Mag
Articles
Ask A Forester: Why Are There So Few Trees In Iceland?

Ask A Forester: Why Are There So Few Trees In Iceland?

Phil Uwe Widiger
Words by
Photos by
Art Bicnick
Courtesy of Brynjólfur Jónsson

Published May 17, 2018

What do you do when you get lost in an Icelandic forest? Stand up.

That’s one of the lamest jokes about Iceland but it portrays the Icelandic landscape very well. We asked forester Brynjólfur Jónsson to enlighten us as to why Iceland is missing forests.

“The main reason is that the early settlers cut down and burned trees for cattle and charcoal production, which was a huge industry in Iceland in former times. Forests used to cover around 35% of Iceland’s land area, but due to deforestation, we ended up with less than one percent.

Another thing is that Iceland is very young in geological terms, only 15 million years old. The very vulnerable ecosystem wasn’t ready for this invasion of man and cattle. Even now, there are less than 500 taller species, like flowers and trees.

Also, without forests, other elements of nature were easily disturbed. Without protection from wind, soil erosion from the highlands all the way to the sea became another problem and the process of deforestation escalated. Most of the forests had disappeared in the Middle Ages, around 1500/1600.

In 100 years we have only managed to plant trees on 0.4% of Iceland’s land area. That’s not much. Hopefully, we can get 4-5% of the land area covered in this century. Unfortunately, after the bank collapse in 2008, the subsidies to the forestry project were halved, resulting in less trees being planted. We are importing all the wood and paper from other countries but if we would put more effort into it, we could grow everything that we use here in Iceland.”


Mag
Articles
Reykjavik’s Greatest Hits: The Shenanigans Of City Halls Past

Reykjavik’s Greatest Hits: The Shenanigans Of City Halls Past

by

Most of our readers are familiar with the wacky hijinks of Parliament and all its scandals and early elections. Meanwhile,

Mag
Articles
The Reykjavik 16: Meet The Parties In The Running

The Reykjavik 16: Meet The Parties In The Running

by

It’s a banner year for municipal elections in Reykjavík for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the

Mag
Articles
Missing In Iceland: Vagina Museum

Missing In Iceland: Vagina Museum

by

Iceland is proud to have been nominated as the most gender equal country in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender

Mag
Articles
Well, You Asked: Dr. Phil On Single Gloves And Getting Rid Of Rashes

Well, You Asked: Dr. Phil On Single Gloves And Getting Rid Of Rashes

by

Stuck in a tricky situation? Don’t worry. Grapevine’s official advice column is here to help you. How to get drunk

Mag
Articles
Word Of The Issue: Gúrkutíð

Word Of The Issue: Gúrkutíð

by

Gúrkutíð is that magical time of year between June and August, or January and March, when nothing notable happens and

Mag
Articles
What Have We Won?: World’s Strongest Man

What Have We Won?: World’s Strongest Man

by

Some people like kayaking. Some opt for doing cartwheels. Others enjoy badminton or throwing javelins. Then, of course, there are

Show Me More!