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      Biosphere Reserve Information



  General Description   The Lajat Biosphere Reserve is composed of volcanic plateau with gentle hills extending from south to north and has a wonderful natural exposure to the Northern and Western parts of Syria, of which one can see Mount Hermon to the North and the green plains of Huraan to the West. It is rather a plateau with interspersing volcanic cones of basalt and pumice, and volcanic springs. It is located in Sweida Province, 60 kms south to Damascus, at an altitude ranging between 600 and 900 metres asl. The landscape in the reserve is generally mountainous with hills looking north and uneasy accessed stony plains with earthen pockets of fertile soil. Due to the porosity of the basalt, water penetrates the porous rocks, forming underground springs or subterranean water sheets close to the surface. In areas where the basalt is from old formation dating back to the Jurassic, the water traced shallow wadis or “sub-wadis”.
The Lajat is located at an intersection of two biogeographic regions (Temperate prairies and Hot desert and semi-desertic zones), thus occupying a “biogeographic crossroads” which is considered of high conservation priority (Sacha Spector, 2002). The habitats found in the Lajat Biosphere Reserve are then those found in an ecotone ranging from woods to continental steppes, rangelands and desert-like semi-arid plains intercepted with shallow basaltic wadis. The flora of the Lajat consists of Mediterranean species in the form of either mono-biogeographical region or bi-regional with the Irano-turanian phytogeographical elements. The phytogeographical origins of the Lajhat Biosphere Reserve explain the designation of Lajat and its immediate surroundings as a Mediterranean island by Zohary (1966).
Most of the Lajat cultivated lands of the transition zone are growing mainly Koranic plant species such as barely, date palm, fig, garlic, grape, olive, onion, pomegranate and wheat, etc. (the Zaqqoom [the tree of hell] that grows in the desert of the port of Sudan, the ginger that was apparently imported from India, the Talh (banana) that requires less harsh conditions, and the thornless sidr (Lote) trees under which righteous will recline in the Paradise, are not included). In addition, the wild relatives of these koranic species are all provided in one place, the Lajat Plateau. Within this context, the Lajat can be considered a site of assistance to the Koranic botanical garden project of the Al-Reem Biiosphere Reserve in Qatar serving as such the article 3 of the Statutory Framework.
The total number of people found to be living within the Lajat Biosphere Reserve is about 16445 individuals. Of them 0.6% are on seasonal basis in the core area and 3.6% are permanently and seasonally in the buffer zone.
Government properties make the core area that is a protected by the Decree No. 144/T/2006 and designated as Lajat protected area. Public properties with a few privately owned lands (2% of the buffer zone) constitute the buffer zone that is also getting benefits from the same Decree and the Forestry Law No. 7/94 and its amendments in the Law 25/07. The transition zone is mainly privately owned with few municipalities owned lands.
  Major ecosystem type   Forest-like of Mediterranean affinity within a biogeographic crossroads.
  Major habitats & land cover types   Basalt plateau, Pumice cones, Stony Plains, Grasslands, Sandy pockets, Agroecosystems
  Location   32o 59’ 41.16”N, 36o 30’ 22.76”E
  Area (hectares)    
  Total   12,038
  Core area(s)   2031
  Buffer zone(s)   1752
  Transition area(s) when given   8255
  Altitude (metres above sea level)   600-900
  Year designated   2009
  Administrative authorities   General Commission for Environmental Affairs Ministry of Local Administration and Environment
  Brief description   At present the main permanent, ongoing studies relate to meteorological studies. Hydrological studies are opportunistic, such as those pertaining to the improvement of water resources for agriculture use, as are geological studies for aging rocks with paleomagnetism.
Fauna and flora studies are sporadic and conducted at the Lajat by researchers from the University of Damascus and the MLAE. Ornithological studies are opportunistic and presently conducted by visitors from abroad on irregular basis.
Only the UNDP/GEF project (BD/OP1/BD1) of Biodiversity and Protected Areas Conservation that started in 2004 in cooperation with MAAR and MLAE is still functioning. It aims at effective conservation of biodiversity and protects the interests of local communities while supporting the consolidation of an enabling environment that will facilitate replication throughout the country.
The Syrian Department of Archaeology continue to undertake several studies at Sweida and its environs.
  Specific variables...    
  Abiotic   Abiotic factors, air temperature, climate, erosion, geology, geomorphology, global change, groundwater, habitat, hydrology, indicators, meteorology, monitoring/methodologies, nutrients, pollution, pollutants, soil, topography.
  Biodiversity   Afforestation/Reforestation, alien/invasive/exotic/introduced species, arid/semi-arid, biodiversity, biogeography, biology, birds, breeding/reproduction, community studies/communities, conservation, degraded areas, desertification, ecology, ecosystem assessment, ecosystem functioning/ecosystem structure, ecotone, endemic species, fauna, flora, forest systems, genetic resources, home gardens, indicators, invertebrates/insects/spiders, lichens, mediterranean type/scherophyll, migrating populations/migration, monitoring/methodologies, mountain and highland systems, natural medicinal products, natural resources, perturbations/resilience/vulnerability, pests/diseases, phenology, phytosociology/succession, plants, productivity, rare/endangered/threatened species, reintroduction, reptiles, restoration/rehabilitation/redevelopment, species inventorying/inventory, taxonomy, vegetation studies/plant cover, volcanic/geothermal systems/volcano, wildlife.
  Socio-economic   Agriculture/Production systems, agroforestry, anthropological studies/anthropology, archaeology/paleontology, capacity building, control and monitoring of illegal activities, cottage industry/artisanal industry, demography, economic studies, economically important species, firewood cutting/harvesting, forestry, human health, human migration/population exodus, hunting, indicators, industry, livelihood measures, livestock and related impacts/overgrazing, local participation, monitoring methodologies, non-timber forest products/ntfp, pastoralism/pastoralists/grazing, people-nature relations/man/nature, poverty, quality economies, recreation, resource use, role of women/gender, sacred sites, small business initiatives, social/socio-economic aspects, stakeholders' interests, tourism, traditional practices/ethnology/traditional knowledge, transport.
  Integrated monitoring   Carrying capacity/Sustainability, conflict, ecosystem approach, education and public awareness, environmental change, environmental quality, geographic information system/gis, impact and risk studies/environmental impact, indicators, infrastructure, institutional and legal aspects, integrated studies/interdisciplinaty, interdisciplinary studies, land tenure, land use/land cover, landscape inventorying/monitoring, management issues, mapping, monitoring/methodologies, planning and zoning measures/zonation, policy issues, rural systems, sustainable development/sustainable use, transboundary/transfrontiers, urban systems/towns/cities.

Last updated: 12/08/2009

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