A habitat type is an ecological unit that has certain properties in terms of its vegetation, wildlife, soil, and climate. Within areas of the same habitat type, environmental conditions are such that similar assemblages of plants and animals can thrive.
Habitat types are classified into terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal. The extent and prevalence of different natural habitat types varies. Certain types are more prevalent in specific regions. Others are common and characteristic for Iceland as a whole.
By classifying the entirety of Iceland into habitat types, it becomes possible to gain an overview of rare and unique habitats, their characteristics, and their distribution. The habitat type classification scheme for Iceland is important for strategic planning, environmental impact assessment, and informed decision-making on land use, for example regarding land conservation, forestation, and reclamation.
Habitat type classification is based on the pan-European EUNIS habitat type classification system and Resolution No. 4 (1996) of the Standing Committee to the Bern Convention on endangered natural habitat types requiring specific conservation measures (the Emerald Network). It was necessary to make additions to the classification system to describe habitats in Iceland, since some habitat types in Iceland are rare or not found on mainland Europe, such as geothermal fields and lava field moss heaths.
Fjölrit Náttúrufræðistofnunar No. 54, Vistgerðir á Íslandi (PDF, in Icelandic, with English summaries).
Map viewer for habitat types (in Icelandic, with English summaries)