Nature Conservation Register

The Nature Conservation Register is a list of natural areas in Iceland that have substantial nature conservation value and have been declared either as protected areas or areas that there is reason to protect. The Nature Conservation Register contains descriptions of nature conservation sites, including their special features, conservation value, and geographical boundaries.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History manages documentation of nature conservation sites and makes recommendations for their inclusion in the implementation plan of the Nature Conservation Register. After the selection process is complete, the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources charges the Environment Agency of Iceland with assessing the necessary conservation measures for the proposed areas and estimating the involved costs. Various other interests emerge in this process, which can affect the final decision on areas for inclusion. However, these other interests are not determining factors when it comes to protection of habitat types, ecosystems, and species. The Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources, in consultation with an advisory committee, then submits a proposal to the Icelandic parliament for a parliamentary resolution on the conservation of these areas.

The Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources publishes a new Natural Conservation Register every five years, as per Article 13 of the Nature Conservation Act No. 60/2013 (in Icelandic). The legislation emphasises the development of an organised network of conservation areas that will contribute to the protection of biodiversity, geodiversity, and landscape diversity.

The Nature Conservation Register and its implementation constitute the core of nature conservation in Iceland. It also functions as a tool for meeting Iceland’s international conservation obligations. The selection process for the Nature Conservation Register takes into account the appendices of the Bern Convention, which identify the species and natural habitats to which signatory states have agreed to extend protection. The selection process also builds on Resolution 6 of the Standing Committee to the Bern Convention on specific habitat conservation measures for the habitats of species whose conservation requires the designation of special areas of conservation, and the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity. International conventions on geodiversity and geoheritage conservation comparable to those governing the biosphere do not exist. In selecting geological conservation areas, Iceland looks to the methods used in other countries and the work of international conservation organisations such as ProGEO (The European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage), IUGS (International Union for Geological Sciences) and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Recommendations of the Icelandic Institute for Natural History on natural areas for inclusion in the implementation plan of the Natural Conservation Register

In April 2018, 112 areas in Iceland were selected for recommended inclusion in the implementation plan. They form a coherent ecological network of areas for protection of habitat types, bird species, and geological features. These areas are shown in a web-accessible map viewer. Fact sheets (available in Icelandic only) provide a brief description of each area, the rationale for its selection, and other basic information. In choosing locations to form an ecological network of conservation areas for habitat types and bird species, experts took a country-wide perspective, considering what selections would fulfil criteria for conservation need and favourable conservation status, irrespective of whether the areas in question had been declared as protected or not. Overlap with protected areas can be examined in the map viewer.

To narrow the focus in the selection of special areas for inclusion in the Nature Conservation Register, 31 priority natural habitat types and 51 priority bird species were identified. Selection of habitat types took into account the preliminary conservation value of each habitat type, the importance of habitat types for protected vascular plants on the Red List, and the Bern Convention list of habitat types requiring protection. The importance of each habitat type for birdlife diversity and the bird species for which Iceland is responsible was also assessed. Finally, the threats that could impact the status and development of natural habitats were evaluated. Bird species were chosen based on three main criteria: (1) the international responsibility of Iceland, quantified as whether 20% or more of the total European population depends on Iceland to breed or stops in Iceland during migration; (2) whether the species is on the Red List, based on the updated Red List published by the IINH in 2018; and (3) whether the species is listed under the Bern Convention as requiring special habitat protection.

Selection of geoheritage areas involved a review of areas that have previously been recommended for protection, together with areas that are already on the Nature Conservation Register. Their conservation value was assessed in the context of relevant guidelines, with the greatest emphasis being on rarity, scientific value, and authenticity. Threats that could impact their value were evaluated. Finally, areas were prioritised in terms of their conservation value and imminent threats.

Area Km2 Terrestrial Freshwater Coastal Birds Geological features
Soutwest Iceland
Álftanes–Skerjafjörður 31,26     x x  
Elliðavatn 2,12   x      
Elliðavogur–Grafarvogur 1,05       x  
Blikastaðakró–Leiruvogur 5,26       x  
Leirvogsvatn 5,04   x      
Hofsvík 0,73     x    
Hvalfjörður 75,15     x x  
Area Km2 Terrestrial Freshwater Coastal Birds Geological features
West Iceland
Akranes 1,04     x    
Blautós 4,58     x x  
Grunnafjörður 13,93       x  
Andakíll 30,85       x  
Ferjubakkaflói–Hólmavað 9,71 x     x  
Litla-Skarð 1,13 x        
Lambeyrarkvísl 0,07   x      
Oddauppsprettur 0,07   x      
Mýrar–Löngufjörur 1302,91 x x x x  
Snæfellsnes 184,07     x x  
Breiðafjörður 2908,81     x x  
Laxárdalsheiði 541,24       x  
Reykhólar 0,53 x        
Area Km2 Terrestrial Freshwater Coastal Birds Geological features
Westfjords
Látrabjarg  18,16       x  
Patreksfjörður–Djúp 51,48       x  
Hærriöxl 0,00   x      
Dýrafjörður 11,90     x    
Önundarfjörður 6,83 x        
Vigur 7,01       x  
Borgarey 6,68       x  
Reykjanes 2,97 x        
Kaldalón 33,11 x        
Æðey 7,18       x  
Hornstrandafriðland 636,87       x  
Drangajökull 1281,22         x
Goðdalur 0,23 x        
Area Km2 Terrestrial Freshwater Coastal Birds Geological features
Northwest Iceland
Arnarvatnsheiði 1875,05 x     x  
Guðlaugstungur–Álfgeirstungur 398,20 x     x  
Orravatnsrústir (vistgerðir) 28,76 x x      
Orravatnsrústir (jarðminjar) 72,95         x
Víðidalstunguheiði–Blanda 369,39       x  
Hóp–Vatnsdalur 153,64 x   x x  
Skagi 484,75 x     x  
Láglendi Skagafjarðar 184,71 x x   x  
Drangey 6,61       x  
Málmey 14,61       x  
Area Km2 Terrestrial Freshwater Coastal Birds Geological features
Northeast Iceland
Grímsey 21,99       x  
Hvanndalabjörg 3,82       x  
Hrísey 31,07       x  
Laufás 7,35     x    
Svartá–Suðurá 18,90   x   x  
Skjálfandafljót ofan Aldeyjarfoss 1183,04       x  
Herðubreiðarlindir 163,26   x      
Búrfellshraun 50,54 x        
Mývatn–Laxá 153,23       x  
Leirhnjúkur–Gjástykki 143,69         x
Vestmannsvatn 5,63       x  
Tjörnes (fuglar) 6,24       x  
Tjörnes (jarðminjar) 21,18         x
Öxarfjörður 229,41       x  
Melrakkaslétta 1120,75   x x x  
Skoruvíkurbjarg 7,39       x  
Langanesbjörg 29,51       x  
Area Km2 Terrestrial Freshwater Coastal Birds Geological features
East Iceland
Viðvíkurbjörg 11,48       x  
Úthérað 421,14 x     x  
Jökuldalsheiði 394,45   x      
Dalatangi 0,54     x    
Vattarnes 0,27     x    
Skrúður 6,16       x  
Fáskrúðsfjörður 0,21     x    
Berufjörður 2,97     x    
Papey 16,66       x  
Álftafjörður 58,02 x     x  
Þvottárskriður–Hvalnesskriður 5,40       x  
Lónsfjörður 28,87       x  
Skarðsfjörður 58,71 x   x x  
Hornafjörður–Kolgríma 183,81 x   x x  
Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður 14128,46 x x   x  
Fjallsá–Fagurhólsmýri 112,24       x  
Ingólfshöfði 3,94       x  
Skeiðarársandur 737,47       x  
Area Km2 Terrestrial Freshwater Coastal Birds Geological features
South Iceland
Núpsstaðaskógur 15,65 x        
Steinsmýrarflóð–Grenlækur 78,24 x x      
Mýrdalur 2,87 x        
Lauffellsmýrar 55,81 x        
Hólmsá 9,64   x      
Torfajökull 514,44 x x      
Veiðivötn 227,71       x  
Veiðivötn–Vatnaöldur 1252,62         x
Þjórsárver 384,42 x     x  
Kerlingarfjöll 68,31 x        
Svartárbotnar 0,17   x      
Miklumýrar 35,60 x        
Ytri-Rangá 33,94   x      
Vestmannaeyjar 138,98     x x  
Eystri-Rangá 1,13 x        
Lambhagavatn 0,74 x        
Skúmsstaðavatn 13,75 x x      
Sauðholtsnes 17,70 x        
Eystra-Gíslholtsvatn 1,37 x        
Geysir 3,08         x
Almenningur 4,04 x        
Höfðaflatir 2,38 x        
Laugarvatn–Apavatn–Brúará 43,99 x x   x  
Sogið–Þingvallavatn 97,34       x  
Stokkseyri–Eyrarbakki 19,42     x x  
Ölfusforir–Ölfusárós 55,15 x        
Grændalur 6,14 x x      
Hengladalir 10,07 x x      
Selvogur 5,95     x x  
Krýsuvíkurberg 8,63       x  
Eldey 12,57       x  
Öngulbrjótsnef 1,24     x    
Kalmanstjörn–Garðskagi 12,73     x x  
Vatnsleysuströnd 0,92     x    

 

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