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Many visitors to Iceland are attracted by the fact that it is one of the most unspoilt and breathtaking environments in the world. With around 60% of the estimated 300,000 strong population living in and around Reykjavik the population has very little impact on the stunning scenery, flora and fauna. Coupled with this minimal human pressure there are strict restrictions on land use and access that help to reduce the human impact further. A number of key national parks have been set up to preserve certain areas of remarkable beauty and of scientific interest.
There is a great abundance of birdlife in Iceland and this can be seen all around the island. The Atlantic Puffin is the most common bird with around 3 million breeding pairs. In amongst the myriad of wild flowers fishermen may also see Arctic Terns, in Iceland for summer nesting, Mute Swans, Ptarmigan, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Snipe and Snowy Owls. In terms of mammals, most of Iceland’s mammals are marine based. The only indigenous land mammal is the arctic fox however, a genetically pure strain of Icelandic Ponies are a joy to ride and boast an unusual fifth ‘gate’. The coastal waters are rich with food, sustaining a large population of various species of Whales, which can be seen quite regularly by boat. There are also two species of seal in Iceland that can often be seen in the coastal regions.
There are about 4000 farms in Iceland and these are mainly family run small output businesses. Due to a short spring and summer there is a limited growing season of about 3 months and this leads to an amazing speed of change between the first shoots of spring to the leaves turning in the autumn. Most farmers where educated at one of the 3 Agricultural colleges in Iceland. There is generally an understanding for the environmental impact of farming and many restrictions that minimise farming’s pressure on the natural ecosystem. Icelandic produce is grown to a very high standard due to stringent restrictions on growth hormones and feed additives.
The Climate in Iceland belies the name; due to Iceland’s proximity to the Gulf Stream the island benefits from a remarkably temperate climate despite its latitude. However the meeting of mild Atlantic air and colder arctic air can create very changeable climate and complete opposites of weather can be witnessed in one day.
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