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summer 08

Species Appreciation


The Newsletter of the Initiative for Biodiversity Studies in Arid Regions

Bird Watching: the Great Escape or the Great Connection? The first point to stress is that I am a bird watcher not an ornithologist. If any of you want to meet someone who really understands birds scientifically, then visit with Dr. George Tohmeh and Dr. Ghassan Jaradi. My knowledge is like that of someone who goes regularly to the cinema. I enjoy enormously what I see, but I do not know as much as I would like about the creatures that so delight me. I have been a bird watcher since the early 1980s when I first saw a malkite kingfisher at Lake Naivasha in Kenya. That tiny jewel kept me from paying much attention to elephants, giraffes, and lions. I have “birded “ ever since in New Jersey, California, Texas, Costa Rica, Peru, Ethiopia, Botswana, Tanzania, Morocco, Turkey, Armenia, France, and of course Lebanon in the last ten years. Few Lebanese I fear realize what a treasure lies at their doorstep, at least twice a year. Lebanon is on the great migration corridor leading from Northern Europe and Siberia to Africa. Millions of birds make this passage twice annually, sometimes 10,000 kilometers in either direction. Believe it or not, many of these birds, often exhausted from hundreds of kilometers of continuous flight, come down on our campus, seeking rest and food before resuming their voyage. A few years ago Mike Harrison photographed an exhausted common cuckoo outside his office in Corporation Yard. During migration in the fall and spring one can frequently see on our campus European bee eaters (war war in Arabic), black capped warblers, spotted flycatchers, song thrush, red starts, hoopoes, and very occasionally herons, and large raptors like buzzards. We also have birds that take up longer term residence like the spectacular Palestinian sun



by Marwan Sabban along the road to the lower campus), the lesser white throated warbler, the black bird (in Arabic, shahrour), the Common Kingfisher at Marquand House. Photo by John Waterbury.



(photographed by me at Marquand



Seeds of Hope Trees for Tomorrow

the European robin (rouge gorge). Then there are the permanent

Ibsar power of planting initiative – ‘seeds of hope, trees for tomorrow’ special updates:

residents, primarily green finches, bulbuls, sparrows,

The gift of giving trees – 1,000 trees for 1,000 guests

doves, and prinias. We have also the feral (domesticated animals/birds





have ‘wild’)

Some gifts are precious – others are priceless. Such was the wedding gift

Spotted Cuckoo. Photo by Mike Harrison.

of Zena el-Khalil, an environmentalist

such as the ring necked parakeet. Most visitors and residents are depicted in the

and artist, seeking a meaningful

wonderful brochure prepared by Ghassan Jaradi on the birds of the AUB campus.

wedding gift for her brother. Rather

Unfortunately it is difficult to appreciate these birds without a good pair of

than presenting him with a traditional

binoculars. Perhaps the University could look into establishing a pool of binoculars

wedding gift, she approached IBSAR

that could be loaned out to interested students, staff, faculty and visitors so that

with hopes of finding something that

more AUBites can actually see what we have.

would make a lasting impression while preserving nature. A mutual

AUB’s campus is a very special place ecologically, a green and varied forest in

agreement was made and the idea

the heart of Beirut. It is an imperfect resting place given the dangers of the urban

emerged to have 1,000 trees planted

environment. We also have our large resident cat population that we hope will

– one for each guest at the wedding.

diminish naturally over time but which poses a threat to birds, especially those that

This inspired IBSAR to continue

feed on the ground. However you will notice frequently doves and cats almost side by side. We hope that full stomachs and advanced age will dull the cats’ hunting

From left to right:

thinking of interesting ways in

Arbi Sarkissian, Zena El-Khalil, Khaled Sleem.

which the Lebanese public, both


home and abroad, can have a native

Birds are extraordinarily beautiful and extraordinarily strong. For me they are my link to nature. They are also a sign of the health of the earth’s ecology. So

tree planted as a gift to someone special. Learn more about our tree gift cards at ARBI SARKISSIAN

many bird species are

Reducing wedding pollution with native trees

threatened by the loss of habitat, hunters, and toxic

In July 2008, I posted an article on my blog I made for IBSAR called, “Tree Proposal:

materials in their food from

Reducing Wedding Pollution with Native Trees” (http://simbarusseau.wordpress.

pesticides and herbicides.


Their endangered status

The article was about Zena Al-Khalil, a Lebanese recycling artist and environmental

is merely a prelude to

activist who joined an IBSAR-initiated ongoing tree awareness project. By planting

our own. I am happy that

1,000 trees, she aimed at raising guests’ interest in Lebanon’s environment and at

the AUB campus does

creating a sacred memento for her brother’s wedding. The following month, I received

something to slow the JOHN WATERBURY

Palestine sun bird. Photo by Marwan Sabban.

a comment thanking me for reporting on this issue. I think that as storytellers and

process down.

journalists, it is vital for us to take responsibility by reporting on issues ignored by mainstream media – so as to raise awareness and to highlight key issues facing the SIMBA RUSSEAU


region, such as the environment.


August 2008. Twenty-eight kids from the region aged between 9 and 13 participated

One of the major goals of

in the event. The children went on a forest trip and learned about different trees

IBSAR since its founding

and plants through interactive and educational games. They enjoyed a Saturday in

has been to raise awareness

nature and developed an environmental awareness that should hopefully prompt

about biodiversity, especially


amongst the youth, for they will be tomorrow’s decision makers. In this context, IBSAR held two activities; in May 2008, it helped organize a one-day field trip to AREC (Beqaa) for a dozen

IC students learning about seed planting during the IBSAR workshop

ACS graduating high school

held at AUB.

students from Ms. Renée Codsi’s


Systems course. This class was given a brief seminar about IBSAR’s “Seeds of Hope, Trees for Tomorrow” by IBSAR’s Arbi Sarkissian.

IBSAR establishes a native tree nursery at AREC At

appropriate time. In support of the “Seeds of Hope, Trees for Tomorrow” project, IBSAR established a large nursery at AREC consisting of two green houses and a View of the AREC nursery established by IBSAR.




behind using seeds for this

The second event involved nearly 100 IC students. IBSAR held a seed planting

tree planting campaign is

workshop at AUB’s nursery introducing them to composting and seed preparation

that seeds always acquire

and lecturing on an undervalued native Lebanese tree, the carob.

the most diverse genetic makeup, so when used in

IBSAR plants its “seeds of hope” in tomorrow’s grown-ups

any plantings, they help

It all began with collecting seeds of different Lebanese trees and plants – this was

restore plant biodiversity.

how IBSAR’s “Seeds of Hope, Trees for Tomorrow” project started. The strength

More importantly, IBSAR KHALED SLEEM

ability to underscore the

Some of the participating kids.

shade house to host more

The scientific justification

ACS students during their one-day field trip to AREC.



ready for transplanting at the

26 species (all natives).



conditions, ensuring they are

300 seeds that will be

of this project lies in its


seedlings grow in optimum


in villages by autumn 2009.


them to preserve forests and understand the significance of biodiversity.

The group planted about transplanted as young trees


The Center organized a biodiversity promotion day in Bazbina-Akkar on the 30th of

Seeds of hope, trees for tomorrow

Seeds of hope, trees for tomorrow

ACS and IC youth plant seeds of hope

View of the AREC nursery established by IBSAR.

collected seeds from different regions in order to help sustain the diversity of trees.

Tree Identification Workshop in Al-Shouf


Lebanon’s biodiversity and of

Educational outreach that links academic knowledge to public practice is effective.

pressing citizens to assume

As such, and in collaboration with the Al-Shouf Biosphere Reserve, IBSAR organized

responsibility in that field.

a workshop in Maaser Al-Shouf for the Reserve’s volunteer guides. The workshop

As part of this project, and

featured a presentation on the distinct species of trees in the proximity of the

proceeding from its belief

Reserve, on tree taxonomy, and interesting uses of trees. It also featured a lunch

that children are tomorrow’s

and field trip from Maaser to Khreybeh Al-Shouf where participants were shown

hope, IBSAR launched a new

different types of trees and given exercises to help memorize names through

initiative focused on kids.


studying their botanical characteristics. 5

View from the Maaser El Shouf IBSAR workshop.

Ibsar publications

Seeds of hope, trees for tomorrow

Tree Identification Workshop in Al-Shouf (Photos)

IBSAR publishes a new booklet on biodiversity in Lebanon Did you know that Lebanon is abundant in wild orchids? As orchids play an important role in biodiversity preservation, IBSAR published its first booklet



from Lebanon” as part of its initiative on biodiversity conservation. The booklet covers wild orchid species that can be found in one part

IBSAR’s booklet “Orchids from Lebanon”.

of Al-Shouf Biosphere Reserve. Thirteen wild orchid species have been identified, and their habitats and natural cycles monitored, through mapping and determination of their conservation status in villages of Ain Dara, Bomhray, Barouk, Dalboun and Ain Zhalta. The initiative’s aim is to raise awareness about the existence and need to preserve wild orchids in Lebanon. Among other activities, IBSAR’s next step is production of more booklets covering wild orchid species in other parts of the country. “Orchids from Lebanon” is being distributed through IBSAR and Al-Shouf Biosphere Reserve. To learn more about wild Lebanese orchids, please pick up a

Biodiversity forums

IBSAR holds another successful edition of IBDAA Another and





registered by IBSAR… The event: IBDAA. The date: May 22nd, a date designated by the United Nations as International Biodiversity keeping

Day. with

In this

tradition locally, IBSAR hosted its 2nd annual forum for students and

A view from the IBDAA event.


copy of this new booklet.

Anti-inflammatory and Anti-cancer bio-activity in the popularly used folk medicinal plant Centaurea ainetensis (Qanturyun aynata or Shawk al-dardar) Lebanon and the coastal Mediterranean region, known for its rich floral diversity and unique trade route through history, has had a resourceful literature of folk medicine and herbal remedies for a wide range of diseases including inflammation, hyperlipemia, arteriosclerosis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, immune deficiency, central nervous system disorders, and cancer. For the past several years, a group of IBSAR faculty members has been involved in studies to validate the use of folk medicinal plants that are endemic to Lebanon. Twenty nine plants endemic to Lebanon and claimed to have medicinal effects, according to a survey of Lebanese folk literature as well as interviews with several known herbalists in the Greater Beirut area, were chosen for such studies. After preliminary testing of the plants’ extracts, Centaurea ainetensis Bois [= C. eryngioides Lam. var. ainetensis Bois.], a

faculty members from a wide range of disciplines. Hundreds of AUB students and

native plant of Lebanon, which grows at an elevation of 1200-1800 m in the northern

faculty toured the Green Oval quad to view poster presentations set up by AUB

part of the country, was selected as the candidate plant to further characterize its

students showcasing their personal interests in promoting biological diversity in

claimed anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer bio-activity using in-vitro and in-vivo

Lebanon. Among the themes was the research conducted around three particular


plants growing in Lebanon – cactus (Opuntia spp.), carob bean (Ceratonia siliqua), ARBI SARKISSIAN

Natural remedies


View from the Maaser El Shouf IBSAR workshop.

and bay (Laurus nobilis).

The Centaurea, a genus of about 500 species of herbaceous plants of the composite family (Asteraceae) and native to the Mediterranean region, is widely used in Middle 7




activities and eicosanoid synthesis. The study concludes that sesame oil seems to


vitro studies showed that

decrease the frequency of cough and sputum production, but not significantly so.


decoctions as used in herbal remedies) from C. ainetensis, at noncytotoxic concentrations, inhibited in a dose-dependent manner several inflammatory markers including interleukins Centaurea ainetensis.




by endotoxin-treated cells.

The inhibition was detected in doses as low as 3% and reached maximal levels of inhibition at 8%. C. ainetensis extract at these concentrations did not affect the cell’s expression of normal housekeeping proteins. In vivo studies showed that C. ainetensis extract reversed endotoxin-induced pain and paw edema in rodents. Interestingly, such extracts also inhibited the growth of several tumor cell lines and showed anti-cancer effects in rodents. Further studies suggested that the bioactivities noted are due to a sesquiterpene agent; salograviolide A. Further studies

Exhibit participation

water decoctions (1:8 vol/vol

Within the context of natural treatments for common health problems, a presentation titled “Sesame Oil in Ameliorating Cough in Children: Myth or Reality” was held by Drs. Bassem Saab, MD, Nora Pashayan, MD, Najat Saliba, PhD, and Ramzi Sabra, MD PhD. Held in Aley, Lebanon on 24 August 2008, the presentation covered the rationale, methodology, and results of a study held to determine the usefulness of sesame oil for treating cough in children. Though usually a self-limited problem, cough requires treatment as it causes pain, insomnia, fatigue, and impacts family members and personal productivity. In fact, acute cough is the largest cause for consultation in primary care. In terms of treatment, more than 100 OTC preparations are available and often have

in a row successfully at the Hippodrome de Beirut. During the five-day event, held from 10-14 June 2008, over 20,000 visitors strolled in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere around the 160 View from The Garden Show stand.

booths to select their plants, flowers,



garden furniture. The IBSAR team presented their projects in a booth located next

their children in painting native tree silhouettes that they took home as souvenirs.

US Forest Service delegation visits IBSAR The US Forest Service (USFS) recently sent a delegation to Lebanon to explore opportunities for collaboration on biodiversity conservation, wildfire control and prevention, and forest management. IBSAR faculty members Dr. Salma Talhouk and Khaled Sleem, along with several graduate students, welcomed the delegation and gave them a tour of the AUB Agricultural Research and Education Center in the Bekaa Valley, where they were introduced to IBSAR’s Seeds of Hope municipal reforestation program. The delegation was impressed by IBSAR’s mission and the dedication of its members to protect Lebanon’s stunning and unique biodiversity. While in Beirut, the USFS delegation also met with representatives from governmental and nongovernmental institutions to identify new areas for cooperation.

decongestants, antihistamines, antitussives, and expectorants as ingredients. The

The USFS is a domestic government agency that manages 777 million dunams

majority includes 2-4 active ingredients, yet there is no proven evidence for their

of national forests and grasslands on behalf of the American people. The Agency

effectiveness. As for herbal common cold remedies, these include the Lebanese

has a strong history of commitment to international cooperation, beginning with

Zhurat, opiates, thyme, ephedra, and menthol.

its first Chief, Gifford Pinchot, who advocated for international engagement to

Sesame oil, the study concludes, provides lubrication and acts as a disinfectant. It has active ingredients such as Phenols (which have anti-oxidant, antiseptic, antimutagenic & expectorant properties). It is also rich in vitamin E, an anti-oxidant. Sesame oil’s Free Fatty Acids - oleic, linoleic (LA) and linolenic acids (LNA) – are essential for normal cellular functions such as membrane fluidity, membrane enzyme 8

has been held five years

screen saver CD. Kids were well catered to at IBSAR’s booth as parents assisted SAMER TOUTOUNGY

Global collaboration

In an increasingly chemical world, natural remedies are increasingly of interest.

year’s Garden Show which

native trees and donate to help preserve native orchids through buying an orchids

the cellular level.

Sesame oil as a natural remedy for cough in children

IBSAR participated in this

to the nature and ecotourism NGOs, and gave the participants the chance to adopt

on salograviolide A are currently underway to determine its mechanism of action at RABIH TALHOUK

IBSAR participates in The Garden Show

both conserve natural resources and sustain rural livelihoods. Pinchot often cited Lebanon’s cedars as a compelling example of a globally important treasure that would benefit from cooperative international conservation efforts. Today, the Forest Service works around the world to achieve Pinchot’s vision, promote sustainable forest and grassland management, advance biodiversity conservation, and assist 9

to natural disasters. The Agency has a staff of over 35,000



a wide range of technical management and research expertise. The USFS began a program of View from the US Forest Service Delegation visit.



with various partners in Lebanon in 2004. Since

then, the Agency has provided technical assistance to communities in southern Lebanon on sustainable pine-nut harvesting techniques, conducted workshops on trail development and maintenance in support of the Lebanon Mountain Trail, and






find worth investing my time and efforts into. Working with IBSAR has exposed me to people of different backgrounds and skills, which enriched my experience and enhanced my ability to work harmoniously in a diverse environment”. albert vanlien Albert Vanlien, a Biology student at Haigazian University, joined IBSAR in Summer 2008. The reason? “I needed a medium in which I could efficiently make a positive change in this world, and because the preservation of nature is one of my priorities. Joining IBSAR was one of the best choices I’ve made so far. I am a dreamer, but I’m an active dreamer,” says Albert. nour najem Nour graduated with a BS in biology in June ’08 and policy. She first found out about IBSAR while taking a

watershed and protected management.

opened for me a window of opportunities to test and develop my skills in a cause I

is now planning to master in health management and

international seminars on area

A young support team

Global collaboration

other nations in responding

chemistry course (Chem 206) with Dr. Najat Saliba and


ended up helping with the organization of IBDAA ’08.

USFS is looking forward

She is working on developing the IBDAA competition so

to continuing its work in

that it can be taken to the next level, as well as working

Lebanon and developing

on producing upcoming products for IBSAR.

a strong partnership with

siba samra

IBSAR for the coming years. For additional information J. ASHLEY AND JENNIFER PETERSON

A second-year LDEM student, Siba Samra started

View from the US Forest Service Delegation visit.

about International Programs

volunteering at IBSAR at the end of July 2008 due to her major and interest in nature and biodiversity. At IBSAR,

of the USFS, please visit:

A young support team

she helped plan events such as the Akkar biodiversity

Meet IBSAR interns and volunteers

signage for the AREC farm, and interactive maps that

IBSAR’s young support team of interns and volunteers has been highly active this summer, learning a lot while simultaneously contributing much to the success of IBSAR’s activities. Students with different majors converge on one aim: nature conservation and sustainable futures. Here’s a quick profile of each… ramy salem Ramy began working with IBSAR as a student years ago, and ever since, found himself involved with its mission. After graduating, he was assigned a research assistant position there for the ‘Seeds of Hope’ campaign, where he undertook several tasks in addition to developing and updating the IBSAR webpage. Says Ramy: “IBSAR


day camp for kids. In addition, she worked on designing show IBSAR plantings in all Lebanese regions. “I enjoyed my summer at IBSAR, mainly due to meeting new people and experiencing many activities. I look forward to repeating this experience next summer,” says Siba. joelle haykal Joelle graduated with a master in Biology. She started working last March with IBSAR as a part-time research assistant. She was involved in the research and outreach committee and gained a lot of experience from being part of diverse events such as IBDAA, The Garden Show, Akkar Workshop and many other activities.


michel ghanem Michel Ghanem, 1st year Agriculture student, is designer and photographer at IBSAR. “I’m always involved in all the projects... I joined IBSAR because I felt that it was more or less parallel to my studies and due to the fact that I enjoy being outside and getting dirty for a good cause!” says Michel. jessica abouzeid Jessica is a Lebanese expatriate. She has been living in Milan for the past three years where she just completed her undergraduate degree in International Economics and Management at Univertità L. Bocconi. The impact of environmental issues in an economic perspective, she says, was mentioned in a few of her courses but was never a fully developed subject. Nevertheless, she notes, it was a very popular topic on Italian news since Rome hosted the World Energy Congress last November and Napoli’s ongoing waste problem was at the center of the April parliamentary elections. As a result, it awakened her curiosity, and she was pleased to have the MONIKA FABIAN

opportunity to volunteer in an organization concerned with environmental issues.

Send your news, articles, and editorial comments to Visit the IBSAR website at Edited by Hania Jurdak Designed and produced by the Office of University Publications


AUB-NCC Newsletter Summer 2008, Issue No. 24