News

10.11.2017

Celebrating 50 years of Icelandic Forest Research

Planting of 50 oaks, formal opening of the Arboretum, research activities introduced and more

  • Björt Ólafsdóttir, the Icelandic Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, cut the rope fencing off the arboretum entrance, hereby formally opening the Mógilsá Arboretum.

Icelandic Forest Research at Mógilsá celebrated its 50-year anniversary on August 20th 2017. The jubilee included an open house at the station and the formal opening of a new arboretum.

Nearly five hundred people attended the ceremonies, where emphasis was placed on introducing guests to the many ongoing research activities at Mógilsá. Posters presented information about research projects and services, including forest inventory, tree breeding, pathogens and pests, forest management and harvesting and forestry economics.

The station's scientists explained techniques for measuring trees, use of root cameras and methods of preparing cuttings. Guests also had the opportunity to use a stereomicroscope to see tree rings and wood fibers and identify pests and diseases.

One of the the highlights was the formal opening of the Mógilsá Arboretum (picture above). Aðalsteinn Sigurgeirsson, forest geneticist and deputy director of the Icelandic Forest Service, then led a guided tour of the Arboretum. The walk ended at a newly clearcut pine plot where guests were invited to take part in the planting of 50 oak trees of German origin commemorating fifty years of forest research in Iceland.

Representatives from the Norwegian embassy in Iceland participated in planting 50 oak seedlings in the arboretum.

Among the guests were representatives from the Norwegian Embassy in Reykjavík, appropriate as the construction of the research station at Mógilsá was funded by a national gift from the people of Norway. The station, which was formally opened on August 15th 1967 by Prince Harald of Norway (now King Harald V), is therefore a symbol of cooperation and friendship between Norway and Iceland.

The main emphasis of the division has, since its establishment in 1967, been applied forest research in silviculture, growth and yield as well as choice of forest reproductive material. These areas of research are still important.

However, forest ecology and management have become increasingly important fields of study, covering a wide range of topics, including carbon and nutrient cycles, solving establishment problems associated with afforestation of derelict land, insect pests and pathogens and the effects of afforestation on plant and animal communities.

Forest inventory has also increased in importance in recent years, not the least due to the need for knowledge about carbon stocks and sequestration. Other recent research topics include climate mapping, vegetation history and social aspects of forestry.

Breeding and ecology

Within the field of forest genetic resources and breeding, researchers at Icelandic Forest Research are working on breeding and seed production of Sitka spruce and larch, breeding and seed production of subalpine fir for Christmas tree production and seed production of lodgepole pine. The breeding programme for black cottonwood aims at finding clones with rust resistance. Selection and breeding of native birch and rowan is going on, as well as provenance and clonal trials for a large number of other tree species.


There are projects touching on the establishment of forests and shelter belts, forests and climate change, silviculture and forest products. In the field of forest ecology you will find research on the effects of soil warming on forest ecosystems, dendrochronological work on environmental changes and projects looking at the effect of climate change on native birch cover.

Finally, worth mentioning is the work on monitoring forest health in relation to new insects and pests, including studies on Ceramica pisi, green spruce aphid and Pineus pini to name a few.

Climate change challenge

For the last 50 years, Icelandic Forest Research has played an important role in afforestation in Iceland. Future challenges will most probably be in the field of climate change, which species or genetic material to use, new threats from pests and diseases, carbon sequestration matters etc. As the forests grow, there will be an increasing need for research into forest management methods, products and marketing.


Cooperation

The researchers at Icelandic Forest Research work closely with colleagues at the Icelandic Forest Service and other institutions such as the Agricultural University of Iceland and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland. Icelandic and foreign forestry students alike come to Mógilsá every year for practical work and the station is involved in fruitful international cooperation on many research projects.

Growing staff

In the beginning, half a century ago, only two scientists worked at Icelandic Forest Research at Mógilsá. With state funding gradually increasing, as well as domestic and international funding, the number of staff has grown to eleven. Ten of them are scientists in the fields of forestry, forest economy, biology, ecology, dendrochronology, geography and more.

Forester Arnór Snorrason, responsible for the Icelandic Forest Inventory, shows a device for measuring trees.

The Arboretum

Right from the founding of the station, afforestation has been going on within the boundaries of the former farmland site at Mógilsá. Various tree species, from different continents, have been planted, making the forest an ideal spot for an arboretum. In the collection, therefore, there are both young and older trees up to 50 years of age. The area closest to the station has recently undergone some restructuring, with work on forest paths, some forest thinning and relabeling of selected trees. With the establishment of the NGO Trjáræktarklúbburinn, a tree growers' club, in 2004 the idea emerged for extending the Arboretum up into the hills above the research station at Mógilsá. About 20 hectares of the forest will be dedicated to the Arboretum. With a warming climate there will be more and more opportunities for testing new exotic tree species in this northerly Arboretum, even angiosperms such as hardier types of bamboo and palms.

Text and photos: Pétur Halldórsson