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Drivers of Ecological Restoration: Lessons from a Century of Restoration in Iceland

Ása L. Aradóttir, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Agricultural University of Iceland
Thorunn Petursdottir, Soil Conservation Service of Iceland; Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Gudmundur Halldorsson, Soil Conservation Service of Iceland
Kristin Svavarsdottir, Soil Conservation Service of Iceland
Olafur Arnalds, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Agricultural University of Iceland


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We analyzed the main drivers for ecological restoration in Iceland from 1907 to 2010 and assessed whether the drivers have changed over time and what factors might explain the changes, if any. Our study was based on a catalogue of 100 restoration projects, programs, and areas, representing 75% to 85% of all restoration activities in Iceland. Catastrophic erosion was an early driver for soil conservation and restoration efforts that still ranked high in the 2000s, reflecting the immense scale of soil erosion and desertification in Iceland. Socioeconomic drivers such as farming and the provision of wood products were strong motivators of ecological restoration over most of the 20th century, although their relative importance decreased with time as the number and diversity of drivers increased. In the 1960s and 1970s, the construction of hard infrastructure, and moral values such as improving the aesthetics of the countryside and “repaying the debt to the land” emerged as motivations for restoration actions. In the late 1990s, the United Nations Climate Change Convention became a driver for restoration, and the importance of nature conservation and recreation increased. Technological development and financial incentives did not show up as drivers of ecological restoration in our study, although there are some indications of their influence. Furthermore, policy was a minor driver, which might reflect weak policy instruments for ecological restoration and some counteractive policies.

Key words

birch woodlands; drivers; ecological restoration; heathlands; land degradation; revegetation; soil erosion; wetlands

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087