The Shouf Biosphere Reserve (SBR) is the largest protected area in Lebanon, and in the whole Mediterranean portion of the Middle East. It was created in 1996 and declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. SBR is in the central part of the country and has a size of 50,000 Ha, at an altitude between 1200 and 1980m. The SBR hosts the largest stands of Cedar of Lebanon in the country, as well as mixed oak and pine forests and shrub-lands, and a variety of other habitats. The SBR is comprised of 620 hectares of Cedrus libani forest, the largest expanse of this species in Lebanon and 25% of the remaining cedar forests in the country. It includes 1064 species of plants, 25 internationally and nationally threatened species, 48 plants endemic to Lebanon/Syria/Turkey, and 14 rare species. In addition, it is home for 31 species of reptiles and amphibians including chameleon, tortoise, and several species of snakes, lizards, frogs, and toads. Thanks to the protection granted since its establishment, SBR is today one of the last strongholds of wildlife in the region, with a recently-discovered, small but breeding population of wolf, as well as striped hyena, jungle and wild cat, and rock hyrax. More than 290 species of birds have been identified, and the whole region is of primary importance for migratory birds.
The Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve is a popular destination for hiking and trekking, with trails matching all levels of fitness. Bird watching, mountain biking and snow shoeing are also popular. From the summit of the rugged mountains, visitors will have a panoramic view of the countryside, eastward to the Beqaa Valley and Qaraoun Lake, and westward toward the Mediterranean. Number of visitors increased throughout the years, 28,000 people visited in the year 2004 however after the 2006 war the number dropped to 14,000, but rebounded to 40,000 in 2009, and in 2015 the number of visitors reached 73,000. Around 70 different products are made by members of the local community (women) using traditional methods, and are on sale in visitors’ centers managed by the SBR.
The Sirente Velino Regional Park is characterized by various environments, from the mountain to the mid-mountain environment, from hilly to river landscapes, from 2.300 to 600 meters of altitude. Each environment has a particular kind of fauna and vegetation.
According to recent census, at the moment in the Park there are 1.926 flower species; 216 vertebrate species; 149 birds; 43 mammals; 13 reptiles; 11 amphibians.
From a morphological view, the territory of the Park, is divided in three wide sectors, each with particular aspects.
The Rocche Plateau, the central system of different plateaus of karst origin, that extends with short difference in level and whose morphology and geologic conformation witnesses also the presence of ancient mountain lakes. Woods of beech, pastures and lawns, covered during spring by the blooming of the narcissus, characterize the plateau; the imposing and dolomitic vertical sides of Mount Sirente stand out, crossed by deep gullies.
The Northern Marsica, the southwestern side of the Sirente and the Velino Mount appear bare and naked, characterized by several rocky outcrops. The territory is crossed by deep incisions of glacial origin, like the Celano Gorges, the Teve Valley and the Majelama Valley, that keep unchanged secret and inaccessible places, rich of rare flowering and endemic elements.
In the Aterno and Subequana Valleys the Aterno River is the leader, because it flows in a narrow valley characterized by historical, artistic, architectural and archeologic proofs. Along the Aterno the fluvial landscape is overlapped to the agricultural one; between Beffi and Acciano the watercourse flows among steep mountain cliffs; populations of black poplars and willows, are dislocated along the riversides.