When Iceland was first settled, it was extensively forested. According to the late 12th century Íslendingabók, Iceland was described as “forested from mountain to sea shore”. The arrival of humans disturbed the delicate ecosystem. Forest exploitation, overgrazing, volcanic activity, glacier movement and unfavorable climate all contributed to soil erosion. Only about a quarter of Iceland has a continuous plant cover today.
Icelandic Flora can be classified as sub-arctic and alpine.There are 5610 species of plants,algee,mushroom and moss known in Iceland and about 75% of those can be found on the Scandinanian main land. The national flower of Iceland is the Holtasóley, Dryas octopetala. The vegetation is mostly subartic in charater and distinguished by an abundance of grasses, sedges and related species. Grasslands, bogs and marshes are extensive, and there is much moorland and heatland
At the time of Icelands settlement the Arctic Fox was the only native land mamal on the island. Foxes had colonized the island at the end of the last Ice age crossing a ice bridge from neighbouring countries. Since human settlement a number of species have been introtuced including Reindeer, Mice, Rats, Rabbits and Minks. Reindeer only live in the eastern part of the island while the other species have a range stretching around most of the country. However, most of the domestic breeds that the settlers brought with them have remained unchanged in isolation. The Icelandic horse is perhaps the most well-known example of this. Other domestic animals include the Icelandic sheep, cattle, chicken, goat, and the Icelandic sheepdog.
390 birds species have been noted in Iceland. Of which 75 are breed yearly on the Island. Iceland is an extremely important stop for geese and waders migrating between breeding grounds in Greenland and Canada and wintering grounds in Europe. Numerous vagrants also pass through Iceland, arriving both from the west and east. Although Iceland’s bird fauna may not be species-rich, it is in many ways unique. Iceland is home to very large seabird, wader and waterfowl populations. Indeed, some populations are so large that a significant part of the entire world population for a given species is found here in Iceland. Among notable Icelandic bird species there are the Atlantic Puffin which Iceland has the highest population of in the world, The Arctic Tern who is belived to be the the farthest migrating bird in the world traveling from its summer home in the North Atlantic all the way to the tip of South Africa, The GyrFalcon who is usually considered the national bird of Iceland, the White tailed Eagle, Great Arctic Diver, and the Golden Plover which is often called the summer bird in Iceland as its arrival in spring is said to mark the end of winter.
Icelandic waters are rich with marine life, including seals, whales, dolphins and over three hundred species of fish. 23 species of dolphins and whales have been sighted in Iceland’s territorial waters most common of which is the Minke Whale, 6 species of true seals have been spotted on Iceland’s shores, along with the occasional walrus. Economicly speaking the Cod is the most important species to Iceland with it being one of the mainstays of Iceland economy. Iceland has only 5 known fresh water fish species, Atlantic Salmon, Brown trout, Arctic char, Sticklebacks and Eels.