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International Forum: Soils, Society & Global Change Celebrating the Centenary of Conservation and Restoration of Soil and Vegetation in Iceland 31 August - 4 September 2007, Selfoss, Iceland. Main Conclusions. Andres Arnalds Soil Conservation Service Iceland . Don ’t Forget the Soil!.

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International Forum:

Soils, Society & Global Change

Celebrating the Centenary of Conservation and Restoration of Soil and Vegetation in Iceland

31 August - 4 September 2007, Selfoss, Iceland

Main Conclusions

Andres Arnalds

Soil Conservation Service


Don’t Forget the Soil!

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policy lessons from

a century of soil conservation

in Iceland

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What is the most precious resource on Earth?

  • Soil!

  • Foundation for food

  • Ecosystem services

  • The Globe without soil?

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The main aim of the forum

Elaborate on the synergistic roles of soil conservation and vegetation restoration in meeting local, regional and global environmental and social challenges,

and highlighting the importance of soil as the vital common denominator achieving global, regional and local goals related to:

Climate Change, Biodiversity, Water Supply, Food Security, Poverty Reduction and Peace

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Plenary sessions

1. Setting the Stage: Global, Regional and Local Perspectives

2. Healthy Soils - Supporting Food Security, Water Provision, Poverty Reduction and Biodiversity

3. Mitigating Climate Change Through Restoration of Degraded Land

4. Creating an Enabling Environment

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The Working Groups

Soil Stewardship and Land Care

Synergies - Soil Management and the MEAs

Knowledge Management and the Role of SLM Indicators for better decision making

Improving Legislation and Policy Frameworks through Capacity Building

Carbon Sequestration and Land Restoration

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Land degradation and and loss of soil –

A risk to our future

Iceland - showcase for both

destruction and restoration

of natural resources

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Settlement in 874

  • A fertile country

  • Up to 2/3 vegetated

  • At least 25% of country wooded

  • Great prosperity

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A delicate balance was disrupted

  • The woodlands burned, cut and grazed

    • Recovery hampered

  • Interaction

    • Unsustainable land use

    • climatic fluctuations

    • volcanic eruptions

  • marked the beginning of dramatic ecosystem destruction

    • lasting 1100 years

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The deforestation

  • Iceland lost 95% of woodland cover in 1100 years

  • Burning

  • Cutting

  • Firewood and charcoal

  • Grazing prevented regeneration

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The destruction in a nutshell

Desertification in a

humid environment

The “rofabard”

The erosion front



Volcanic ash

Charcoal pit

Same area 16 years later

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Soil conservation and land restoration initiated by law in 1907

Erect windbreaks

Seed sand stabilizers

Protect from


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A long 1907era of top-down approaches

  • 1907-1990 Institute staff + machinery

    • Little local involvement

    • Lack of land user responsibility

  • Consequences:

    • Slow problem acceptance

    • Low conservation awareness and lack of “problem ownership”

  • Conservation became governmental responsibility

  • International problem of conservation until about 1990

    • Still a huge problem in some countries

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Evolving approaches since 1990 1907

  • From top-down

    • localized

    • single issue soil conservation

    • Curing symptoms, not causes

  • towards ecosystem management and multiple use in a sustainable manner

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Participation in stewardship 1907

  • Dictatorial approaches failed to work in past

  • Get farmers together to recognise problems & identify solutions

  • Develop action plans using local advisors as facilitators

  • Reach, involve, educate

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Example of this direct and indirect incentive: 1907

“Farmers heal the land”

  • Established in 1990

    • 25% of livestock producers

    • Stimulus - stewardship

    • Mutual trust

    • Positive channels for resolving other issues

    • Power of the grassroots research

  • Participation is a main characteristic of soil conservation in Iceland

    • A real a trigger for change

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WG-1 Soil Stewardship and Landcare 1907

  • guiding principles for Soil Stewardship and Land Care be developed and promoted as part of a Soil Stewardship and Land Care knowledge base

  • existing materials on land literacy education and training programs and tools be brought together as part of a Soil Stewardship and Land Care knowledge base

  • the feasibility of an International Year of Land Care should be further investigated beyond this meeting

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... Ultimately, the underlying basis for achieving goals of sustainable land use

  • Land literacy

    • To be able to read the land and understand its needs

    • Reach the children while they are young

  • Ethics - Stewardship

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WG-2 sustainable land use

Operationalizing synergies amongst the Conventions.

The life in the soil


The water holding capacity

The interconnected ecosystems

The release of C to atmosphere

The birds

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WG-2 Synergies and stewardship Let´s build the bridgesSoil management and the MGA´s

  • Establish a joint mechanism between the Conventions to operationalize synergies

    • CCD should request to IPCC: Report on Land Degradation and Climate Change and Restoraton - As done for biodiversity

  • Strengthen the science and cooperation behind the CCD

    • Bring together the science behind the various MEA´s

    • Enhance cooperation in implementing the MEA´s on the ground

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Soil management and MEAs Let´s build the bridges

  • Establish a certification mechanism / guidelines for joint implementation

    • Each Convention will develop a certification criteria for the subject matter for each of the other two Conventions. Target focal points and donors

  • Invest in awareness raising, training and education on linkages and synergies for stakeholders on the ground:

    • The three Conventions launching an initiative for a “Training the trainers” programme on the subject of linkages among MEA´s subject matters complementing and promoting already existing initiatives.

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WG-3 Let´s build the bridges

Enabling Knowledge management to inform better decision making

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A breakthrough: Let´s build the bridgesFirst national soil erosion survey 1997

  • Led to problem acceptance at the public level –

  • Slower at agricultural level

  • Basis for the new action plans and prioritization of conservation and restoration work

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WG–3 Knowledge Management Let´s build the bridges

1. Outdated data & information

  • Issue: Assessments are based on old data leading to ineffective policies

  • Solutions:

    • Funding

    • Data index

    • Harmonized methodologies

    • Fast-track data accreditation

      Action plan was outlined

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Improving legislation and policy frameworks through capacity building


  • Iceland needs to:

  • Provide a legal

  • framework

  • harmonizing all law

  • affecting land condition

  • 2. Link governmental

  • service better to goals

  • of sustainability

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Livestock grazing building

No harm if well managed – but ...

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Grazing in area of desertificatication building



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Agricultural Support with weak building environmental links

We were paying

at both ends!

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WG 4. Recommendations: Capacity-Building for Legal and Policy Development

  • The WG recommends that the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law Specialist Group on Sustainable Use of Soils and Desertification develop guidelines to assist national governments to implement their responsibilities under the CCD in relation to the protection and sustainable use of soils.

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International legal instrument Policy Development

  • In progress by IUCN Environmental Law Specialist Group – with the aim to strengthen:

    • Legal, Policy, Ethical, and Institutional frameworks at both national and international levels

  • Globalization of CCD as soils / land degradation convention needed

    • And form better legal links between the conventions

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WG-5 Policy Development

Financing the urgent task ofhealing the land

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Icelandic Climate Change Action Program Policy Development

Iceland may

have lost

1,6 billion tons

of CO2


since 874

Carbon sequestration

by revegetation and

aforestation one

of the tools for first

commitment period

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CO Policy Development2 +H2O

Conserving climate

  • CO2 responsible for 2/3 of greenhouse effects

  • Influence flow of CO2 between atmosphere and organic matter

Organic matter

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Carbon sequestration is an integral part of any land restoration activity

Iceland only “Kyoto country” that has elected “revegetation (+ the green Japan)

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From: IPCC 2000 restoration activity

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30% governmental fund increase 1997- 2000 restoration activity

  • Halting soil erosion

  • Land restoration country”

    • “Farmers heal the land”

  • Reforestation

    • Reclamation forestry

  • Research

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WG-5. Carbon sequestration and Land Restoration restoration activity

  • Global potential of 1-2 billion tn C sequestration by restoration of degraded land

  • To overcome barriers for financing:

    • Transform the market to include flexible mechanisms

    • Modify CDM requirements such as: increase limit of small-scale projects, expand eligible land use and reduce transaction costs.

    • Enhance integrity and credibility to maximize benefits to the local land users

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Obtain recognition of multiple benefits restoration activity Carbon Sequestration a byproduct Not a goal in itself

The polluter pays?

Cost sharing?

Fertility – Agriculture -

Income - Recreation -

Ecosystem restoration -

– Biodiversity - Water

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The CDM limits restoration restoration activity

Need to add revegetation into post- Kyoto CDM

* Add tools for restoration

* Biodiversity

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Don´t forget the soil! restoration activity

A key to Global Sustainability

Linking Landcare with Climate, Biodiversity, Water, Food Security, Poverty Reduction and Peace

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From CCD Comics restoration activity