What do sheep, volcanoes and glaciers have in common? Take this course to see how human land uses, like sheep grazing, over just a few centuries can be an equally strong driving force of landscapes as volcanoes and glaciers over millennia.
Land use without adequate management can drive environmental degradation. Grazing management is an example of such land use and represents a common problem in many regions of the world. The aim of this short course is to raise awareness of the environmental risks associated with unsustainable management of natural resources. This course uses Iceland as a case study because here traditional sheep grazing has been associated with extensive environmental degradation. We examine the sustainability of sheep grazing in Iceland and explore how history, socioeconomic factors and environmental conditions have influenced the management of grazing resources. The development of sustainable management practices needs to take into account ecological, as well as economic and social aspects. We can devise general rules and guiding principles for management based on our current understanding of the socio-ecological systems, but fine-tuning of specific management decisions, for example regarding stocking rates or the duration of the grazing season will have to be site-specific. A better understanding of the consequences of these practices and how their ecological impacts vary under different environmental conditions will improve management decisions and increase the sustainability of management practices in the face of ongoing environmental changes.
What you'll learn
In this course you will learn about:
The cultural, historical and economic relevance of sheep grazing in Iceland
Current issues, initiatives and approaches to sheep grazing management in Iceland
Basic ecological principles that govern grazing systems, their complexity and dynamics
PART 1. COURSE INTRODUCTION PART 2. SHEEP GRAZING IN THE NORTH 2.1 Sheep grazing in the North 2.2 Sheep grazing in Iceland 2.3 Sheep grazing can lead to soil erosion PART 3. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF SHEEP GRAZING IN ICELAND 3.1 Iceland before sheep 3.2 Modelling the ecosystem 3.3 Then, sheep arrived 3.4 Efforts to mitigate environmental degradation PART 4. THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE OF SHEEP GRAZING IN ICELAND 4.1 Sheep in Iceland today 4.2 Current efforts in ecological research 4.3 Sustainable sheep grazing? PART 5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS