Iceland tries to bring back trees razed by the Vikings

Iceland was once lush with forests but the Vikings razed everything to build homes and make way for grazing pastures when they c
Iceland was once lush with forests but the Vikings razed everything to build homes and make way for grazing pastures when they conquered the island

Before being colonised by the Vikings, Iceland was lush with forests but the fearsome warriors razed everything to the ground and the nation is now struggling to reforest the island.

The country is considered the least forested in Europe; indeed, forests in Iceland are so rare, or their trees so young, that people often joke that those lost in the woods only need to stand up to find their way.

However, it wasn't always that way.

When seafaring Vikings set off from Norway and conquered the uninhabited North Atlantic island at the end of the ninth century, forests, made up mostly of birch trees, covered more than a quarter of the island.

Within a century, the settlers had cut down 97 percent of the original forests to serve as building material for houses and to make way for grazing pastures.

The forests' recovery has been made all the more difficult by the harsh climate and active volcanoes, which periodically cover the soil with lava and ashes.

According to a report published in 2015 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), forests now only cover 0.5 percent of the island's surface.

The lack of trees means there isn't any vegetation to protect the soil from eroding and to store water, leading to extensive desertification despite the country's far northern location.

Iceland is now trying to bring the trees that once lushly covered part of the island back, but faces a challenge
Iceland is now trying to bring the trees that once lushly covered part of the island back, but faces a challenge

Reforestation efforts since the 1950s and especially the 1990s have helped the rocky landscape regain some of the greenery and efforts are ongoing.

In Hafnarsandur, a 6,000-hectare (14,800-acre) area of basalt and black sand in Iceland's southwest, authorities have tasked the Icelandic Forest Service with turning the lunar landscape into a forest.

"This is one of the worst examples of soil erosion in Iceland on low land," said Hreinn Oskarsson, the service's head of strategy.

Help from imported species

Armed with a red "potti-putki", a Finnish designed tube-shaped tool, Oskarsson is planting lodgepole pines and Sitka spruces, two species of North American conifer trees, in an attempt to protect the nearby town of Thorlakshofn from recurring dust storms.

"We are planning an afforestation project to stabilise the soil," Oskarsson added.

Adalsteinn Sigurgeirsson (R), and Hreinn Oskarsson, both of the Icelandic Forest Service, are involved in reforestation efforts
Adalsteinn Sigurgeirsson (R), and Hreinn Oskarsson, both of the Icelandic Forest Service, are involved in reforestation efforts

At the foot of Mount Esja, which overlooks the capital Reykjavik, is Mogilsa, where the Icelandic Forest Service's research division is located.

Next to the station is a 50 year-old planted forest where imported trees grow together with Iceland's only domestic tree, the birch.

Despite the birch being native to the soil, afforestation efforts often focus on other species of trees.

The problem with birches, according to Adalsteinn Sigurgeirsson, deputy director of the forest service, is that they aren't a "productive species".

"So if you are going to meet other objectives, like fast sequestering of carbon or producing timber... we need more variety than just monocultures of one native species," he said.

At Mogilsa where the Icelandic Forest Service's research division is located is a 50 year-old planted forest where imported tree
At Mogilsa where the Icelandic Forest Service's research division is located is a 50 year-old planted forest where imported trees grow together with Iceland's only domestic tree, the birch

Watching the trees grow

Dozens of nursery gardens have been set up throughout the country to facilitate the afforestation efforts.

At Kvistar, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Reykjavik, up to 900,000 pines and poplars are produced each year.

"Originally, they come from Alaska but now we have 30, 40, 50 year-old trees giving us seeds, so we collect that and we use that for forest seedlings production," Holmfridur Geirsdottir, a 56-year-old horticulturist and greenhouse owner, told AFP.

The young trees are cultivated indoors for three months before being moved outside.

But since Icelandic soil is low in nitrogen, the maturation process is slow and the average growth rate is only about one tenth of that observed in the Amazon rainforest.

Iceland's lack of trees means there isn't any vegetation to protect the soil from eroding and to store water, leading to extensi
Iceland's lack of trees means there isn't any vegetation to protect the soil from eroding and to store water, leading to extensive desertification

Climate paradox

The Icelandic government has made afforestation one of its priorities in its climate action plan, published in September 2018.

It identifies trees' carbon uptake as one of the country's ways of mitigating climate change.

Paradoxically, climate change is also giving tree growth a boost.

"What has mainly been hampering growth of forest here has been the low temperatures and the coolness of the summers, but we are realising changes in that because of climate change," said forest service deputy director Sigurgeirsson.

"Warming appears to be elevating tree growth in Iceland, and therefore also the carbon sequestration rate," he continued.

The Icelandic government has made afforestation one of its priorities in its climate action plan
The Icelandic government has made afforestation one of its priorities in its climate action plan

Since 2015, between three and four million trees have been planted in Iceland, the equivalent of about 1,000 hectares.

That, however, is only a drop in the ocean compared to the six to seven million hectares planted in China over the same period.


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Jul 17, 2019
This is great.

Would love to see something similar for Lebanon which once had fabled forests of cedar.

And for England which was covered in oak forests before the Napoleonic Wars (when they were cut down to make ships).

And so many other places.

Jul 17, 2019
This Icelandic Desert

This Desert of East Anglia – where trees grow big and strong
Although there is no comparison with this Desert of East Anglia
Where, if you turn your back for an instant
Sycamore trees grow
From seedlings
All the year round
In this bone dry sandy gravel
For in a few weeks time
These seedlings
Are 6inchs tall
Their roots go deep into this bone dry sandy gravel
For in a year
If you leave them they're feet high
The Reason For This Point
This freshly planted Icelandic sapling
https://3c1703fe8...lack.jpg
Is Only Inches High
Far too small and young to stand the ravages of Icelandic Weather

This Icelandic Desert

Jul 17, 2019
What a stupid comparison: "Since 2015, between three and four million trees have been planted in Iceland, the equivalent of about 1,000 hectares.

That, however, is only a drop in the ocean compared to the six to seven million hectares planted in China over the same period."

China has 4000 times the population of Iceland (estimated at 1.4 billion as of 2016 versus 350,000 for Iceland) and nearly 100 times the land area. And being much further south, even though China has vast swaths of desert, I suspect it also has orders of magnitude greater amounts of land suitable for planting than volcanic Iceland.

Jul 17, 2019
Planting trees is good.

But, it was MUCH warmer when the Vikings came to Ireland than it is today. Vineyards in Scotland. Cattle in Greenland.

Jul 17, 2019
Shootist - today's article is about ICELAND - not Ireland. But anyway - it was apparently about the same temp in Greenland when the Vikings arrived - https://phys.org/...and.html Not MUCH warmer - as you falsely assert.
This warmer period was similar to southern Greenland's temperatures today, which hover around 10-degrees Celsius (50-degrees Fahrenheit) in summer

Jul 17, 2019
Would love to see something similar for Lebanon which once had fabled forests of cedar... And so many other places.
This happened everywhere.

"The Athenians denuded their own forests by the sixth century B.C.E., mostly through agricul­tural clear-cutting. Thereafter, they pursued a foreign policy that, among other things, guaranteed them ac­cess to trees. Colonies were established with timber needs in mind."

"Deforestation during the Roman period was a result of the geographical expansion of the Roman Empire, with its increased population, large-scale agriculture, and unprecedented economic development... Rome drove human development in Western Europe and was a leading contributor of the deforestation around the Mediterranean."

...and before. A large swath from the sahel to the gobi stripped, deforested, desertified, due tof the advent of agriculture and resulting overpopulation.

Jul 17, 2019
"By 1492 Indian activity throughout the Americas had modified forest extent and composition, created and expanded grasslands, and rearranged microrelief via countless artificial earthworks. Agricultural fields were common, as were houses and towns and roads and trails."

"Sauer (1950, 1958, 1975) argued early and often that the great grasslands and savannas of the New World were of anthropogenic rather than climatic origin"

"The thesis of prairies as fire induced, primarily by Indians, has its critics (Borchert 1950; Wedel 1957), but the recent review of the topic by Anderson (1990, 14), a biologist, concludes that most ecologists now believe that the eastern prairies "would have mostly disappeared if it had not been for the nearly annual burning of these grasslands by the North American Indians," during the last 5,000 years."

-Thats right. White warrior savages werent the only ones who destroyed the environment.

Jul 17, 2019
This Icelandic Desert

Edward bliss in the 1800s planted a millions trees on this barren sandy desert
Ophelia> What a stupid comparison: "Since 2015, between three and four million trees have been planted in Iceland, the equivalent of about 1,000 hectares

For Santon Downham disappeared under sand and had to be dug out
When you plant saplings in a freezing barren volcanic landscape
Plants grow faster in the company of other plants
They appreciate the warmth
The shelter
The social company, for plants sense other plants
But
And this a big BUT
These saplings are too small
To have a better chance of survival
They have to be several feet high

They also do not need to be native trees
Iceland needs hardy fast growing trees now,
To provide forests for their native trees
For these native trees grow to slowly
In
This Icelandic Desert

Jul 17, 2019
They appreciate the warmth
The shelter
The social company, for plants sense other plants
"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray"

etc.

You retard.

Jul 17, 2019
Hey here is a nice poem for your literary enjoyment
https://www.z100f...patrick/

Jul 18, 2019
Paradoxically, climate change is also giving tree growth a boost.

"What has mainly been hampering growth of forest here has been the low temperatures and the coolness of the summers, but we are realising changes in that because of climate change," said forest service deputy director Sigurgeirsson.

These ignorant AGW Chicken Shites so believe in their cult's lies, they deny the realities of nature.

Jul 19, 2019
Antigoracle, you can keep raging at the rest of the world and the constant stream of AGW articles here but it's only going to become worse as we break more heat related records and the insanity of your denial becomes clearer and clearer (as if it weren't crystal clear already).

One irony to consider however is that without people such as yourself we would have started dealing with AGW seriously decades ago and it would not have been such a drama as it is today.

Jul 19, 2019
One irony to consider however is that without people such as yourself we would have started dealing with AGW seriously decades ago and it would not have been such a drama as it is today.

And so, the Chicken Shite brays.
Yep, it's because of the heretics and oil companies that these jackasses continue to burn fossil fuel.
They and their Cult fill with pride as they bray.

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