Wildfjords Restoration, Iceland

The project is located in Iceland’s wild and mountainous West Fjords region, a landscape of rugged rock and steep sided fjords. Though retaining its wild character, land use has dramatically altered the ecology, with approximately 95% of the original forest cover removed, wetlands drained for farmland and non-native tree species planted. Increasing tourism also threatens the region’s sensitive flora.

Working with local partners, the project will restore native boreal birch forests via propagating and planting 10,000 native tree seedlings, which will support lichen, insect and fungi populations. Internationally important waterfowl wetlands will also be restored by filling in ditches, and ancient cairns will be mapped and restored in a newly proposed national park, Látrabjarg. Cairn restoration will create a network of walking trails while ensuring impact on fragile habitats is kept to a minimum. The project will create an integrated management plan between public and private sectors, prioritising bio-diversity, and will offer an alternative to current decision making procedures.

The Update

An integrated manageent plan has identified cairns to be restored and mapping that still needs to take place for further restoration activities.  It also includes forest restoration activities which will see the planting of at least 10,000 native trees in September 2017 as well as fencing to protect the saplings from sheep.

Discussions are underway with local guides and companies in the region about the development of the trails

45 cairns have been surveyed and 15 were restored along an 8km trail during a volunteer work party in the summer of 2016. Situated in the Látrabjarg area of West Fjords, internationally reknown for its cliff-nesting seabird poulation, with millions coming ashore to nest and raise their young on the edge of the Atlantic.  The cairn restoration has provided safe route access to the seacliffs and back.  There are plans to restore carins at a further site, possibly two, in 2017.

Final update November 2017:
This project is now completed and has successfully planted 10,000 birch and rowan trees over an area of 10ha. Planting was completed using specialised planting tubes and harnesses designed to carry trays of tree seedlings. The weather was rather wet and windy during planting – not the best for those undertaking the work, but appreciated by the trees!

A further 52 cairns were surveyed with 15 being restored over 15km of trail, bringing the total number over this project to 97 surveyed and 30 restored. The total time spent on the restoration of the cairns was an impressive 1070 hours!

Although EOCA’s involvement is now finished, the next step for this project is to publish a guide to this wonderful area and we wish them every success to achieving this.

Image: Westfjords