Habitat types and important bird areas

Habitat types and important bird areas in Iceland are combined in a single map viewer. Data are available for free download on the National Land Survey of Iceland’s download portal, together with other data from the IINH.

The language of this resource is Icelandic, but clicking on individual data points will yield English summaries. Fact sheets on important bird areas are summarized in English.

Map viewer


Habitat types map

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History defines and classifies habitat types in Iceland, in accordance with international procedure for habitat types classification. Classifying natural habitat types is a necessary foundation for wise land-use planning, environmental conservation, and sustainable use of natural resources.

The habitat types map shows the distribution of 105 terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal habitat types in Iceland. Mapping of habitat types relies mainly on remote sensing, using satellite images from RapidEye, SPOT, and LANDSAT, in addition to aerial photography. Fieldwork was organised and carried out by employees of the IINH and its partners in 1999–2016, representing a major part of the mapping process. Existing geospatial data was also used for the project, including vegetation maps, digital elevation models (DEMs), hydrography data, precipitation data, and data on the extent of lava fields, forests, and cultivated land. The accuracy of the map corresponds to a scale of 1:25,000.

For more detailed breakdown of how natural habitat types in Iceland are defined and classified, see Vistgerðir á Íslandi (Fjölrit Náttúrufræðistofnunar No. 54, in Icelandic with English summary, PDF format) and fact sheets on individual habitat types on this website.


The IINH gladly accepts feedback and comments on its habitat types maps. Please contact us by email at ni@ni.is.

Important bird areas

A total of 121 areas in Iceland have been defined as internationally important for the 81 bird species that breed in Iceland or are regular visitors here. These 121 areas have been classified into three categories: (a) seabird colonies, (b) rocky coast and shallow marine waters, and (c) wetlands and other inland areas.

The boundaries of many areas are rather loosely delineated. For species that have a wide breeding range, such as heathland birds and birds of prey, protected areas must inevitably be large if they are to encompass a significant part of the population in question. Seabird colonies, on the other hand, tend to be easily delimited.

For more detailed discussion of the methodology and the selection process for important bird areas, see Mikilvæg fuglasvæði á Íslandi (Fjölrit Náttúrufræðistofnunar No. 55, in Icelandic with English summary, PDF format) and fact sheets on important bird areas on this website.