Garden Thieves Undermine Research Project in Elliðaárdalur

aldin biodome iceland

Recent thefts from a research garden have set back horticultural research by several years, reports RÚV.

ALDIN is a planned biodome project to be opened in Elliðaárdalur, a nature area near Reykjavík. The biodome will use green energy to create a carbon-neutral greenhouse that aims to be not just a horticultural and educational centre, but also a restaurant, yoga retreat, and event centre. In addition to the ambitious biodome project, ALDIN also has special research gardens in Elliðaárdalur, where the suitability of different species of foreign and exotic plants are assessed for Iceland’s climate. The ALDIN biodome project won a special recognition from Icelandic president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, last year as one of six projects nominated to receive the Icelandic President’s Innovation Award.

However, recent thefts from the garden have undermined the project, potentially setting it back several years.

Karen Róbertsdóttir, supervisor of the project, stated in an interview with RÚV that “the first year it was mostly kale and celery that were stolen. The year after that it was fruit trees and some garden tools. And this year it was pumpkins, rose bushes, and a specially-imported palm from Germany.”

She stated that almost ISK 1 million has been invested in the research garden, and that much of their research has been undermined through the thefts.

“If we’re growing plants here for several years and they’re stolen, then nothing comes of it. So what’s the point?” she stated.

The garden is protected by an enclosure and surveillance cameras, neither of which seem to have deterred the thieves.

The incident has been reported to the police.

Rabbit Rescue Hops to Rehome Sixty Bunnies

Sixty rabbits that were caught in the Elliðaárdalur valley on the east side of Reykjavík need furever homes, Vísir reports, but the process has been slow as there doesn’t seem to be much demand around the city for pet bunnies. Rabbit rescue organizer Gréta Sóley Sigurðardóttir says the project’s primary focus is catching and rehoming domesticated rabbits that are not suited for survival in the wild. Four of the 60 rabbits currently being kept in a temporary shelter are former pet rabbits that were released in the valley by owners who no longer wanted them.

“As it stands, we’re not taking in [as many rabbits] as we were in the beginning,” explained Gréta Sóley. “We’re mainly focused on pet rabbits that are tossed out because they don’t survive long after they’ve been released and then we also watch out for those that are wounded or injured because it’s urgent in those cases to bring them in.”

Since the fall, Villikanínur, a rescue that focuses solely on catching and rehoming these so-called “wild” rabbits, has been working with the Dýrahjálp Íslands animal shelter and the city’s Dýrahald animal services organization to catch many of the 150 – 200 rabbits currently living in Elliðaárdalur. Though rabbit owners might think they are setting their former pets free in a hospitable environment, Villikanínur notes that unfortunately, most of these domesticated rabbits “aren’t as free and living their best life as many people think,” as “they are not made for Icelandic winter.”

Most of the rescued rabbits are being housed in a shelter that was made available to the project organizers on a temporary basis. But until some of them are found homes or short-term fosters, few of their bunny buddies still living in the wild can be taken in.

If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a rescued rabbit, check the Dýrahjálp website or follow Villikanínur on Instagram. You can also donate to the rescue, which is entirely volunteer-run, uses all donations for veterinary expenses, and hopes to one day open a “bunny rescue center where people can bring their bunny instead of letting them go ‘free’” as well as a permanent shelter in Elliðaárdalur where the rabbits can “come inside and stay warm and have enough hay, pallets, and water.”

Rivers in Outer Reykjavík Flood Their Banks

The Elliðaár River flooded its banks in several places on Sunday afternoon, RÚV reports. The deluge comes in the wake of significant thawing this weekend, which has increased flow into rivers around the country. Daníel Freyr Jónsson, one of four geologists who manages the Facebook group Eldfjalla- og náttúruvárhópur Suðurlands (‘Volcano and natural hazards group of South Iceland’) documented the flooding.

Daníel Freyr Jónsson, Eldfjalla- og náttúruvárhópur Suðurlands (FB)

The Elliðaár river is fed by Lake Ellíðavatn on the eastern outskirts of Reykjavík. The river forks in the district of Árbær, where it bounds the Elliðaárdalur valley, a popular outdoor recreation area. Lake Ellíðavatn also feeds several other rivers, including the Bugða and Hólmsá rivers. According to the Met Office, flow into both the Bugða and Hólmsá rivers has increased significantly over the weekend; flow into the Hólmsá tripled in just over 24 hours between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.

Daníel Freyr Jónsson, Eldfjalla- og náttúruvárhópur Suðurlands (FB)

Sunday’s flooding took place in the Víðidalur valley, not far from where Breiðhóltsvegur crosses the Elliðaár river. Large areas of vegetation and footpaths were also submerged around the Norðlingaholt neighbourhood and the Rauðhólar pseudo-craters where the Bugða river overflowed its banks as well.

Daníel Freyr Jónsson, Eldfjalla- og náttúruvárhópur Suðurlands (FB)

Eldfjalla- og náttúruvárhópur Suðurlands credits the flooding in Norðlingaholt in part to human intervention, as the pedestrian and horse bridge there significantly narrows the Bugða river. As of noon on Sunday, the water level of the Bugða river had almost reached the bridge floor.



Puppeteer Named Reykjavík Resident of the Year

Puppeteer Helga Steffensen was named Reykjavík Resident of the Year on Thursday, RÚV reports. Every year, the mayor invites guests of honour to open the fishing season with him at the Elliðaár river on the east side of Reykjavík. The first person to catch a salmon during the excursion is then named the honorary citizen of the year.

Helga caught a male salmon of around seven or eight pounds; it only took her 15 minutes catch the fish and reel it in. Heiða runs the Brúðubíllinn, or “Puppet Car,” which puts on free puppet shows for children each summer. Helga has been running the roving puppet theatre for 39 years, and has put on over 60 plays in that time.

“This is really cool and I’m very proud,” remarked Helga after catching her fish. When asked what stood out to her about her decades of work as a puppeteer, she was quick to answer. “It’s the kids. I’m right there with our youngest citizens from cradle to pram. I’m always working to make them happy,” she said. Helga said that this summer had been particularly fun for her, as the weather has been so good.

This is the ninth year that the title of Reykjavík Resident of the Year has been given out. Last year’s honouree was Bergþór Grétar Böðvarsson, who runs the grassroots organization called FC Sækó (FC Psycho) that aims to improve people’s mental health through football.

See the Puppet Car’s summer schedule here.

Geo Climate Biodome Depends on Investors

The establishment of a proposed 4,500 m2 [48,438 ft2] cluster of geodesic greenhouses on the edge of Reykjavík’s Elliðaárdalur valley will depend on private investors, RÚV reports. According to the chair of the municipal Planning and Transport Committee, the city is prepared to allocate land for the project and believes it will have a positive impact on recreation in the area, but does not have funds to offer for its development.

BioDome Reykjavík (previously known as ALDIN Biodome) is a project of the Spor í sandinn consultancy firm and, per a profile in The Polar Connection aims to not only be “the world’s first geo climate biodome,” but also the first carbon neutral one. Capitalizing on the wealth of geothermal energy available in Iceland as well as the country’s “fertile volcanic soil,” BioDome Reykjavík will “…create a lush, verdant oasis beneath a glazed dome…A place that will grow its own food, supporting indoor Mediterranean as well as tropical environments, for the health, nourishment and enjoyment of all who visit.” In addition to its rich plant life, the plans also include a plaza, specialty restaurant, and marketplace focusing on Icelandic produce.

Initial plans for the biodome were approved by the city in December 2017, after criticism from people living in the area led to a reduction of the height of the domes and the removal of proposed buildings on the west side of the site. The proposed parking lot was also scaled down. Spor í sandinn founder and CEO Hjördís Sigurðardóttir says the plans for the project have gone through five or six drafts and changed a great deal in response to a site changes as well; initially, the project was proposed to be located in the more central Laugardalur neighbourhood, but this was rejected by the city.

Having received an initial round of investment during the planning and design phase, Hjördís is currently looking to secure the next phase of financial support. In her interview with RÚV on Wednesday, she wouldn’t give a specific figure of how much the project was projected to cost but conceded that biodomes were “expensive structures.”

See project visualization photos and read more about the proposal for BioDome Reykjavík (in English) on the Spor í sandinn website, here.