Friday, September 7, 2012

Iceland: Höfði, a Forest at Myvatn

"What should you do if you are lost in the forest in Iceland?"

"Stand up."

At Lake Myvatn in northern Iceland grows a successful experiment in reforestation called Höfði. This forest on a peninsula planted decades ago in native species mainly birch, but also willow, spruce, and others, is a dreamy place for people who grew up around trees.

The landscape over most of Iceland is barren. We had been in Iceland about a week when we arrived at this place. We felt elated. We didn't even realize how much we missed our trees. 

Also, knowing that the trees had been planted and were doing so well was a pleasant and hopeful sign that Iceland can be reforested successfully. However there is some controversy now around the island about the problems created by hedgerows and groves that will restrict the view. Many people just don't want lots of trees. They love the endless view, and I must say that I tend to agree.

To me the most interesting thing about Höfði is how diverse it is. Hundreds of species of plants have moved into the understory! They had only been waiting, for hundreds of years, for an environment conducive to recreating a forest ecosphere. The "effect", if you can call it that, caused amazement and great pleasure at the will of whole systems to regroup and regenerate with such abandon. 

Another interesting thing about wood in Iceland: Farmers have formed cooperatives to gather driftwood and mill it for boards. Driftwood has always been prized for many things including building unique pieces of furniture. 

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