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Shieling Areas: Historical Grazing Pressures and Landscape Responses in Northern Iceland

Brown J, Simpson I, Morrison S, Adderley WP, Tisdall E & Vésteinsson O (2012) Shieling Areas: Historical Grazing Pressures and Landscape Responses in Northern Iceland, Human Ecology, 40 (1), pp. 81-99.

Historical domestic livestock grazing in sensitivelandscapes has commonly been regarded as a major cause ofland degradation in Iceland. Shieling areas, where milkinglivestock were taken to pasture for the summer, representedone element of grazing management and in this paper weconsider the extent to which historical shieling-based grazingpressure contributed to land degradation. Based on a grazingmodel to assess pressures and tephrochronology -based soilaccumulation rates allied to micromorphology as a proxy forland degradation, our findings suggest that the shieling system contributed to the maintenance of upland vegetationcover and related productivity levels without causing landdegradation from settlement through to ca. AD 1300. As landdegradation accelerated from ca. AD 1477 it is likely thatshieling management continued to operate effectively contributingto the overall resilience of livestock farming.

Shieling areas ; Grazing ; Land degradation ;Iceland ; Landscape sensitivity; Resilience

AuthorsBrown Jennifer, Simpson Ian, Morrison Stuart, Adderley W Paul, Tisdall Eileen, Vésteinsson Orri
Publication date02/2012
ISSN 0300-7839

Human Ecology: Volume 40, Issue 1

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