Part of the massive NATO exercises that were held in Iceland last Saturday did extensive damage to newly planted trees in Þjórsárdal. Forestation officials are still assessing the damage.
The exercises, called Trident Juncture 18, involve some 40,000 military personnel, 130 aircraft and 70 warships conducting readiness drills across Scandinavia, including Iceland. Last Saturday, some 300 Marines conducted combat exercises in Þjórsárdal, RÚV reports, and did damage to newly planted birch trees in the area—despite assurances from Iceland’s Foreign Ministry that the exercises should not cause any environmental damage.
Specifically, it came to light that the Marines had pitched tents in a recently forested area, and they left their mark.
“We see that some saplings have been pulled out of the ground, and others have been trampled,” Hreinn Óskarsson of the Icelandic Forest Service told reporters. “But we need to assess the extent of the damage. It’s a little special that combat exercises would be directed into an area where forestation efforts have been underway, especially in these times where forestation is one of the larger issues related to climate change.”
Iceland has been engaging in forestation efforts for decades now, primarily in the hopes of fighting soil erosion. How extensive the damage to the trees is still needs to be definitively determined.
Trident Juncture 18 left Iceland yesterday, departing to Norway for the conclusion of the exercises.