Vegetation mapping in Iceland started in 1955, originally to evaluate the grazing capacity of vegetation. In 1995, vegetation mapping became the responsibility of the IINH. Before that it had been carried out by the Agricultural Research Institute. By this time there had been a decrease in grazing stress caused by sheep and therefore the evaluation of grazing capacity of vegetation was not considered as important. A variety of planning work and environmental impact assessments of construction projects have, however, increased the demand for information on nature that the vegetation maps provide. This gathering of information on Iceland's vegetation fits well with the IINH's legal obligation, which includes data collection and conservation of resources in Icelandic nature.
When mapping vegetation, the cartographer maps dominant and characteristic plant species in a given area. To do this, aerial photographs or photo cards are used, where the boundaries of vegetation sociations and land types are drawn onto them and labelled using the vegetation legend created by Icelandic botanist Steindór Steindórsson. In vegetation mapping, vegetation is grouped into approximately 100 vegetation sociations, and sparsely or non-vegetated land into 10 groups according to land type.