Ecology and Consultancy Department
The Ecology and Consultancy Department is responsible for research on plant and animal species and communities and contributes to their protection by providing advice on conservation and sustainable harvest. Mapping of vegetative communities and habitat types represents a major part of the Department's work.
The study and monitoring of birds has long been a priority at the IINH. Research on the condition of the ptarmigan population and fluctuations in their numbers takes place at the Ecology Department, as does the monitoring of the falcon population. Iceland's eagle population, once close to extinction, has been slowly recovering in recent decades. The IINH has long been responsible for eagle monitoring in Iceland in cooperation with the Icelandic Society for the Protection of Birds (Fuglavernd). The migration patterns of brent geese and other arctic bird species that pass through Iceland during the spring and fall are also the subject of study. Research on the condition of cliff-nesting seabird populations in Iceland has recently begun in collaboration with the Institute of Biology at the University of Iceland and the Marine Research Institute. The IINH has organised and managed annual winter bird counts in Iceland since 1952 and supervises bird ringing.
In recent years, the Department has carried out a number of studies in connection with Iceland's Master Plan for Hydropower and Geothermal Development. Identification and mapping of habitat types in the Icelandic highlands and assessment of their conservation value has been a priority for the Department. This work is based mainly on vegetation and soil measurements but also encompasses birds and small animals. The Department also carries out research on the vegetation and conservation value of major geothermal areas. The effects of tree planting and soil reclamation on conditions in Iceland and the impact of alien species are other areas of study at the Ecology Department in partnership with the Icelandic Forest Service, the Agricultural University of Iceland, the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and others in the field. The SKÓGVIST project is an example of just such collaboration. The succession of plants and animals on Surtsey has been studied for decades at the IINH in cooperation with the Surtsey Research Society. Another area of research at the Department is the impact of reservoirs on groundwater levels, vegetation and beach formation, particularly at the Lagarfljót and Blöndulón reservoirs. This research is carried out for Iceland State Electricity (RARIK) and Landsvirkjun. The IINH participates in the monitoring of heavy metals in the atmosphere in Europe, a project that involves the extensive collection of mosses at five-year intervals. The IINH takes part in an international monitoring project on the impact of airborne pollution on the biota of small catchment areas. In Iceland, monitoring takes place at Litla-Skarð in Borgarfjörður Fjord. Long-term research on the effects of climate change on vegetation, biological diversity and grazing land also takes place at the Ecology Department in collaboration with the Agricultural University of Iceland, the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and other parties. Following a major brush fire at Mýrar in 2006, the IINH embarked on a joint research programme on the effects of the fire on the local biota with the Agricultural University of Iceland and the Natural History Museum of Kópavogur.
Mapping of vegetation and habitat types
Mapping of vegetation has taken place at the IINH since 1995, when the IINH assumed responsibility for mapping activities previously carried out by the Agricultural Research Institute. Fieldwork has now been carried out for more than two-thirds of the country, although changes in the landscape and vegetation cover mean that maps are in need of constant revision. Over 100 vegetation maps have been published to date, covering both highland and lowland regions. In 1998, a vegetation map of Iceland was published at a scale of 1:500 000. Extensive mapping of vegetation takes place every year in connection with infrastructure planning and assessment of the environmental impact of development, commissioned by townships and municipalities, the Icelandic Road Administration, energy companies and various other parties. In recent years, these vegetation maps have been used as a starting point for mapping habitat types in highland areas. The IINH purchases and makes use of Spot-5 satellite images of Iceland and has recently begun research into whether remote sensing can be used to a greater extent in the mapping of vegetation and habitat types.
The principal consultancy tasks are planning and the preparation and implementation of consulting contracts. Preparing opinions and reports and the granting of permits where the IINH is involved and coordination of international projects at the Institute.
Ecology and Consultancy Department staff:
Trausti Baldursson, Department Director
Ásrún Elmarsdóttir, Head of Consulting projects, Plant Ecologist
Borgný Katrínardóttir, Biologist
Borgþór Magnússon, Plant Ecologist
Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir, Mammal Ecologist
Freydís Vigfúsdóttir, Animal Ecologist
Guðmundur Guðjónsson, Project Manager for Vegetation Mapping, Geographer
Guðmundur A. Guðmundsson, Animal Ecologist
Hans H. Hansen, Specialist in geographic information systems and cartography
Kristinn Haukur Skarphéðinsson, Head of Zoology, Wildlife Ecologist
Lilja Víglundsdóttir, Project manager
Ólafur K. Nielsen, Ecologist
Rannveig Thoroddsen, Biologist
Sigmar Metúsalemsson, Specialist in remote sensing and cartography
Sigurður K. Guðjohnsen, Specialist in geographic information
Sigurður H. Magnússon, Plant Ecologist
Svenja Auhage, Environmental Scientist and Ecologist
Ute Stenkewitz, Doctoral student