By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests

This is part of an 11-blog series on our work with Alcoa Foundation. Learn more here!

As part of American Forests’ work with Alcoa Foundation, we are partnering with the Icelandic Forestry Association (IFA) to engage in reforestation efforts in two parts of Iceland, Eskifjörður and Úlfljótsvatn, to plant 45,000 trees by 2019.

The IFA is an 83-year-old organization that works to organize and manage local Icelandic forestry groups. Their stated mission is to encourage forestry interests in Iceland and inspire environmental improvements. Both sites are coastal, with Úlfljótsvatn situated to the southwest of the country, and Eskifjörður in the east. In the eastern location, the IFA is partnering with the Eskifjörður Forestry Association to engage in the planting efforts.

Credit: Icelandic Forestry Association

Fifteen thousand trees have already been planted between the two sites, with 30,000 more planned over the course of the next two years. Reforestation is occurring in areas that had historically been covered in birch forests. These efforts are vital in Iceland, as not only do tree roots help to capture soil and prevent erosion, they also serve to capture falling ash and tephra from nearby volcanoes.

Iceland has been deforested since its settlement in the 9th century, resulting in a landscape that is almost 95 percent cleared of trees. Úlfljótsvatn and Eskifjörður are both located near water, which combined with wind create ideal conditions for erosion, so our efforts work to thwart those environmental effects.

The goal of this project is to restore birch forests and protect some forestation projects already occurring. Enclosed forests provide protection from grazing by sheep, which can be found on any land not fenced off. These plantings will be protected and provide an opportunity for some natural forestation adjacent to the planting site.

American Forests and Alcoa Foundation look forward to the opportunity to assist in this project, as well as the chance to reintroduce forests to a landscape that has been bare for more than a thousand years.