Wetland Reclaimed on Presidential Estate in Iceland

wetlands Iceland

Earlier this week, ditches were filled on the estates of Bessastaðir – the official residence of the President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhanesson – and Bleiksmýri, RÚV reports. The effort forms a part of the Icelandic Wetland Fund’s endeavour to fill ditches on a total of 25 estates before next summer. According to the Fund’s estimates, the restoration of these wetlands will be the equivalent of removing 1,000 vehicles from the road, as far as carbon emissions go.

Labourers employed by the Fund finished filling the ditches in Bessastaðir and Bleiksmýri on Wednesday. Yesterday, the effort was resumed on Krísuvíkurmýri (a total of 60 hectares) in Hafnarfjörður. The reclamation will continue on estates such as Kirkjuból in West Iceland and Hof in East Iceland.

The Icelandic Wetland Fund was established in 2018 by Auðlind (the Guðmundur Páll Ólafsson Memorial Fund), the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland (SCSI), and other companies. President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson is the project’s guardian.

Read more: Iceland’s Wetland Restoration

According to a public statement made last year by the Icelandic Wetland Fund, filling in ditches is a quick and cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions:

“It has been estimated that the length of the drained [ditches] in Iceland is about 34,000 kilometres. The […] focus is on co-operation with farmers, landowners, municipalities, and the Icelandic state to restore areas not used for cultivation or forestry. The restoration of wetlands is a relatively fast and cheap way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland.”

Government Announces Ambitious Plan for Carbon Offsetting

The Icelandic government has announced a plan to increase carbon gains by 50% by 2030. The plan, which will be carried out in the next four years, will focus on carbon capturing by planting trees along with the reclamation of wetlands. The government will invest 2.1 billion ISK (14.7m €, 16.7m $) in the next four years to improve land use and the extent of soil reclamation and forestation. This was revealed in a press conference held outside in Elliðárdalur valley by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandssson earlier today.

The plan entails projects all around the country which will ensure the protection of the biosphere. It is expected that the climate gain from the carbon offsetting, along with the reclamation of wetlands, will be 50% more by 2030 when compared to the current state. Furthermore, it is planned that the increase will have reached 110% by 2050, or 2.1 million tons of CO2 in total. Along with the carbon capture, measures will be taken to fight land deterioration as well as strengthening local biodiversity by reclaiming ecosystems, such as wetlands, birch forests, willow bushes, and diverse forestation projects.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated: “The Government has placed an emphasis on climate matters, and clearly set the course for Iceland not only fulfilling the goals of the Paris Agreement but that the country will have reached the carbon neutrality goals not later than 2040. The measures we’re introducing today are not least put in place to achieve that important goal. Carbon capturing as well as the reclamation of wetlands are immensely important in the fight against the climate danger.”

It is expected that soil reclamation will double from 2018 to 2022 by operations all around the country, and it is likewise planned to double the yearly extent of forestation in the same four-year period. Operations to reclaim wetlands will be improved significantly, and it is expected that the yearly scope of reclaimed wetlands will go from 45 hectares on average in the years 2016-2018 to about 500 hectares in 2022. To ensure the maximum climate gains, a special emphasis will be placed on operations on land where carbon is being lost from the soil.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources: “With these operations which we have introduced we place the main emphasis on a holistic approach where we look to climate change matters and carbon capturing at the same time as we reclaim parts of the natural environment. This entails projects where we recapture previous land qualities, including wetlands and birch forests. There will also be an emphasis on strengthening agricultural forestry.”

Numerous projects will be put in place all over the country in co-operation with farmers, non-governmental organizations, private companies, and municipalities, as well as strengthening projects already in place. A substantial amount of farmers are currently working on soil reclamation and forestation. There are also plans afoot to ensure that farmers pursue more eco-friendly agricultural methods.

New laws regarding soil reclamation, as well as forests and forestation, were approved in Parliament recently. The laws will play an important role in ensuring that carbon will be captured and to ensure sustainable land use.

For a more detailed report, albeit only in Icelandic at this point in time: