Plant life in Iceland
Large parts of the highlands are rock and sand flies with open and sparse plant growth. In the lowlands are plant covered richer and denser, grasses and sedges form good pasture for sheep, horses and cattle. The forest has long ago been destroyed, used for firewood or charcoal. Remains of birch forest with up to 10 m tall trees can be found in Þrastarlundur and Markarfljót in the south, and in some places in the north, the largest is Hallormstaðskogur in Lagarfljót. Of other trees and shrubs, roe, juniper, dwarf birch and a few varieties are common. Intensive forest planting (about 1.5 million plants per year) is conducted in areas that are protected and fenced to prevent sheep grazing.
The flora joins all the way to the northern European. Of the 575 seedlings, only a few are distinctly American. By the way, there are only 18 species that do not also grow in Norway when you ignore the many endemic species in the genus hover and dandelion.
Wildlife in Iceland
The species-poor fauna in Iceland must be seen in connection with the great distance to the nearest mainland, and also with long periods – the ice ages – with unfavorable climate. Mountain reefs or polar reefs, in the Icelandic Melrakki, are the only native land mammals. Reindeer was introduced from Norway in 1771, and brown rats, small forest mice and house mice have followed the humans. Mink escaped from fur farms is a nuisance to bird life.
Polar bears sometimes come with drift ice to the north coast. Oats and cobwebs are common, especially in the south, and all North Atlantic seal species are found in Icelandic waters. The stock of baleen whales was large until the 20th century. The marine fauna is not very species rich, but large quantities of herring, cod, haddock, flounder, lobster and shrimp are found. Selfish land off the south coast is an important spawning ground, especially for cod. In the rivers a lot of salmon, sea trout and some eel are taken. The lakes have good trout fishing.
250 bird species have been observed, but only 75 nest. A dozen species, including ground owls, hooded gulls and cataracts, have colonized Iceland after 1920. The insect fauna is sparse, and little native forest can explain the striking lack of sparrow birds – only nine species of nest. Iceland has many waders, and small spruces and heilo are characteristic. Mývatn has Europe’s largest duck population, including Icelandic sand, top duck, bergand, black duck and havelle. Mývatn is also Harlequinand’s only breeding ground in Europe.
There are large seabird colonies of gannets, fulmars, all European auks and kittiwakes. The bird of prey was extinct in the 1840s. Peacock, mountain ridge, blackback, red bark, quince, hay bead and raven are numerous throughout Iceland. The national bird Icelandic hunting falcon nest in the mountain regions.
Reptiles and amphibians are missing. There are no “dangerous” insects among the 1,000 species of insects, but mosquitoes can be troublesome in some places.