Iceland Mag

13 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Repairs of vandalized moss in crater slope: Delicate vegetation should have recovered in 5 years

By Staff

  • Repairing delicate vegetation Mosses which cover lava fields take centuries to grow. Wounds to these fields take decades to heal. Photo/Jóhann K. Jóhansson

Employees of the Reykjavík municipal geothermal power utility are busy repairing "graffiti" left in the slopes of a moss covered volcanic crater in south-west Iceland. The expert leading the repair says the vegetation should have recovered in five years. It can take moss-fields decades to recover after being damaged.

Icelandic and foreign vandals responsible

Moss repair
"I love you" One of the messages carved into the crater slope is "Ég elska þig", Icelandic for "I love you". Photo/Jóhann K Jóhansson

The slopes of a volcanic crater Litla Svínahlíð, near the Ring Road connecting Reykjavík and South Iceland, have been covered in messages created by vandals who have ripped out moss to write short sentences or words. 

Some of the messages could suggest they were left by foreign travellers, including a recent message, "send nudes". Others are clearly written by locals, including Icelandic names and sentences like "Ég elska þig", Icelandic for "I love you".

Simple repairs help delicate vegetation recover
The crater is located within the energy utilization area of the geothermal power utility Orka Náttúrunnar. Orka Náttúrunnar operates the Hellisheiði and Nesjavellir power plants, two of the largest geothermal power plants in the world. In addition to producing electricity the utility supplies the metropolitan area with hot water for its geothermal district heating.

Read more: Nine fascinating facts about geothermal energy and Reykjavík

Moss repair

Moss repair Removing the "graffiti" hopefully deters other vandals from damaging mossat other sites. Photo/Jóhann K Jóhansson

Experts from Orka Náttúrunnar have developed methods to recover the vegetation and landscape of lava fields disturbed by geothermal drilling operations. Harnessing geothermal power requires drilling bore holes, laying roads, building power plants and laying pipes to deliver the steam to the power plant. In the process the operation causes significant disruption and destruction to the original landscape and vegetation.

Repairing these gray and black wounds in the landscape has been a priority for the utility which now stores moss it removes during construction. The moss is kept frozen and then re-introduced after construction. Other methods include a kind of fertilizer soup which has been seeded with pieces of moss. These methods allow the moss fields to recover in only a few years.

A wound which would take decades or centuries to be covered by moss can recover fully in five with the help of these methods. 


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