrian forests rank tenth among other Arab states in terms of area.

Despite Syria’s small forest area, it is characterized by hosting scarce plant and animal species with genetic importance. Medicinal and aromatic plants rich in therapeutic and pharmaceutical manufacturing properties are also found there.