Degraded soil landscape - Iceland
by Gert Verstraeten, KU Leuven, division of Geography, Leuven, Belgium
The interior of Iceland is a barren landscape that looks like a desert. However, this has not always been the case. Despite the active geology of the island, it used to be covered by forest and dense scrub and thicket cover to a large extent. However, since the first settlement by Norse farmers in the 9th century, forest clearing and intensive grazing practices ruined the thin and sandy volcanic soils. Once the vegetation covered was removed by grazing, the fierce winds that are typical for the region swept the soil away leaving only a barren and infertile desert pavement. At some places, the sand has been blown together in thick deposits that can easily be recognized as these are often the only locations where vegetation can survive (as can be seen on the picture in the front). Humans can be very active geomorphic agents as well.
Gert Verstraeten (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)