HEKLA

The Hekla area is a volcanic landscape system dominated by the activity from Hekla volcano, which is one of the most active volcanic systems in Iceland. Hekla has erupted ~23 times since the settlement of Iceland in AD 874 and is known for its mixed eruptions producing both explosive tephra deposits and effusive lava flows leaving a volcanically diverse landscape behind (Thorarinsson, 1950; Thorarinsson, 1967; Thordarson and Larsen, 2007; Höskuldsson et al., 2007).

The volcanic activity of Hekla has had a huge impact on the surrounding landscape and has changed the vegetation patterns and the depositional/erosional environments in different ways. Furthermore it has affected the human settlement since the occupation of Þjórsárdalur and in the past farms have been abandoned, destroyed or affected by tephra fall or by lava flows from Hekla, e.g., in AD 1104, 1389, 1436, 1693, 1725, and 1845 (Thorarinsson, 1967; Dugmore et al., 2007).

However, recent studies show a mixed picture of the landscape changes and reveal complex response mechanisms between volcanic, extreme weather and anthropogenic impact on the landscape degradation affecting vegetation and changing depositional and erosional environments differently on local scale (Hallsdottir 1987, Dugmore et al., 2007). Thus, extreme weather events, land use, including grazing, new invasive species such as Alaska lupin, and climate change have been held responsible for these changes (Sigurmundsson, 2011; Sigurmundsson et al. 2012).

Therefore, the Hekla area is ideal for a cross-disciplinary study of a dynamic volcanic landscape through monitoring on a big spatial scale. Also, recent geodetic studies indicate that the cumulative deformation measured at Hekla, since the 2000 eruption, has exceeded previous pre-eruptive levels (Ofeigsson et al., 2011; Sturkell et al., 2013). This suggests that the volcano may be primed for another eruption providing a possibility to study new explosive and effusive deposits. Linkage between topography, volcanic units and vegetation and erosional and depositional changes can been assessed.