Agricultural Land Degradation in Iceland

Isabel C. Barrio*, Ólafur Arnalds

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Iceland is located just south of the Arctic Circle. Its cold climate, volcanic origin, erodible soils, and relative isolation make it very sensitive to human impact. Humans arrived in Iceland ~1,150 years ago, bringing with them their pastoral ways of life, which had large impacts on Iceland’s subarctic ecosystems. The relatively short history of human land use and the good documentation of this period provide a unique opportunity to study the drivers of land degradation related to human land use practices and how the interactions between society, economy, and the natural environment have changed over time. Centuries of agricultural use in Iceland under marginal natural conditions have caused severe and large-scale land degradation, which is a main environmental concern still today. A framework model for land condition response in Iceland (Ice-LaCoRe) helps separate the underlying reasons, drivers, processes, states, and consequences of land degradation, where decoupling mechanisms disrupt the cycle and favour inaction in dealing with the poor state of the land. Recognition of the poor state of Icelandic ecosystems and the identification of such decoupling mechanisms is a critical step to the effective implementation of sustainable land uses and to prevent further land degradation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Environmental Chemistry
    PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
    Number of pages19
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Publication series

    NameHandbook of Environmental Chemistry
    ISSN (Print)1867-979X

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

    Other keywords

    • Extensive sheep grazing
    • Land condition response model
    • Marginal agriculture
    • Soil erosion
    • Subarctic


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