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International Forum: Soils, Society & Global Change Celebrating the Centenary of Conservation and Restoration of Soil and Vegetation in Iceland

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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!


policy lessons from

a century of soil conservation

in Iceland

what is the most precious resource on earth
What is the most precious resource on Earth?
  • Soil!
  • Foundation for food
  • Ecosystem services
  • The Globe without soil?

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


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


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


Land degradation and and loss of soil –

A risk to our future

Iceland - showcase for both

destruction and restoration

of natural resources

settlement in 874
Settlement in 874
  • A fertile country
  • Up to 2/3 vegetated
  • At least 25% of country wooded
  • Great prosperity
a delicate balance was disrupted
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

The deforestation

  • Iceland lost 95% of woodland cover in 1100 years
  • Burning
  • Cutting
  • Firewood and charcoal
  • Grazing prevented regeneration

The destruction in a nutshell

Desertification in a

humid environment

The “rofabard”

The erosion front



Volcanic ash

Charcoal pit

Same area 16 years later

soil conservation and land restoration initiated by law in 1907
Soil conservation and land restoration initiated by law in 1907

Erect windbreaks

Seed sand stabilizers

Protect from



A long era 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
evolving approaches since 1990
Evolving approaches since 1990
  • From top-down
    • localized
    • single issue soil conservation
    • Curing symptoms, not causes
  • towards ecosystem management and multiple use in a sustainable manner
participation in stewardship
Participation in stewardship
  • 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
farmers heal the land

Example of this direct and indirect incentive:

“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
wg 1 soil stewardship and landcare
WG-1 Soil Stewardship and Landcare
  • 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
ultimately the underlying basis for achieving goals of sustainable land use
... 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
operationalizing synergies amongst the conventions


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

wg 2 synergies and stewardship soil management and the mga s
WG-2 Synergies and stewardshipSoil 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
soil management and meas
Soil management and MEAs
  • 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.
a breakthrough first national soil erosion survey 1997
A breakthrough:First 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
wg 3 knowledge management
WG–3 Knowledge Management

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

improving legislation and policy frameworks through capacity building
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

Livestock grazing

No harm if well managed – but ...


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.
international legal instrument
International legal instrument
  • 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
icelandic climate change action program
Icelandic Climate Change Action Program

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

conserving climate

CO2 +H2O

Conserving climate
  • CO2 responsible for 2/3 of greenhouse effects
  • Influence flow of CO2 between atmosphere and organic matter

Organic matter


Carbon sequestration is an integral part of any land restoration activity

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

30 governmental fund increase 1997 2000
30% governmental fund increase 1997- 2000
  • Halting soil erosion
  • Land restoration country”
    • “Farmers heal the land”
  • Reforestation
    • Reclamation forestry
  • Research
wg 5 carbon sequestration and land restoration
WG-5. Carbon sequestration and Land Restoration
  • 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
obtain recognition of multiple benefits carbon sequestration a byproduct not a goal in itself
Obtain recognition of multiple benefits Carbon Sequestration a byproduct Not a goal in itself

The polluter pays?

Cost sharing?

Fertility – Agriculture -

Income - Recreation -

Ecosystem restoration -

– Biodiversity - Water


The CDM limits restoration

Need to add revegetation into post- Kyoto CDM

* Add tools for restoration

* Biodiversity


Don´t forget the soil!

A key to Global Sustainability

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