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Wild Collection and Cultivation of Native Species in Iceland


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Presented in October 2014 at the 4th ISOFAR Scientific Conference 'Building Organic Bridges' at the Organic World Congress 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The original report is online at Organic e-prints

Published in: Environment
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Wild Collection and Cultivation of Native Species in Iceland

  1. 1. Iceland is an important ‘cold spot’ of biodiversity 1; a fragile ecosystem still disturbed from the landnám settlement period over 1,000 years ago, when most forests were cut and livestock management frustrated regeneration (see the sagas Íslendingabókar and Landnámabók) 2. This continued land-use practice has lead to serious soil degradation and the spreading of basalt deserts 3. However, some conservation minded Icelanders are seeking new strategies for a healthy relationship with nature through sustainable use of native species. Wild Collection and Cultivation of Native Species in Iceland C. W. Whitney1,2,*, J. Gebauer1, M. Anderson3 1 Faculty of Life Sciences, Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, Marie-Curie-Straße 1, 47533 Kleve, Germany 2 PhD Candidate, University Kassel, Witzenhausen, Germany *contact:, +49 2821 80673 +664 3 Partridge Chair, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine, United States Introduction Findings •  Respondents using living natural resources in a landscape with greatly diminished biodiversity •  Outstanding species to serve as cultural keystones in conservation efforts •  Edibility and nutrition paramount for cultural significance •  Use of native plants, fungi, and marine algae raises awareness of local ecology / supports conservation efforts e.g. in situ and political action to both conserve and utilize native species Future Research on the role that Icelanders play in the conservation of native species to guide local food and conservation movements •  Determine the socio-economic and influences on CI index scores / exact biodiversity implications of native species uses •  Analysis of the ecological distribution of utilized species / time and volume of harvest Results Materials & Methods Discussion & Conclusions Research Aims For clarification of the ethnobotany of Icelandic people •  Determine the extent, composition and function of uses of plants, as well as fungi and marine algae, in the region. •  Determine the associated conservation practices of plant, fungi and marine algae uses •  Surveys with chefs, Organic farmers, gardeners, and herbalists sought through botanical, horticultural, and other networks •  Observation walk- in-the-woods, freelisting Acknowledgements Funding This study was undertaken with the financial support of the Partridge Foundation through the Trans Atlantic Partnership with the Organic Centre in the UK, College of the Atlantic in the US, and the University of Kassel, Witzenhausen, in Germany. Support Special thanks to the Horticultural Society of Iceland, Rekyavik Botanical Garden, Icelandic Institute of Natural History, Icelandic Horticultural College, Iceland Slow Food, New Nordic Kitchen, Iceland Food Not Bombs, Náttú, Vottunarstofan Tún, and the many chefs, gardeners, and farmers of Iceland, especially of Egilsstaðir Organic Farm. Keywords: Iceland, Ethnobotany, Cultural Importance, Conservation, Angelica sp., Betula sp. The cultural importance index (CI=URs/N) 4 accounts for the number of respondents and the diversity of uses per species (Table 2). The highest CI scores were mostly for terrestrial plants (with two Betula sp. trees), one algae (Ascophyllum nodosum), one fungi (Leccinum scabrum), and one lichen (Cetraria islandica) (Fig. 2). Informants used species of many types described in Figure 3 by the the number of informants who cited species within the grouping (frequency of citation [FC]), and number of uses per species (NU). Figure 1. Map of Iceland Figure 2. View from Dettifoss, treeless with grass, sedge and moss dominating habitable areas. Typical Icelandic landscape, Arctic province of the Circumboreal Region tundra bordering boreal region, with approximately 500 species of terrestrial plants including 69 invasives, 1,500 species of fungi and 500 species of marine algae (Images from Library, Art & Archives Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2014). Cetraria islandica Angelica sp. Leccinum scabrum Ascophyllum nodosum Betula sp. Literature   1.  Kassam, K. A. 2008. Diveristy as if Nature and Culture Matter: Bio-Cultural Diversity and Indigeneous Peoples. The International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities & Nations, 8(2) 2.  Benediktsson, J. Íslendingabók. Landnámabók, Íslenzk Fornrit 1 (Hid Íslenzka Fornritafélag, Reykjavík, 1968). 3. Arnalds, O. & Gisladottir, F. O. S., H. Sandy deserts of Iceland: An overview. Journal of Arid Environments 47, 359-371 (2000). 4. Tardio, J., & Pardo-de-Santayana, M. Cultural importance indices: A comparative analysis based on the useful wild plants of Southern Cantabria (Northern Spain). Economic Botany 62, 24-39 (2008). Fieldwork took place in the summer of 2010 with 67 informants in Austurland (Fig. 1 right lobe), Höfudborgarsvædi (Fig. 1 left lobe), Sudurland (Fig. 1 bottom), Nordurland vestra and Nordurland eystra (Fig. 1 top center), Iceland. Where NC=number of use categories, u=uses, i=informant, and N=total number of informants Ethnobotany data was recorded for 91 species, each citation was included in a data set of use reports (URs) for quantitative ethnobotany analysis 3 (Table 1). Botanical Name CI index Angelica archangelica L. 1 Betula pubescens Ehrh. 0.8 Empetrum nigrum L. 0.67 Thymus praecox Opiz subsp. arcticus (Durand) Jalas 0.62 Vaccinium uliginosum L. 0.56 Cetraria islandica (L.) Ach. 0.52 Vaccinium myrtillus L. 0.44 Achillea millefolium L. 0.41 Taraxacum officinale F.H. Wigg 0.35 Rumex acetosa L. 0.33 Angelica sylvestris L. 0.32 Betula nana L. 0.32 Rumex longifolius DC. 0.27 Filipendula ulmaria (L.) Maxim 0.21 Leccinum scabrum Bull. ex Fr. 0.2 Trifolium repens L. 0.2 Fragaria vesca L. 0.17 Ascophyllum nodosum (L.) Le Jol. 0.15 Juniperus communis L. 0.15 Oxycoccus microcarpus Turcz. ex Rupr. 0.15 Silene acaulis L. Jacq. 0.15 Table 2. Highest Ranking Species by the Cultural Importance Index (CI) Figure 3. Importance of species types according to use reports (UR [bubble size]) number of uses (NU [y axis]) and frequency of citation (FC [x axis]) Table 1. Descriptive Statistics for Quantitative Ethnobotany Scores on 91 Species in Iceland D=standard deviation, VAR=variance, CV=coefficient of variation NU=number of uses, FC=frequency of citation, UR=use reports, CI=cultural importance. Table 1 shows a further comparison of NU, FC, UR and the CI index. NU FC UR CI index Total 90 420 527 7.99 Mean 4 20 25 0.38 Min 1 8 10 0.15 Max 10 42 66 1.00 SD 2.19 11.16 15.69 0.24 CV 0.51 0.56 0.63 0.63 VAR 5 125 246 0.06 1 A full description of the following survey was published in Human Ecology in 2012 with the title A Survey of Wild Collection and Cultivation of Indigenous Species in Iceland.