Native woodland restoration to counteract carbon land emission in Iceland

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Kristín Svavarsdóttir

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Restoration has become one of the key measures to mitigate climate change. With increasing emphases not only on carbon sequestration but also carbon emission from degraded land, calls for better strategies and prioritisation are critical. Iceland with its volcanic soil (Andosol) is an example of large-scale ecosystems conversion following settlement in the 9th century that resulted in approximately 50% of the island now classified as having considerable to severe erosion. To date attempts have been made to revegetate and restore ecosystems on this badly degraded land. However, improved understanding of the degradation processes highlights the need to focus restoration activities on degraded lands that are potential carbon sources, but which have not yet crossed a threshold leading to severe soil erosion. Downy birch (Betula pubescens) is the only native woodland forming species in Iceland, and its distribution has declined from estimated 20-30% of the country at settlement to 1.5% at present. Recent examples show a rapid spread of birch where conditions are favourable, even into nutrient-poor barren landscapes. Thus, it is imperative to identify areas in which minimum interventions may initiate this process. The aim of this study is to utilise existing data with known geographic locations on birch distribution and land classes to analyse the potential for birch woodland restoration with minimum interventions. We will use Iceland as an example of how prioritisation and natural regeneration together with limited input can simultaneously combine the three UN conventions on climate change (UNFCCC), biological diversity (CBD) and desertification (UNCCD).

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration