Planting trees to establish local seed banks [Iceland]

technologies_1672 - Iceland

Completeness: 59%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Preventing and Remediating degradation of soils in Europe through Land Care (EU-RECARE )
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Soil Conservation Service of Iceland (Soil Conservation Service of Iceland) - Iceland

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

The technology is supposed to increase afforestation with native species within the area by supporting natural seed dispersal

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Planting areas are pre-selected based on local condition and optimal rate of potential seed dispersal (prevailing dry-wind direction, distance to remnant seed banks etc.). The areas are partially vegetated or have previously been treated with fertilizer (and seed) to facilitate surface stabilization, improved soil qualities and vegetation succession. Only native species are planted in these seed bank "islands"; mainly birch and a mixture of willow species. The islands/patches are scattered over the restoration area in order to get as much effectiveness out of the technology in the long run.

Purpose of the Technology: The purpose with the technology is to halt further land degradation and facilitate natural succession within the area undergoing restoration. In the long-term, it should substantially reduce wind and water erosion. It should also lead to increased biodiversity, enhanced water availability and accelerated carbon sequestration (in soil and vegetation). The overall restoration task is to increase the resilience of the ecosystems against natural hazards; such as volcanic activities.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: For the first years, the plants in the seed banks islands are yearly treated with a small amount of fertilizer. The nutrient level within the areas is still very low and hardly enough to support sufficient annual plant growth.

Natural / human environment: In the long-term, the technology is expected to substantially increase biomass production, re-build soil qualities, accelerate carbon sequestration and secure water availability within the rangeland and the adjacent ecosystems. Increased tree and diverse vegetation cover will reduce and even halt the sand drift that still creates challenges for inhabitants in adjacent villages, on farmsteads and within the summerhouse clusters, scattered around the area. As the degraded rangeland is in the vicinity of an active volcano (Mt Hekla) the technology is also expected to increase ecosystem resilience against natural hazards like ash and pumice drift and reduce potential offsite damages caused by these materials.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Rangarthing Ytra

Further specification of location:



Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 900 km2.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • 10-50 years ago

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • during experiments/ research

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • conserve ecosystem
  • preserve/ improve biodiversity

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Forest/ woodlands

Forest/ woodlands

Products and services:
  • Nature conservation/ protection
  • Recreation/ tourism
  • Protection against natural hazards
Unproductive land

Unproductive land


Wastelands, deserts, glaciers, swamps, recreation areas, etc


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Vast parts of the area are heavily degraded due to unsustainable land use through the centuries in combination to harsh climate and frequent volcanic eruptions. The major land use problem are related to the fact that the concerned ecosystems collapsed long time ago and despite all restoration efforts implemented within the area for over 100 years, the systems are still highly dysfunctional. Their carrying capacity is limited and even light livestock grazing can keep further vegetation succession down. Passive restoration might take place where the livestock grazing has been excluded but in most cases some technologies are needed to "kickstart" the ecosystem and break their negative resilience against changes.

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): They are fully aware that the ecosystems are in a poor condition and restoration is needed in order to push improvements forward. They acknowledge that grazing of collapsed ecosystems can maintain the dysfunctional of the systems and hinder ecological improvements. Nevertheless, in many cases they believe the harsh climate and volcanic activities are the main contributors to land degradation - that livestock grazing and the grazing carrying capacity of the rangeland are not fundamental issues in this context.

Future (final) land use (after implementation of SLM Technology): Forests / woodlands: Fn: Natural

Constraints of wastelands / deserts / glaciers / swamps

Number of growing seasons per year: 1
Longest growing period from month to month: June to end August

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • Yes (Please fill out the questions below with regard to the land use before implementation of the Technology)
Unproductive land

Unproductive land


Wastelands, deserts, glaciers, swamps, recreation areas, etc

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V1: Tree and shrub cover
management measures

management measures

  • M1: Change of land use type

Main measures: vegetative measures, management measures

Type of vegetative measures: aligned: -against wind, scattered / dispersed

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover
  • Bq: quantity/ biomass decline
  • Bs: quality and species composition/ diversity decline
water degradation

water degradation

  • Hs: change in quantity of surface water
  • Hg: change in groundwater/aquifer level

Secondary types of degradation addressed: Bc: reduction of vegetation cover, Bq: quantity / biomass decline, Bs: quality and species composition /diversity decline, Hs: change in quantity of surface water, Hg: change in groundwater / aquifer level

Main causes of degradation: deforestation / removal of natural vegetation (incl. forest fires), over-exploitation of vegetation for domestic use, overgrazing, Heavy / extreme rainfall (intensity/amounts), wind storms / dust storms, other natural causes (avalanches, volcanic eruptions, mud flows, highly susceptible natural resources, extreme topography, etc.) specify

Secondary causes of degradation: disturbance of water cycle (infiltration / runoff), change in temperature, floods, land tenure, governance / institutional

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation
  • restore/ rehabilitate severely degraded land

Main goals: mitigation / reduction of land degradation, rehabilitation / reclamation of denuded land

Secondary goals: prevention of land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

An example showing the development of a local seed bank at a previously eroded area.

Location: South Iceland

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: high

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate

Main technical functions: improvement of ground cover, increase of surface roughness, improvement of topsoil structure (compaction), increase in organic matter, increase in nutrient availability (supply, recycling,…), increase of infiltration, increase / maintain water stored in soil, increase of groundwater level / recharge of groundwater, water harvesting / increase water supply, water spreading, improvement of water quality, buffering / filtering water, sediment retention / trapping, sediment harvesting, reduction in wind speed, increase of biomass (quantity)

Secondary technical functions: control of raindrop splash, control of dispersed runoff: retain / trap, control of dispersed runoff: impede / retard, control of concentrated runoff: impede / retard, control of concentrated runoff: drain / divert, stabilisation of soil (eg by tree roots against land slides), promotion of vegetation species and varieties (quality, eg palatable fodder), spatial arrangement and diversification of land use

Aligned: -against wind
Vegetative material: T : trees / shrubs

Scattered / dispersed
Vegetative material: T : trees / shrubs

Trees/ shrubs species: birch and several willow species planted to facilitate natural regeneration of native trees and shrubs

Change of land use type: Protected from sheep grazing


Áskell Þórisson

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):


If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Planting seedlings
2. Planting

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Planting h 1.0 68.0 68.0
Plant material Seedlings ha 1.0 3400.0 3400.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 3468.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 30.96

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

The most determinate factors affecting the cost are a) the distance from the farmsteads to the eroded areas and b) the time it takes to plant the seedlings; easily accessible areas vs difficult areas

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: boreal

Thermal climate class: polar/arctic

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil fertility is very low-low to medium
Soil drainage/infiltration is poor to medium
Soil water sotrage capacity is very low to medium

5.4 Water availability and quality

Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • subsistence (self-supply)
Individuals or groups:
  • groups/ community
  • women
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users

Population density: < 10 persons/km2

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts

Water availability and quality

drinking water availability


water availability for livestock


water quality for livestock

Other socio-economic impacts

Land price/lease


Socio-cultural impacts

cultural opportunities


recreational opportunities


community institutions


national institutions


SLM/ land degradation knowledge


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quantity


water quality


harvesting/ collection of water


surface runoff


excess water drainage


groundwater table/ aquifer




soil moisture


soil cover


soil loss


nutrient cycling/ recharge


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

biomass/ above ground C


plant diversity


animal diversity


habitat diversity

Climate and disaster risk reduction

emission of carbon and greenhouse gases


wind velocity


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

water availability


downstream flooding


downstream siltation


buffering/ filtering capacity


wind transported sediments


damage on neighbours' fields


damage on public/ private infrastructure


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local windstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought not well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood well

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
reduced growing period well

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

very positive

Long-term returns:

very positive

Links and modules

Expand all Collapse all