2.28 Vegetation in Snæfellsöræfi

2.28 - Vegetation in Snæfellsöræfi wilderness

The purpose of this monitoring is to detect and monitor possible changes in vegetation in areas that might be effected by Kárahnjúkavirkjun power plant.  Evaluation was made in permanent vegetation plots in Kringilsárrani, Vesturöræfi wilderness an Fljótsdalsheiði heath in the years 2006-2008, see report in Further reading. Furthermore, the report from Landsvirkjun ( LV-2010/062 ) made by East Iceland Nature Research Centre laid the foundation to possible monitoring using SPOT-5 satellite pictures taken in the summers of 2002, 2007 and 2008.  This report represents intended ground state of vegetation in said areas.  Currently, monitoring protocol and target is being reviewed.

Progress

The East Iceland Nature Research Centre has finished the second measurements in vegetation plots in Snæfellsöræfi wilderness; 2015 in Kringilsárrani area, 2016 in Fljótsdalsheiði heath and 2017 in Vesturöræfi wilderness. The current plan is to repeate the study every ten years. Extensive geese grazing was recorded in 2015, more noticeable than in former observations. Other changes in vegetation were not detected. Kringilsárrani is a lush pasture compared to other highlands in Iceland and therefor important for grazing. According to the counting of reindeer since the year 2000, Fljótsdalsheiði heath was favored for summer grazing in 2000-2008 but few animals were found in the area in 2011-2016. The cover of lichens, which only reindeer graze, was substantially reduced between observations in Fljótsdalsheiði but little change was detected within other plant groups. In Vesturöræfi wildernes was a wide range of signs of gees or/and reindeer grazing in year 2017. Little changes in vegetation occurred since last observation but grass cover increased in gravel bed areas where seeds had been distributed. Aeolian deposition from banks of Hálslón lagoon was seen on vegetation and in the air close to the lagoon during summer 2017 but no clear vegetation changes was observed that could be related with aeolian deposition. The research during years 2015 - 2017 indicate that grazing is probably the one single factor that influences the most changes in vegetation in the area and monitoring of vegetation will most likely be adjusted to grazing aspects in the future. The last report about the study in Vesturöræfi wildernes was published in 2018 ( LV-2018-95 ).

Remote sensing or growth intensity measurements are not on the agenda. Today, satellite data are easily accessible and do not call for special measures.

In summer 2017 and 2018 experts from The Agricultural University of Iceland (LBHÍ) and The Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, SCSI (Landgræðslan) reviewed old vegetation plots within fenced area at Vesturöræfi . They are currently analyzing the data. This review includes potential effects of variable levels of aeolian deposition on vegetation in the area.



New continuous vegetation map of East Iceland's highlands.

In the years 2010 - 2014 Landsvirkjun and The Icelandic Institute of Natural History worked on updating and re-drawing older vegetation maps of North-East Iceland's highlands  (further information in Icelandic). 

Furthermore, about 500 km2 of previously un-mapped land was mapped, mainly in Jökulsdalsheiði heath in relation to reindeer research. The map is now part of a digital vegetation map of the Central Highland of Iceland and is available for download .



Vegetation map for East IcelandFigure 1.  Kárahnjúkavirkjun, vegetation map


Monitoring Protocol

Vegetation can change due to various reasons and it is important that monitoring allows for that.

 Major influencing factors

  1. Natural causes e.g. climate changes
  2. Changed grazing stress
    1. Reduced sheep grazing in recent years (general development)
    2. Movement of grazing stress due to grazing areas flooded by Hálslón reservoir
    3. Pink footed geese grazing
  3. Future aeolian deposition from Hálslón reservoir.

 

Metrics: What is measured?

  1. Vegetation cover, vegetated land and plant species (Project effect: indirect).

 

Monitoring Protocol

Satellite photos will be used to calculate greenness as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The higher the index, the more density of plant growth (greenness). Data will be gathered every five years.

Vegetation will be monitored by remote sensing (satellite images), at the same time permanent vegetation plots will be used to gather  information about changes in species composition and more accurate information about the vegetation than remote sensing gives.

Vegetation plots will be visited every third year to begin with.  Labels will be reviewed and obvious changes recorded.  Thorough inspection will be done if either the satellite images or the visit call for it. 

Criterions for changes in vegetation will be developed in consultation with experts.

Target

  1. Detect and monitor possible changes in vegetation in areas that might be effected by Kárahnjúkavirkjun power plant.

Possible countermeasures

Landsvirkjun initiates action to stop aeolian deposition

Updated October 2017

Baseline


Before preparation for Kárahnjúkavirkjun power plant, exact observations (OS81002/VOD02) (only available in Icelandic) in vegetation were done and because of reindeer research, vegetation the animals choosed above others, was measured (OS-83073/VOD-07 ) (only available in Icelandic). How the research can be used as foundation, depends on if it is possible to locate single findings. The same apply to reserch in the summer 2000which aim to rate the vegetation in biotope (NÍ-01004) and (LV-2001/020).

Vegetation condition was studied in 2006-2008 and cover and growth reviewed using satellite photos 2002, 2007 and 2008. In comparision report “Monitoring vegetation in Vesturöræfi wilderness, Kringilsárrani and Fljótsdalsheiði heath using satellite photos” information about ground state of vegetation in the area can be found (LV-2010/062) (only available in Icelandic).

It is not simple to interpret satellite images to establish vegetation ground state.  In particular it is hard to estimate when changes call for further research in permanent vegetation plots.  Images from 2002 – 2008 (see figure 2)  reveal major changes such as results from revegetation and traces of construction f. ex mineral disposition. In general comparison of the images reveals that the difference between them is similar everywhere and is most likely caused by climate conditions and when they were taken.  As a result, deviations beyond that call for further investigations

In establishing ground state it is important to identify potential underlying changes that might have occurred before the construction projects started, whether the changes are related to climate or changes in grazing.  In order to learn this 20 – 30 year old vegetation maps will be reviewed with regard to major changes.

  • Figure 1. Difference in vegetation index between images from 2002 and 2008.Vegetation maps in correlation with reindeer research can reveal information about reindeer grazing areas.
  •  From there one area will be chosen for further research and comparison to older research.

Figure 1 shows the difference in vegetation index between images from 2002 and 2008.  Click for larger image.

Figure 2. Locations of permanent plots in Snæfellsöræfi wilderness from different times.




Data on vegetation as it appears in research performed 30 years ago seams hard to repeat in order to get accurate view on changes.  Permanent well labeled plots laid out in three areas in Snæfellsöræfi wilderness however make it possible to repeat measurements that give information on vegetation changes.

Figure 2 shows locations of permanent plots in Snæfellsöræfi wilderness from different times.  The diamonds show locations related to studies from around 1980 on reindeer grazing.  Squares represent well marked permanent plots that allow repeated measurements.

Click for larger image.



Rationale for Indicator Selection

Kárahnjúkavirkun power plant's impact on vegetation will be most in the highlands in Vesturöræfi wilderness and Kringilsárrani area. Vesturöræfi wilderness is valuable area since vegetated areas located that high above sea level are not very common and also because animals (sheep, geese and reindeer) utilize the area for grazing.  Hálslón reservoir will diminish vegetation in Vesturöræfi wilderness plus erosion in Hálslón's coast could cause aeolian deposition in remaining vegetation closest to the reservoir.

Landsvirkjun will take on extensive protective measures  to prevent sand blowing to the surrounding areas. Regardless, monitoring vegetation in the area is considered important in case those preventive measures will not be sufficient. In addition to direct countermeasures research is conducted on means to reinforce vegetation to withstand aeolian deposition, and experiments to react to aeolian deposition f.ex by seeding lyme-grass.





Further reading


Reports on vegetation in Vesturöræfi wilderness published by Landsvirkjun ( Only in Icelandic)


Gróðurbreytingar 2006 - 2017 við Lagarfljót og Jökulsá á Dal á Úthéraði, áhrif Kárahnjúkavirkjunar.English summary  The Kárahnjúkar hydropower plant is by far the largest of its kind in Iceland. It has greatly affected the water levels of the glacial rivers below the main reservoir, Hálslón. Water from the river Jökulsá á Dal has been moved to Lagarljót river which has resulted in year-round risen water levels in Lagarfljót while summer-flow in Jökulsá á Dal has been reduced. In this study, the effects of those water level changes on vegetation near the rivers were monitored, close to where the rivers meet the sea in Úthérað area, Northeast Iceland.   The study started in 2006 with vegetation measurements in seven areas, five by Lagarfljót and two by Jökulsá á Dal, with 34 sites in total. In 2012, there were indications of vegetation changes in parts of the research area near Lagarfljót so measurements there were repeated. In the summer of 2017 measurements were repeated in all research areas. Additionally, data from water level measurements in the two rivers and groundwater level measurements in their vicinity were used to study the correlation between water level and vegetation changes in the area.  Since the activation of Kárahnjúkar power plant, average water levels in Lagarfljót in the research area by the farm Hóll have risen 0,53 m. The water levels correlated with groundwater level measurements in four of the study sites. Water levels in Jökulsá á Dal from June to August were 0,66 m lower after Kárahnjúkar than before but the size of the river's impact area varied with soil type. Since the study started in 2006, the study sites' vegetation has changed but the changes are different between sites. Increased cover of wetland species such as Carex nigra, Carex rostrata and Eriophorum angustifolium was seen at Lagarfljót sites while the cover of species that prefer drier soil such as Selaginella selaginoides, Empetrum nigrum and Festuca sp. decreased. At Jökulsá á Dal sites opposite affects were seen which suggest that the water level there has declined since before Kárahnjúkar. Vegetation measurements, water level measurements and other factors of this study all seem to reflect the expected impacts of Kárahnjúkar and are in accordance with other environmental research in the area.  From the study's results, it is estimated that the vegetation near Lagarfljót and Jökulsá á Dal will continue to be affected by the recent water level changes and the vegetation is predicted to change further in the next few years. Therefore, it is important to continue the study for the time being.

Landsvirkjun's report no: LV-2018-096


 

Gróðurvöktun á Vesturöfæfum. Samanburður á samsetningu og þekju gróðurs árin English summary  The East Iceland Nature Research Centre monitors vegetation close to Kárahnjúkar power station to study the possible impacts of the hydropower project, especially Hálslón reservoir. The monitoring sites are spread over possible impact areas, 14 are located just west of the reservoir (Kringilsárrani area), 28 are located east of it (Vesturöræfi area) and 30 northeast of it, a little further away than the others (Fljótsdalsheiði area). The primary objective of the study is to monitor any possible long-term changes in vegetation.  The study began in Kringilsárrani in 2006, the same year as the reservoir started to fill. In 2007 the research sites in Vesturöræfi were visited for the first time and their vegetation studied. In 2017 those sites were visited again, and the study repeated. In addition, changes in Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) over the years from 2000 to 2017 were studied to see if they would indicate any changes in greenness of vegetation before and after the construction of the hydropower plant.  The results of the vegetation monitoring in Vesturöræfi in 2007 and 2017 did not indicate any obvious direct impacts from Hálslón reservoir or indirect impacts from changed grazing pressure due to increased numbers of Pink-footed geese and changes in reindeer grazing areas. The cover of Salix arctica and S. herbacea and species richness increased in the time of the study. Overall vegetation cover did not change much. No obvious changes in NDVI from 2000 to 2017 were noticed in the area but the four most recent years had the highest average NDVI.   Vegetation changes during the time of the study were much less significant in Vesturöræfi than in Kringilsárrani and Fljótsdalsheiði. Vesturöræfi is vast and its vegetation is generally lush but considering recent and ongoing changes in grazing pressure as well as the area's proximity to Hálslón reservoir it is important to keep monitoring the vegetation in the area.2007 og 2017.

Landsvirkjun's report no LV-2018-095


Gróðurvöktun á Fljótsdalsheiði - Samanburður á samsetningu og þekju gróðurs árin 2008 og 2016English summary  The East Iceland Nature Research Centre monitors vegetation around Hálslón water reservoir and Kárahnjúkar-dam to explore the possible impacts of the hydropower project, especially Hálslón reservoir. The monitoring sites are spread over the impact area, 14 are located just west of the reservoir (Kringilsárrani area), 28 are located east of it (Vesturöræfi area) and 30 northeast of it (Fljótsdalsheiði area). The primary objective of the study is to monitor any possible long-term changes in vegetation.  The study began in Kringilsárrani in 2006, the same year as the reservoir started to fill. In 2008 the research sites in Fljótsdalsheiði were visited for the first time and their vegetation studied. In 2016 those sites were visited again and the study repeated. In addition, changes in Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) over the years from 2000 to 2016 were studied to see if they would indicate any changes in greenness of vegetation before and after the construction of the hydropower plant.  The results of the vegetation monitoring in Fljótsdalsheiði in 2008 and 2016 indicate that the area has been grazed more heavily by herbivores in recent years than when the study began. Overall vegetation cover decreased but the cover of bare soil did, however, not increase. The cover of lichens, which are only eaten by reindeers, decreased substantially. Average cover of heather and dwarf shrubs, ferns and sedges also decreased but average cover of forbs increased. No obvious changes in NDVI from 2000 to 2016 were noticed in the area but the two years with the highest average NDVI were 2015 and 2016.   The change in overall vegetation cover between 2008 and 2016 can, in part at least, most likely be linked to heavier grazing in recent years than in the first years of the study. Since lichens are a favourite part of reindeers' diet during the winter, increased winter grazing in the area by reindeer is likely the main cause of the changes seen in lichen cover between the years 2008 and 2016.  It is important to keep monitoring vegetation in the study area and in light of the study's results, adding research on the effects of reindeer and geese grazing on vegetation in different times of the year would benefit the study. In that context, examining sheep grazing in the area would also be beneficial.

Landsvirkjun's report no: LV-2017-054



Gróðurvöktun í Kringilsárrana - Samanburður á samsetningu og þekju gróðurs árin 2006 og 2015
Landsvirkjun's report no:  LV-2016-064

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February 2015:  About new continuous vegetation map of East Iceland's highlands.


Í þessari skýrslu er fjallað um úrvinnslu og samanburð á SPOT-5 gervitunglamyndum sem teknar voru af Vesturöræfum, Kringilsárrana, Fljótsdalsheiði og nálægum svæðum sumrin 2002, 2007 og 2008. Markmiðið er að fylgjast með mögulegum breytingum á gróðri sem kunna að verða vegna áfoks frá Hálslóni. Reiknaður var út gróðurstuðull sem segir til um grósku og þekju gróðurs á svæðinu. Gróðurstuðulsgildi voru borin saman á milli mynda til að sjá hvort breytingar hefðu orðið í gróðurþekju á milli þessara ára. Rannsóknasvæðinu var skipt niður í bil út frá yfirborði Hálslóns í hæstu stöðu til að gera sér betur grein fyrir breytileika í gróðurstuðulsgildum á milli mynda. Niðurstöður voru einnig settar fram á litkvarðamynd. Samanburður á gróðurstuðulsgildum út frá Hálslóni milli áranna þriggja sýnir nánast engar breytingar. Þetta er eins og að gera mátti ráð fyrir þar sem áhrifa frá Hálslóni ætti ekki að vera farið að gæta. Með þessari skýrslu lýkur skilgreiningu á því grunnástandi gróðurs á Vesturöræfum, Kringilsárrana og Fljótsdalsheiði sem vöktun á hugsanlegum áhrifum af Hálslóni mun byggjast á.Gróðurvöktun á Vesturöræfum, Kringilsárrana og Fljótsdalsheiði með notkun gervitunglamynda. Samanburður milli ára 2002, 2007 og 2008
Landsvirkjun's report no:  LV2010/062 

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Í skýrslunni er fjallað um gróðurvöktun á Fljótsdalsheiði. Rannsóknasvæðið á Fljótsdalsheiði er hluti af vöktunarverkefni þar sem markmiðið er að vakta mögulegar breytingar á gróðri sem kunna að verða á hálendinu við Hálslón og nálægum svæðum í kjölfar virkjanaframkvæmda við Kárahnjúka. Í verkefninu eru notaðar tvær aðferðir. Annars vegar er það notkun gervitunglamynda þar sem reiknaður er út gróðurstuðull en hann gefur upplýsingar um þekju og grósku gróðurs á svæðinu. Hins vegar eru það gróðurreitir á jörðu niðri sem gefa upplýsingar um tegundasamsetningu og þekju gróðurs auk þess að staðfesta gróðurstuðul. Gróðurstuðull var reiknaður út frá gervitunglamynd sem tekin var af Kárahnjúkasvæðinu 9. September 2002. Gildin voru flokkuð í 6 flokka og sett fram á kort. Þrjátíu gróðurreitir voru settir út á Fljótsdalsheiði í ágúst 2008 og var hlutfallsleg þekja tegunda metin og hæð gróðurs og jarðvegsdýpt mæld. Fljótsdalsheiði er vel gróin og eru flóar og mýrar áberandi. Mólendisgróður er einnig víða og melagróður á hæðum. Niðurstöður sýna að gróðurþekja metin í gróðurreitum féll vel að gróðurstuðulsgildum úr gervitunglamynd.Gróðurvöktun á Fljótsdalsheiði með notkun gervitunglamynda og gróðurreita
Landsvirkjun's report no:  LV2009/121 

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Markmið verkefnisins er að vakta mögulegar breytingar sem kunna að verða á gróðurfari á Vesturöræfum í kjölfar myndunar Hálslóns. Til þess eru notaðar tvær aðferðir sem gefa gott heildaryfirlit yfir gróður svæðisins. Það eru útreikningar á gróðurstuðli út frá gervitunglamynd sem gefur yfirlit yfir þekju og grósku á öllu svæðinu og rannsóknareitir sem veita upplýsingar um tegundasamsetningu og þekju gróðurs ásamt því að sannreyna gróðurstuðul. Gróðurstuðull var reiknaður út frá gervitunglamynd sem tekin var af Kárahnjúkasvæðinu 9. september 2002. Gildin voru flokkuð í 6 flokka og sett fram á kort. 28 reitir voru settir út á Vesturöræfum í júlí 2007 og var hlutfallsleg þekja tegunda metin og hæð gróðurs og jarðvegsdýpt mæld. Víða var gróður samfelldur á svæðinu en einnig voru melar, minna gróin svæði og moldarflög. Niðurstöður sýna að gróðurþekja metin í reitum og gróðurstuðulsgildi úr gervitunglamynd pössuðu vel saman. Gróðurvöktun á Vesturöræfum með notkun gervitunglamynda - Grunnrannsókn
Landsvirkjun's report no:  LV2008/046 

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Markmið athuganna eru tvenns konar. Meginmarkmið verkefnisins er að leggja grunn að vöktunarrannsóknum sem miða að því að fylgjast með hugsanlegum breytingum á gróðri í Kringilsárrana á næstu árum, einkum með hliðsjón af tilkomu Hálslóns. Reiknað er með að tengja saman vöktun með gervitunglamyndun og vöktun á föstum reitum á svæðinu. Annað markmið var að kanna hvort líklegt væri að miklar breytingar á gróðri væru að eiga sér stað í Kringilsárrana. Orðrómur hafði verið um að gróður í Kringilsárrana hafi rýrnað á allra síðustu árum. Ekki eru til nákvæmar mælingar á ástandi gróðurs á svæðinu á árum áður þannig að mat á ástandi gróðurs byggist fyrst og fremst á ástandinu eins og það var sumarið 2006 en einnig er það borið saman við nýleg gögn sem eru gróðurkort frá 2000.Kárahnjúkavirkjun, rannsóknir á gróðri í Kringilsárrana.
Landsvirkjun's report no:  LV2007/036 

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