Thursday, November 2, 2017

Escaping from a forest in Iceland

How does one escape from an Icelandic forest?
Answer: stand up (the trees are that short.)

Those Vikings did it!

(Excerpt) "...[Iceland] lost most of its trees more than a thousand years ago, when Viking settlers took their axes to the forests that covered one-quarter of the countryside. Now Icelanders would like to get some of those forests back, to improve and stabilize the country’s harsh soils...

But restoring even a portion of Iceland’s once-vast forests is a slow and seemingly endless task. Despite the planting of three million or more trees in recent years, the amount of land that is covered in forest [estimated at about 1 percent] has barely increased...

When Iceland was first settled at the end of the ninth century, much of the land on or near the coast was covered in birch woodlands.

'The people that came here were Iron Age culture... and they did what Iron Age culture did.'

...[Vikings] slashed and burned the forests to grow hay and barley, and to create grazing land. They used the timber for building and for charcoal for their forges. By most accounts, the island was largely deforested within three centuries...

Eruptions over the ensuing centuries from some of Iceland’s many volcanoes deposited thick layers of volcanic material. The ash, while rich in nutrients, made for very fragile, poor soil that couldn’t hold water and moved around as the wind blew.

A cold land of 'wet desert'

As a result, Iceland is a case study in desertification, with little or no vegetation, though the problem is not heat or drought. About 40 percent of the country is desert... but there’s plenty of rainfall — we call it ‘wet desert.’”

Sheep grazing in the Westfjords

There many sheep in Iceland. One possible complication for reforestation is that apparently sheep love to eat young aspen seedling/saplings.

Source (photos and text): Vikings Razed the Forest...


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