Research is being carried out as to whether Icelanders can help the French in preserving the DNA of beech which in France grows at high altitudes in the Alps. Jón Loftsson, general manager of the state-run Iceland Forest Service, said he has received a request to that regard.
Hallormsstadaskógur, the largest forest in Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The future of beech forests in their original habitats is at risk due to climate change. However, at the same time, climate change alters the conditions for growth of trees in Iceland, Morgunbladid reports.
This means that trees which until now have only thrived at more southerly latitudes might now thrive in Iceland and could grow at higher elevations than what has previously been possible.
Loftsson said that consideration must be given to which tree species are suitable for each location. “We must think in decades and centuries. If the climate will continue to warm due to the greenhouse effect we must consider which species will be able to grow at Sprengisandur [a highland desert] or elsewhere in the highlands in 100 years.”
Goals have been set to expand the area of forest in Iceland with afforestation projects set up in past decades, but these goals have never been fully achieved.
For example, in 1990 it was decided that the ratio of forested areas below 400 meters was to reach four percent in 40 years.
The entire percentage of forests in Iceland now stands at 1.3. “Judging by the situation as it is now, the goal might rather be reached in 250 years,” Loftsson commented.
The growth ability of trees in Iceland is on par with the Nordic average. However, all tree products are imported.