Interview with Trausti Jóhannson

District forest manager Skógræktin

The Icelandic Forest Service seems to be really good at afforestation. What makes you happy when working with Skograektin?

The number one focus of the IFS the last few years have been afforestation, even though we have been very focused on afforestation ever since I started working here in 2017. That is one of the things that makes me happy to work with Skógræktin, we make things happen and we also have very broad tasks to attend to so there is never a dull day here. 

Afforestation seems to be a matter of looking generations ahead? What time frame are you all working to? 

The growth period for most species we use in forestry in Iceland are 80-120 years, so the time frame is quite long. Working with landowners and/or other stakeholder we often have contracts that are for 40 years. That way we are involded in taking care and planning the forest through its juvenile stage and the first stages of forest maintenance.

And on a more shot-term note, what needs to be done to make the land tree-ready? The preparation of the land is called ’scarifying’. What does this entail?

The first thing is to make sure  to have all licence from the municipality and make sure the land is right for the purpose of the forestry. We need to make sure it is fenched of from free range grazing (sheeps). When that is secured, we need to buy plants and hire contractors to plant. We need to prepare the land, sometimes tillage is needed, but that depends on how much vegetation is there before we start and how much is needed to be done. Often tillage is not needed when we work in very poor land or where there has been much land erosion. 

How do you see the future of afforestation in Iceland? Will it be different because of climate change?

It will change in how we will select plant species and we will need to think about how the plants we select will adapt to climate change. We have done a lot of research studies about this and will continue to do so in the years to come. We also need to think about droughts and stronger storms that will hit u sand we have already started to notice this. With the climate changing we are at more risk to have wild fires, deseases and pests coming to our country.

Is there any advantage in working in Iceland compared to other places?

Now I don‘t have much comparison working in other countries but in Iceland we have a lot of land that is suitable to afforestation which many other European countries don‘t have. We (still) don‘t have many deseases or pests that affect our forests. We have many companies and individuals that want to partisipate in the afforestation programs we offer and studies have shown that Icelanders are very positive to increased afforestation in Iceland.

Have you developed a preference for a tree species over the years? What is your favourite tree and why?

I prefer trees that thive well in the area I work in and grow well. My favorite tree species have been Black cottonwood and Sitka spruce 😊 They both have done very well in South Iceland and Sitka spruce is the tallest tree in Iceland.