Story | 31 Oct, 2017

A major enhancement of protection in Iceland

After many years of lobbying by Icelandic and international experts from WCPA, the Icelandic Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Björt Ólafsdóttir has just announced the enhanced protection status of one of the most important ice caps and adjacent wetland areas in the highlands of Iceland, embracing the Hofsjökull icecap and outlet glaciers and the wetland of Thjorsarver (Þjórsárver).

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Photo: Roger Crofts

The Order for the change in status of the protected area explains that "The objective of the enhanced protection is to ensure an extensive and effective protection of the nature of Þjórsárver as a whole, natural habitats of the wetlands, palsa mire habitats, nesting areas of pink footed geese, wilderness, extraordinary landscape as a whole and cultural artefacts, as well as educating the public on the value of protecting the area.  This designation should protect natural diversity, water flow and wetlands stemming from the glacial meltwater, including the vegetation mosaics and habitats of Þjórsárver which are the largest, most diverse and continuous natural oasis of the highlands and an important habitat for animals and plants. Cultural artefacts, for example goose roundup enclosures and ruins of shelters built by outlaws, are also strictly protected."

Particular emphasis is to be placed on the strict protection according to the laws of nature for the area as a whole and especially for the sensitive palsas (ice-cored blister with limited vegetation cover).

The area is governed by a committee representing the local municipalities who have traditional rights and current responsibilities in the area, scientific experts from the national agency and from the university, and is headed by the national nature agency.

"The protection now afforded, including restriction on access and bans on hunting, fully accords with IUCN protected area management Category II status" says Roger Crofts, former IUCN WCPA Vice Chair for Europe. He adds that "although many of us wished for a much larger area to be proteccted, we accept that the current area is better than previously and we will work with the authorities to extend it."

IUCN Category II: National Park
Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities. Read more

Article elaborated by Roger Crofts, IUCN WCPA member and former Vice Chair for WCPA Europe
Also read: Roger Crofts receives Packard Award

Outlet glaciers and the wetland of Þjórsárver, Iceland.       Photo: R. Crofts