Happy tree planters during a brake in a degraded area which now will start to return to native Icela…
Happy tree planters during a brake in a degraded area which now will start to return to native Icelandic birch woodland. Photo Ana Marija Marinov

A group of tree planters from the contractor Gone West  has completed a tree planting project, which is probably one of the largest in the history of forestry in Iceland, carried through by one group in the same area. The group planted close to half a million birch seedlings in the area of the Hekla volcano in South Iceland, mainly on a land reclamation site near to Hrauneyjar by the Tungnaá river.

A total of 456,000 native downy birch seedlings were planted in an area totalling ​​about 210 hectares. Planting was very successful. Gone West's staff are very well trained an hard working people. Such good quality work greatly increases the chances of the plants surviving and starting to grow as intended. A slight night frost put a small dent in the bill a few mornings, but the plants thawed as the day wore on and reached the ground intact.

The fields that have now been planted are intended as seed banks for the future, that the birch will seed itself from these spots out to surrounding areas in the coming decades. If successful, the birch will spread by self-seeding to thousands of hectares nearby.

The Icelandic Forest Service has supervised these projects in collaboration with the Icelandic Land Reclamation Service, which has in recent years been working on revegetation in these areas. For the sake of enriching the poor soil, meat meal has been used to add nutrition  and kick-start organic processes. Next spring, the Land Reclamation Service aims to apply more fertilizing material to the very same areas that were planted this September.

Gone West is a tree planting company. From their first activities in 2013, they have planted over four million trees. The company goal is to create environmental and social benefits around the world. They want to generate ethical, green, jobs and help to establish, or restore, natural habitats. Or as it says on the Gone West website: "Whether you are a concerned citizen or a multi-national enterprise, we are here to help you balance your environmental footprint and make your world a little greener."