Advertisement

Human Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 737–761 | Cite as

Sustainable Rangeland Grazing in Norse Faroe

  • Amanda M. Thomson
  • Ian A. Simpson
  • Jennifer L. Brown
Article

Abstract

The introduction of domestic livestock, particularly sheep, and rangeland grazing by Norse settlers to Faroe during the ninth century has generally been described as a major pressure on a sensitive landscape, leading to rapid and widespread vegetation change and contributing to land degradation. This view has, however, been developed without consideration of Norse grazing management practices which may have served to minimize grazing impacts on landscapes as well as sustaining and enhancing vegetation and livestock productivity. These alternative scenarios are considered using a historical grazing management simulation model with Faroese climate and vegetation inputs and given archaeological, historical and palaeoenvironmental parameters. Three contrasting rangeland areas are investigated and, based on the maximum number of ewe/lamb pairs the rangeland could sustain, modeling suggests that utilizable biomass declined with the onset of grazing activity, but not to a level that would cause major changes in vegetation cover or contribute to soil erosion even under climatically determined poor growth conditions. When rangeland areas partitioned into what are termed hagi and partir are modeled, grazing levels are still within rangeland carrying capacities, but productivities are variable. Some rangeland areas increase biomass and livestock productivities and biomass utilization rates while other rangeland areas that were too finely partitioned were likely to suffer substantial decline in livestock productivity. Partitioning of rangeland is a likely contributor to long-term differentiation of landscapes and the relative success of settlements across Faroe beyond the Norse period.

Key Words

historical ecology modeling rangeland management Norse Faroe 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adderley, W. P., and Simpson, I. A. (2005). Early Norse home-field productivity in the Faroe islands. Human Ecology 33: 711–736.Google Scholar
  2. Albrethsen, S. E., and Keller, C. (1986). The use of the saeter in medieval Norse farming in Greenland. Arctic Anthropology 23: 91–109.Google Scholar
  3. Arge, S. V. (1991). The Landnám in the Faroes. Arctic Anthropology 28: 101–120.Google Scholar
  4. Arge, S. V. (1997). Í Uppistovubeitinum. Site and settlement. Fróðskaparrit 45: 27–44.Google Scholar
  5. Arge, S. V. (2001). Forn búsetning heima á Sandi. Frødi 2: 5–13.Google Scholar
  6. Arge, S., Sveinbjarnardóttir, G., Edwards, K. J., Buckland, P. C., and Simpson, I. A. (2005). Viking and medieval settlement in the Faroes. Human Ecology 33: 597–620.Google Scholar
  7. Borchgrevink, A.-B. Ø. (1977). The Seter areas of rural Norway. A traditional multi-purpose resource. Northern Studies 9: 3–24.Google Scholar
  8. Brandt, J. (1984). Landscape ecological information through statistical analysis of the territorial structure of a sheep grazing system, Faroe Islands. In Brandt, J., and Agger, P. (eds.), Methodology in Landscape Ecological Research and Planning. Volume III: Theme III Methodology of Data Analysis, International Association of Landscape Ecology, Roskilde, pp. 43–57.Google Scholar
  9. Brandt, J. (1996). Sheep breeding on Eastern Sandoy. In Guttesen, R. (ed.), The Faeroe Islands Topographic Atlas, Det Kongelige Danske Geografiska Selskab and Kort & Matrikelstyrelsen, København, pp. 82–84.Google Scholar
  10. Buckland, P. C., Dugmore, A. J., Perry, D., Savory, D., and Sveinbjarnardóttir, G. (1991). Holt in Eyjafjallasveit, Iceland: A palaeoecological study of the impact of Landnám. Acta Archaeologica 61: 267–271.Google Scholar
  11. Dahl, S. (1970). The Norse settlement of the Faroe Islands. Medieval Archaeology 14: 60–73.Google Scholar
  12. Danish Meteorological Institute (1998). The Climate of the Faroe Islands—With Climatological Standard Normals, 1961–1990, DMI, Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  13. Edwards, K. J., Buckland, P. C., Craigie, R., Panagiotakopulu, E., and Stummann-Hansen, S. (1998). Landscapes at Landnám: Palynological evidence from Toftanes, Faroe Islands. Fróðskaparrit 46: 229–244.Google Scholar
  14. Edwards, K. J., Borthwick, D., Cook, G., Dugmore, A. J., Mairs, K.-A., Church, M. J., Simpson, I. A., and Adderley, W. P. (2005). Landscape change in eastern Suðuroy, Faroe islands: A hypothesis-based approach to the determination of natural processes and human artifice. Human Ecology 33: 621–650.Google Scholar
  15. Fosaa, A. M. (2001). A review of plant communities of the Faroe Islands. Fróðskaparrit 48: 41–54.Google Scholar
  16. Fredskild, B. (1988). Agriculture in a marginal area—South Greenland from the Norse Landnam (A.D. 985) to the present (A.D. 1985). In Birks, H., Birks H. J. B., Kaland, P. E., and Moe, D. (eds.), The Cultural Landscape—Past, Present and Future, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 381–393.Google Scholar
  17. Fredskild, B. (1992). Agriculture in SW Greenland in the Norse period (A.D. 982–c. 1450). Journal of the European Network of Scientific Cooperation for Cultural Heritage 31: 39–43.Google Scholar
  18. Friðriksson, S. (1972). Grass and grass utilization in Iceland. Ecology 53: 785–796.Google Scholar
  19. Hallsdóttir, M. (1987). Pollen analytical studies of human influence on vegetation in relation to the Landnám tephra layer in southwest Iceland. Lundqua Thesis 18, Department of Quaternary Geology, Lund University.Google Scholar
  20. Hannon, G. E., and Bradshaw, R. H. W. (2000). Impacts and timing of the first human settlement on vegetation of the Faroe Islands. Quaternary Research 54: 404–413.Google Scholar
  21. Hannon, G. E., Wastegård, Bradshaw, E., and Bradshaw, R. H. W. (2001). Human impacts and landscape degradation on the Faroe Islands. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 101B: 129–139.Google Scholar
  22. Hansen, K., and Johansen, J. (1982). Flora and vegetation of the Faroe Islands. Monographiae Biologicae 46: 35–52.Google Scholar
  23. Humlum, O., and Christiansen, H. H. (1998). Late Holocene climate forcing of geomorphic activity in the Faroe Islands. Fróðskaparrit 46: 169–189.Google Scholar
  24. Jakobsen, B. H. (1991). Soil resources and soil erosion in the Norse settlement area of Østerbygden in southern Greenland. Acta Borealia 1: 56–68.Google Scholar
  25. Jóhansen, J. (1981). Vegetational development in the Faroes from 10,000 BP to the present. DGU Årbog 1981: 111–136.Google Scholar
  26. Lawson, I. T., Edwards, K. J., Arge, S., Dugmore, A. J., Church, M., Mairs, K.-A., and McGovern, T. H. (2005). Landscapes of southern Sandoy, Faroes, circum-Landnám. Human Ecology 33: 651–684.Google Scholar
  27. Mahler, D. (1991). Argisbrekka. New evidence of shielings in the Faroe Islands. Acta Archaeologica 61: 60–72.Google Scholar
  28. Melsteð, B., Jónsson, F., and þórlófsson, B. (eds.) (1990). Jaarðbók Árna Magnússonar og Páls Vídalín 1–11, Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  29. RALA (1978a). Utilization and conservation of grasslands. Progress report 1976. Agricultural Research Institute, Iceland. RALA Report No. 29, Reykjavík.Google Scholar
  30. RALA (1978b). Utilization and conservation of grasslands. Progress report 1977. Agricultural Research Institute, Iceland. RALA Report No. 38, Reykjavík.Google Scholar
  31. RALA (1979). Utilization and conservation of grasslands. Progress report 1978. Agricultural Research Institute, Iceland. RALA Report No. 50, Reykjavík.Google Scholar
  32. RALA (1980). Utilization and conservation of grasslands. Progress report 1979. Agricultural Research Institute, Iceland. RALA report No. 63, Reykjavík.Google Scholar
  33. RALA (1981). Utilization and conservation of grasslands. Progress report 1980. Agricultural Research Institute, Iceland. RALA Report No. 79, Reykjavík.Google Scholar
  34. Sandgren, P., and Fredskild, B. (1991). Magnetic measurements recording Late Holocene man-induced erosion in S. Greenland. Boreas 20: 315–331.Google Scholar
  35. Simpson, I. A., Dugmore, A. J., Thomson, A., and Vésteinsson, O. (2001). Crossing the thresholds: Human ecology and historical patterns of landscape degradation. Catena 42: 175–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Simpson, I. A., and Guttmann, E. B. (2002). Transitions in early arable land management in the Northern Isles: The Papar as agricultural innovators? In B. Crawford (ed.), The Papar of the North Atlantic: Environment and History, St Andrews: St John's House Papers No. 10. pp. 59–67.Google Scholar
  37. Simpson, I. A., Guðmundsson, G., Thomson, A. M., and Cluett, J. (2004). Assessing the role of winter grazing in land degradation, Mývatnssveit, northeast Iceland. Geoarchaeology 19: 471–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stummann-Hansen, S. (1988). The Norse Landnam in the Faroe Islands in the light of recent excavations at Toftanes, Leirvik. Northern Studies 25: 58–84.Google Scholar
  39. Thomson, A. M. (2003). A modeling approach to farm management and vegetation degradation in pre-modern Iceland. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Stirling.Google Scholar
  40. Thomson, A. M., and Simpson, I. A. (in press a). Modeling historic rangeland management and grazing pressures, Mývatnssveit Iceland. Human Ecology.Google Scholar
  41. Thomson, A. M., and Simpson, I. A. (in press b). Modeling the impact of historical land management decisions in sensitive landscapes: The construction of a grazing model for Iceland. Environmental Modeling and Software.Google Scholar
  42. Thorsteinsson, L., Olafsson, G., and van Dyke, G. M. (1971). Range resources of Iceland. Journal of Range Management 48: 350–357.Google Scholar
  43. Tierney, J. J. (ed.) (1967). Dicuilus. Liber de Mensura Orbis Terrae. Scriptores Latini Hiberniai 6 (Dublin).Google Scholar
  44. Turrell, W., and Holliday, N. P. (2002). The Annual ICES Ocean Climate Status Summary 2001–2002. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  45. Vésteinsson, O., McGovern, T. H., and Keller, C. (2002). Enduring impacts: Social and environmental aspects of Viking Age settlement in Iceland and Greenland. Archaeologia Islandica 2: 98–136.Google Scholar
  46. Vickers, K., Bending, J., Buckland, P. C., Edwards, K. J., and Stummann-Hansen, S. (2005). Toftanes: The palaeoecology of a Faroese Landnám farm. Human Ecology 33: 685–710.Google Scholar
  47. Winchester, A. J. L. (2000). The Harvest of the Hills. Rural Life in Northern England and the Scottish Borders, 1400–1700. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda M. Thomson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ian A. Simpson
    • 1
  • Jennifer L. Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  2. 2.Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (Edinburgh)Bush EstateMidlothianUK

Personalised recommendations