Combating soil erosion in Iceland – Nootka lupin

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Lupin flower
Lupin flower

The Nootka lupin was brought to Iceland to help to restore degraded soils. It’s use began in the 1960s when the Icelandic Forestry Service used lupin to fertilise newly-planted forest areas. As a plant which needs a sunny spot, lupins could not thrive once the trees grew tall enough to create shade. After this it was then sown by the Soil Conservation Service to help to improve soils.

Erosion on hillsides
Erosion on hillsides

Soil erosion is a considerable problem for Iceland. At the time of settlement, Iceland was actually more vegetated, with habitats such as forests, grasslands and willow tundra. Before the Vikings there were no grazing animals in Iceland (the Arctic fox was the only mammal) but with the people came the sheep, goats, cows and horses.

Dust blowing off the Myrdalssandur east of Vik, Iceland
Dust blowing off the Myrdalssandur east of Vik, Iceland

Centuries of sheep farming are thought to have taken their toll on the land putting an intense pressure on fragile grazing lands. Woodlands suffered when sheep could graze the regenerating shoots from felled birch and willow trees, preventing the formation of coppices. In addition, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, the climate became harsher slowing vegetation growth, and land was lost to disasters such as meltwater outwash caused by volcanic eruptions under glaciers.

Erosion control through lyme grass planting, Vik
Erosion control through lyme grass planting, Vik

Lyme grass and lupins can both grow in loose soils and help to combat erosion.

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3 thoughts on “Combating soil erosion in Iceland – Nootka lupin

    […] crédit photo […]

    Ellia Glassing said:
    October 21, 2017 at 4:38 am

    could planting Moss help to reduce erosion on Iceland?

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