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Location Lebanon, North Lebanon
Central coordinates 35o 46.25' East  34o 29.40' North
IBA criteria A1, B2
Area 500 ha
Altitude 0 - 6m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Society for the Protection of Nature and Natural Resources in Lebanon

Summary The three islands lie 5.5 km north-west of Tripoli. They cover a total area of 500 ha. A site for several globally threatened bird species, nesting site for endangered marine Turtles and resting place for 156 migratory bird species. It is designated Mediterranean SPA under Barcelona Convention and a Ramsar site of three flat, rocky islands of limestone rocks 6 m above sea level. There is a freshwater and some half-built concrete buildings and some ruins.

Site description A group of three flat, rocky islands of eroded limestone pavement (rising to 6 m), c.13 km offshore and north-west of Tripoli, together with their surrounding seas. Palm Island (Jazirat al-Nakhl or Ile du Palmier) is the largest (20 ha), and has a sand beach on its north and east sides, and a central depression where rainwater accumulates in winter. Parts of the islands are flooded with seawater during storms. There is some very stunted maquis-type vegetation in clefts in the limestone but the islands are otherwise relatively bare, except in spring when carpeted in wildflowers. On Palm Island there are also some small ponds, boggy areas and stands of reed Phragmites. The islands are commonly visited by picnicers, tourists, hunters, school parties and fishermen. There is a freshwater well on Palm Island, as well as some half-built concrete buildings and some ruins from antiquity. There is a lighthouse on Ramkin Island. The third island is called Sanani.

Key Biodiversity See box for key species. The islands were formerly an important seabird breeding site, known as the 'Bird Islands' in the last century. Larus audouinii (see below), L. cachinnans, Sterna bengalensis, S. hirundo and S. albifrons were all breeding on Palm Island at the end of the 19th century at least, but currently no species breed, apart from L. cachinnans possibly, due to high levels of disturbance. L. cachinnans has been declining for a long time (80–90 pairs in 1956, 50 birds in 1973, at least 15 pairs in 1975, no birds present in April 1993) and may be extinct. The site would make an excellent observatory for monitoring the large, visible migration of waterbirds along the coast (egrets, ducks, waders, gulls etc.) and for observation and ringing of passerine migrants; over 300 species of migrants had been recorded by 1974, including vagrants such as Haliaeetus albicilla, Falco eleonorae, F. pelegrinoides and Vanellus gregarius. The site was listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: old records of Monachus monachus (E), perhaps up until the 1960s. Reptiles: old records of sea-turtles Chelonia mydas (E) and Caretta caretta (E) nesting on the sand beaches. Flora: some wildflower species are nationally endangered or extinct along the mainland coast, or otherwise unusual, e.g. Euphorbia pithyusa, Cressa cretica.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii non-breeding  1973  18 adults only  good  A1, B2  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2006 high not assessed high

Pollution industrial & military effluents - oil spills happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  The conservation measures needed for the site are being comprehensively and effectively implemented  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Palm Island Nature Reserve 500 is identical to site 500  
Palm Islands Nature Reserve Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 415 protected area contained by site 415  
Palmier, Ramkin, Sanani (Iles de Lapins) Barcelona Convention 500 is identical to site 500  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Sea   major
Coastline Rocky shores; Shallow marine waters  major

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
tourism/recreation major
hunting major

Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by Assad Serhal.

References Carp (1980), Haber et al. (no date), Tohmé (1973), Tohmé and Neuschwander (1974).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Palm Islands Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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