The primary role of the IINH is threefold:
- to conduct basic research on the zoology, botany, and geology of Iceland,
- to handle systematic documentation of nature in Iceland, and
- to manage research findings and specimens in scientific collections.
The IINH maintains databases on nature in Iceland and is charged with maintaining a broad overview of nature conservation and natural resource allocation, and providing advice and instruction thereon. It also has a broad monitoring and educational role.
The IINH is a government agency under the aegis of the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate. It operates under Act No. 60/1992. The IINH has offices at two locations: Garðabær and Akureyri, as well as a drill core library in Breiðdalsvík.
The activities of the IINH fall into three main categories:
To document, preserve, categorise, and map the biota and geological formations of Iceland, and to record this information in scientific databases.
- To strengthen and support natural history museums in the country.
- To develop and maintain databases on plant and animal species in Iceland, fossils, and rocks.
- To map the distribution of organisms, vegetation communities, and habitat types.
- To map bedrock and surficial deposits in Iceland, including avalanches.
- To carry out basic research in the fields of systematics, palaeontology, and petrology.
To monitor nature in Iceland; assess the conservation value of natural history sites, species, habitat types, and geological formations; and to provide instruction on the responsible use of natural resources.
- To keep abreast of population changes for important species and populations. Plan and take responsibility for monitoring of Icelandic nature, addressing key aspects of biodiversity and geological formations of conservation interest.
- To assess the conservation value and conservation status of individual species, habitat types, and geological formations, and to publish red lists.
- To document natural phenomena in Iceland and assess their conservation value, to maintain Iceland’s Nature Conservation Register, and to make recommendations on inclusions in the Iceland’s strategic plan for nature protection and conservation. To review and revise the current Nature Conservation Register.
- To assess sustainable hunting levels for populations, evaluate the need for controls on hunting, and provide authorities with advice on sustainable hunting.
To obtain, accept, and disseminate information about nature in Iceland.
- To publish written material and maps of scientific merit.
- To disseminate information and educational material.
- To provide library and information services of a high calibre.
- To act as a consultant, observer, and investigating institution in matters concerning natural resource allocation, land use, and conservation.
- To monitor developments and trends within fields of scientific study at IINH and to promote its work in Iceland and in international forums.