We are heading North!
Cutting through the country, we will be driving through the highlands of Iceland, where will see some evidence of soil erosion.
We're on the road to nowhere!
Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen.
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go
We will continue our journey, starting here in Gunnarsholt, the home of The Soil Conservation Service of Iceland (SCSI, Landgræðsla ríkisins). The largest environmental problem in Iceland has been the degradation of the ecosystem. After over exploitation, vast areas have been desertified. Harsh weather conditions combined with volcanic activity constantly battle major erosion on the land. The operation here in Gunnarsholt is a governmental agency under the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources. Their main tasks are to combat desertification, sand encroachment and other soil erosion.
I used to be a farmer on a large dairy farm for almost 20 years. The farm is located by the South shore in a very windy area called Landeyjar (Land islands), where the farmers battle the sand from the coastline almost every day. The whole coastline of South Iceland consists of sand. In cooperation with the SCSI, farmers participate every year to help prevent soil erosion, both by trying to tame the wild black sand by planting the strongly rooted Lyme grass and also by donating excess bales of hay to be spread over certain areas and therefore make it easier for other plants to root, eventually forming soil.
What nowadays is considered as the lowland in the South, used to be the ocean floor. As the Ice Age glacier retreated about 10.000 years ago from South Iceland, the lowlands were mostly under seawater. Then during the early Holocene, as the weight of glacial ice was off, the land gradually rose and the vast sandur plains developed with a large contribution from the rivers, running from the highlands, bringing sediment load with them, dumping it on the flat coastal plains.
The lowland is now one of the country’s best farmland, and therefore mostly protected from massive erosion. Farmers in general participate in controlling their livestock by fencing them off. They also categorize the land by the amount of grazing. Then they move the animals between fences, depending on how long certain parts have been animal-free for recovery.
Many use part of their land to plant trees and aim to cover open areas with a carpet of strongly rooted grass or other plants. When farmers participate in such actions, they get partially compensated from the government.