Grunnafjörður Watershed


Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson

Restoring the watershed landscape of Grunnafjörður in Western Iceland

Project Context and Aim

Iceland’s lowland wetlands harbour rich biodiversity, including globally significant sites for waders (Eurasian Whimbrel, Common Snipe, Dunlin and Common Redshank) and wildfowl (such as Brent Goose) alongside nine nationally Red-Listed birds. However, 90% of Icelandic wetlands have been drained for agriculture, with many subsequently overgrazed or abandoned. Over 350,000 ha of damaged ecosystems are no longer used, yet generate 70% of national carbon emissions.

This project is developing a costed plan to restore the land that is available in Hvalfjarðarsveit (Whale Fjord) and Grunnafjörður watersheds by reinstating natural hydrological processes across a landscape under fragmented management. It includes rewetting land, raising water quality, and restoring valuable habitat.

This project adopts a multi-stakeholder approach with a primary focus on three main objectives: biodiversity, social and economic aspects. By involving the community and collaborating with landowners and stakeholders, the project aims to restore wetland habitats in specific sections of the watershed. These efforts will not only protect birds’ populations and enhance fish stocks but also contribute to carbon neutrality. Additionally, the project aims to serve as a model for similar areas in lowland Iceland.

Project Partners

Fuglavernd (Birdlife Iceland)
Votlendi (Wetland Fund)
Soil Conservation Service of Iceland (SCSI)
Agricultural University of Iceland
Cairngorms Connect
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

Quick Facts

ELSP funding

US$ 88,934

Duration of grant

September 2019 – October 2023

Project Gallery

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