Growing desert in south Iceland Skip to content

Growing desert in south Iceland

Desertification is a severe problem in the area surrounding the volcano Hekla in south Iceland, as it threatens the plant and animal life that thrives there.

The soil reclamation project Hekluskógar (“Hekla forests”) has the goal of stopping the growth of the desert and to restore the birch forests that once existed in this area. But according to the project’s director Gudmundur Halldórsson, the goal cannot be reached without increased funding from the government. Fréttabladid reports.

“Hekluskógar is the largest project of its kind in Europe. The current funding from the government covers little more than the initial cost of launching the project,” Halldórsson said. “For this to work we need the tenfold amount. We are not ready to give up.”

The project was launched two years ago and the government has supported it with ISK 14 million (EUR 156,500, USD 203,000) a year.

Halldórsson explained that since the forests around Hekla disappeared two centuries ago a desert has formed in the area, which threatens the nearby environment. In case of a volcanic eruption, forests will protect the land from further damage, he said.

To restore the birch forests, Halldórsson is also hoping for financial support from private companies. His idea is for each company interested in participating in the project to fund a small forest, which would be marked with its name.

Eysteinn Jónsson, the assistant of Iceland’s Minister of Agriculture Gudni Ágústsson, said the ministry is prepared to put further funding into the Hekluskógar project and is working on it.

Sveinn Runólfsson, the state’s chief of soil reclamation, said it is very important to stop the desertification. “I think everyone agrees on the importance of continuing with this work [of Hekluskógar]. But more funding is needed for that to be possible.”

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