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 Whaling in Iceland and The Botany of Iceland

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kosovohp
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PostSubject: Whaling in Iceland and The Botany of Iceland   Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:31 pm

There are around 1,300 known species of insects in Iceland, which is a rather low number compared with other countries (over one million species have been described worldwide). The only native land mammal when humans arrived was the Arctic Fox,[45] which came to the island at the end of the ice age, walking over the frozen sea. On rare occasions, bats who have been carried to the island with the winds can be seen, but they are not able to breed there. Polar bears have also showed up through the history, yet they are just visitors, and no Icelandic populations exists.[46] There are no native or free living reptiles or amphibians on the island.[47]
An Icelandic sheep

Phytogeographically, Iceland belongs to the Arctic province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Iceland belongs to the ecoregion of Iceland boreal birch forests and alpine tundra.[citation needed] Approximately three-quarters of the island are barren of vegetation; plant life consists mainly of grassland which is regularly grazed by livestock. The most common tree native to Iceland is the Northern Birch (Betula pubescens), which formerly formed forest over much of Iceland along with Aspen (Populus tremula), Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and Common Juniper (Juniperus communis) and other smaller trees.

Permanent human settlement greatly disturbed the isolated ecosystem of thin, volcanic soils and limited species diversity. The forests were heavily exploited over the centuries for firewood and timber. Deforestation caused a loss of critical topsoil due to erosion, greatly reducing the ability of birches to grow back. Today, only a few small birch stands exist in isolated reserves. The planting of new forests has increased the number of trees, but does not compare to the original forests. Some of the planted forests include new foreign species.[45]

The animals of Iceland include the Icelandic sheep, cattle, chicken, goat, the sturdy Icelandic horse, and the Icelandic sheepdog. Many varieties of fish live in the ocean waters surrounding Iceland, and the fishing industry is a main contributor to Iceland's economy, accounting for more than half of the country's total exports. Wild mammals include the Arctic Fox, mink, mice, rats, rabbits and reindeer. Polar bears occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland. In June 2008, two polar bears arrived in the same month.[48] Birds, especially seabirds, are a very important part of Iceland's animal life. Puffins, skuas, and kittiwakes nest on its sea cliffs.[citation needed]

Commercial whaling is practised intermittently[49][50] along with scientific whale hunts.[51] Whale watching has become an important part of Iceland's economy since 1997.

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