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Iceland is battling to replant its forests

An hour’s hike across a vast expanse of dried lava leads to the top of Mount Bláhnjúkur, a nearly thousand-metre-high active volcano whose summit allows, on clear days, a sweeping view of a landscape dotted with vast glaciers and windswept moors.

A striking feature of this austere beauty in Iceland’s southern highlands is that it features almost no trees. But that’s not because the country is too cold for forests.

Archeological evidence indicates that over a quarter of the island’s countryside was covered with trees until the 9th century, when Viking settlers arrived and began chopping them down for timber and to clear space for farmland and grazing.

Now the country’s exotic, moonscape-like scenery is a lure for tourists. But the lack of trees has also caused problems – and now some Icelanders are committed to bringing them back.

photo credit: PeterThoeny

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