Establishment and mission
The National Center for Marine Sciences-CNRSL was established in 1977. The decision to establish such a centre (1975) was the national response to the 1972 Stockholm Conference. The centre is a recognized institute within the Mediterranean network of marine centers and is integrated in a number of regional and international activities. Research activities at the center focus on three themes:
- Monitoring of the coastal zone by creating a national observation network, modeling the cycles of contaminants and using bioindicators.
- Evaluation of specific diversity by characterizing the living communities more particularly the migratory species and their habitats.
- Production and transfer of matter in the coastal and marine ecosystems.
- Fishery stock evaluation.
Within this framework, the actual skills cover the following aspects: Operational and physical oceanography, hydrological and hydrobiological parameters, marine biology, primary and secondary production and biodiversity, marine water and sediment chemistry and bacteriological contamination.
Research activities covered
Monitoring of coastal water
The Center follows an environment monitoring program for coastal water quality in order to to study the state of environment of the Lebanese littoral and to evaluate its level of alteration. For this purpose, measurements of physico-chemical, chemical, biochemical, bacteriological and biological indicators are carried out every month in 25 sites reflecting the geomorphological and environmental modifications of the littoral. A map showing the different sites with their high levels of bacteriological contamination is published every year.
Projects related to chemical contamination by trace elements and hydrocarbons are undertaken in different sites of the Lebanese coast. The multiple types of pollution alter and cause crucial variation of physico-chemical and biological characteristics in sea water and sediments of many hot spots along the Lebanese coastal zone (Beirut, Tripoli, Antelias, Selaata, etc).
Projects aim to determine the interaction between hydrobiological and biological parameters in different marine sites by studying vertical, horizontal and seasonal variations of water temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll-a and nutrients. The two main physical characteristics of sea water (temperature and salinity) play crucial role in the survival and distribution of faunal and floral species through water column and in the variation of sea water density which is a major component affecting the movement of water masses as well as the vertical upwelling and mixing of deeper water, rich in nutrient, with the surface water considered oligotrophic in our area. The sudden and unexpected variations of these parameters may be related to an external polluting factor or to an abnormal situation that might be related to global warming.
Projects on biodiversity are focused on primary and secondary production, mapping and analysis of the biodiversity and introduction of alien species. Marine biodiversity is under significant pressure, mainly of anthropogenic origin, related to chemicals causing degradation and regression of species in such vast ecosystem. The results obtained are quite conclusive regarding the loss of several species both vegetal and animal, destruction of vermetidae platform and seagrass beds, depletion of fish stocks, turtle migration, cetacean stranding, invasion of alien species and their settlement to the detriment of local species, and the appearance of new species of toxic algae.
Lebanese coastal habitats are suffering from anthropogenic pressure and from over- fishing and illegal activities, and being at the same time exposed to different sources of pollution. Although partially neglected in the last decades in Lebanon, capture fisheries and aquaculture are now considered as crucial components of a sustainable management of the coastal areas for their strict relation to social, economic and strategic interests. Interventions not carefully planned may easily lead to frictions between and within groups. Therefore the National Center for Marine Sciences-CNRSL has entered into collaboration with key actors in the area, namely the FAO-EastMed Project and the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in order to maximize the effectiveness of its efforts.
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