International cooperation

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History is partially or fully responsible for the implementation of a number of international conventions and resolutions on behalf of Iceland’s Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate. The IINH also participates in a number of projects involving cooperation with international organisations operating in the North Atlantic and the Arctic. Individual employees at the IINH take active part in a wide range of cooperative projects and international collaborations in the field of science. International cooperation and communication are extremely important for the IINH: they allow us to stay informed about the latest trends and developments and also to network with other scientists and administrators undertaking similar projects abroad.

The following are the most important international projects in which the IINH is involved:

The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats was signed in 1979 and ratified in Iceland in 1993. Almost all European states as well as a few African states are now signatories to the Bern Convention, which has had a significant effect on conservation legislation and its enforcement, as well as on how we record, classify, assess, and monitor living nature in Europe.

The IINH is responsible for the implementation of the convention in Iceland. It attends the meetings of the Standing Committee on behalf of Iceland and participates in subcommittee work in areas that have relevance for Iceland. These include:

  • Emerald Network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest
  • Conservation of Birds
  • Conservation of Invertebrates
  • Protected Areas and Ecological Networks
  • Invasive Alien Species
  • Biodiversity and Climate Change
  • European Island Biological Diversity

Bern Convention website


Iceland signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Iceland’s parliament, the Alþingi, ratified the Convention in 1994. Virtually all countries in the world are now parties to the CBD. The objective of the CBD is threefold: to protect biological diversity, to ensure that use of biological and genetic resources is sustainable, and to secure fair and equitable sharing of the benefits. The IINH has one representative in the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and also provides the Icelandic Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate with an employee on the interministerial advisory committee that engages in strategic planning for conservation and use of biological diversity in Iceland.

The Icelandic government has approved both a national biodiversity strategy and an action plan for the Convention, the implementation of which is largely the responsibility of the IINH.

CBD website

Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) is a working group of the Arctic Council. All eight Arctic Council Member States participate in CAFF: Canada, Denmark (including the Faeroe Islands and Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The IINH has a representative on the CAFF Management Board and participates in expert groups on circumpolar seabirds (CBird), flora (CFG), protected areas (CPAN), and biodiversity monitoring (CBMP).

CAFF website

Iceland has been a party to the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) since 2013. The agreement deals with actions to protect migratory waterbirds and their habitats in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Greenland, and the Canadian Archipelago. AEWA covers most bird species that breed or stop in Iceland. The IINH handles implementation of the agreement in Iceland, in cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate.

AEWA website

The IINH also handles implementation of the following conventions and agreements for the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate:

The North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Species (NOBANIS) is a cooperative project between North and Central European states. Plants and animals introduced to an area can threaten biodiversity and create serious ecological, economic, and health-related problems. NOBANIS aims to minimise or prevent the damage caused by invasive species.

The main goal of NOBANIS is to act as a regional portal for sharing information on introduced and invasive species in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments in North and Central Europe. Resources. Resources include an integrated database, fact sheets, and an online photo bank.

All Nordic and Baltic countries participate in NOBANIS, as do Austria, Belarus, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Russia.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History takes part in the project on behalf of Iceland. The IINH is also responsible for managing the NOBANIS Secretariat.

NOBANIS website

The objective of the Ramsar Convention is to promote conservation and wise use of wetlands around the globe, particularly as a biotope for wetland birds. The Ramsar Convention came into force on 21 December 1975. Iceland became a party to the agreement in 1978. The IINH provides guidance concerning implementation of the convention in Iceland.

Ramsar website

Iceland is a participant in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), which is an international network and research infrastructure. The objective of GBIF is to make primary biodiversity data and information from different participating entities available through a single open-access portal and facilitate the interlinking of highly varied types of data on natural conditions around the globe. A representative of the Icelandic Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate sits on the GBIF Governing Board. A representative of the IINH acts as node manager for Iceland and participates in the Node Managers Committee. The IINH has worked for several years on linking its biology database collections to the GBIF server.

GBIF website

CITES is an international agreement concerning the regulation and control of international trade in endangered plant and animal species and derived products. The objective of CITES is to prevent international trade in endangered plant and animal species from depleting the populations of these species. CITES establishes a framework of rules concerning trade in endangered species and derived products, to which parties to CITES are required to adhere.  The IINH is designated as a Scientific Authority under CITES. This advisory role extends to plant and animal species other than marine species.

CITES website

The role of the Icelandic National Commission for UNESCO is to implement the UNESCO World Heritage Convention on Iceland’s behalf. The Icelandic Minister of Education, Science, and Culture is responsible for compliance with the World Heritage Convention and appoints commission members. The Icelandic National Commission has worked on the nomination of several properties for inscription on the World Heritage List. The IINH has had a representative on this commission and has additionally obtained various types of data on natural conditions in the areas nominated.

World Heritage Convention website

The IINH is a member of ProGeo, which is an international geoconservation organisation.  The primary objective of ProGeo is to promote conservation of geoheritage and educate policy makers and the general public on the importance of protecting geological sites. The Global Geoparks Network (GGN) is an international geoparks organisation. Its role includes enhancing understanding and appreciation of the importance of geological heritage.

ProGeo website

The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) was founded in 1961. It is among the world’s largest non-governmental geoscience organisations. The IINH is a member of IUGS on Iceland’s behalf. The objectives of IUGS include encouraging and advancing geological research, particularly projects of international significance, and promoting international and interdisciplinary cooperation in the earth sciences.

IUGS website

The IINH participates in the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) programme, which aims to assess the current and future impact of climate change on vegetation worldwide.  Alpine vegetation is believed to be the most sensitive to climate warming and thus the first to be impacted. The project objective is to establish long-term monitoring of alpine observation plots in order to measure the effects of global climate change.

GLORIA website

Nordic Lichen Flora is written by experts from all Nordic countries, including Iceland. Six volumes have been published to date of this traditional flora, which contains identification keys and more detailed descriptions of individual lichen species, species names in all Nordic languages, and distribution maps. The IINH participates in the writing of this flora on Iceland’s behalf.

Nordic Lichen Flora website