Brooke Holland


Due to deforestation, overfishing, and climate change, Iceland was faced with problems that they could not solve, and because of these reasons, the Icelandic empire fell.

A Bit About Iceland

  • Iceland was discovered by british vikings, along with their Irish slaves, in about 1492. When the island was discovered, it was said to have been "left out" of colonization. This is because Iceland was overflowing with sheep and seabirds
  • They created a laws based off the Norwegian system, and created a National Legislature body. They divided Iceland into four districts. A representative was elected from each district, to represent their district in a yearly meeting.


  • In the 1500's, the soil in Iceland got so poor that it was impossible to grow grain. In order to survive, the people turned to fishing as their only food source. The large ice drifts and glaciers destroyed shellfishing near the shore. So, men would go out in little fishing boats and fish. However, these boats never went over the horizon.
  • Cod fish turned into the civilizations main food and trade source. Because they were fishing so often in order to try to keep Iceland on its feet, the waters began to become more and more empty.
  • By 1492, Greenland had officially collapsed, and Iceland soon followed. Starvation, failing crops, and a collapsing fishing industry were to much for Iceland to handle.

Climate Change

  • Rapid cooling od the climate had a bad effect on life in Iceland. In 1703, the population was 50,000. Then, in 1708, the population dropped all the way down to 38,000.
  • The cold also took away their ability to grow hay to feed the livestock. Because of this, all the sheep, cows, etc began to die. This took away a major food source from Iceland.
  • Glaciers began to form, and overall water was iced over. Due to underwater volcanos, these glaciers began to flow, and floods became abundant.
  • By the 1500's, there was no grain left for farming. The only food source iceland had left was fishing. Because of the little sources of food they had due to climate change, Iceland collapsed.

Deforestation (Missuse of Land)

  • When settlers arrived in Iceland, their only farming experience was from soils that are filled with natural, rich resources. These types of soils are perfect for farming. However, the soils in Iceland are mostly made up of volcanic ash from past eruptions. This meant that these soils lacked in clay and silt, making them very easy to erode.
  • In order to make room for pastures for the livestock, hay fields, houses, and hearths, the settlers cut down almost all of Iceland's trees and high grasslands. In just the first few decades, settlers leveled 80% of Iceland's trees.
  • They also cleared the grasslands in the highlands. By doing this, they exposed the fragile soil to erosion, which created the deserts that are still there today.
  • By the 1500's, the soil was basically useless. They had no way to grow food for their livestock or themselves. Fishing was the only food source they had left, which was difficult due to glaciers and the icy waters. Thus resulting in the collapse of Iceland.

Works Cited

Source 1: Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.

Source 2: "Iceland: Natural Resources & Agriculture." World Geography: Understanding a Changing World. ABC-CLIO, 2000. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. <>.

Source 3: Mandia, Scott A. "Decline of the Vikings in Iceland - Influence of Dramatic Climate Shifts on European Civilizations: The Rise and Fall of the Vikings and the Little Ice Age." Decline of the Vikings in Iceland - Influence of Dramatic Climate Shifts on European Civilizations: The Rise and Fall of the Vikings and the Little Ice Age. Smithtown Sciences Bldg., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

Even though the date of the article's publication isn't given, the information is still current because all of the events occurred a couple thousand years ago. It's reliable not only because the link ends in .edu, but because it was written by Scott Mandia, a Professor of Physical Sciences. This article contains no evidence of bias.

Source 4:

Hirst, Kris K. "Landnám." Archaeology. Archaeology, 2011. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

This article is current because even though it was written three years ago, it is talking about events that happened hundreds of years ago. It is reliable because the author is a retired Archeologist named Kris K. Hirst. She worked in the American midwest, American southwest, and Mexico before retiring in 2005 to write science articles like this one. The article contains no evidence of bias, because it is simply stating facts about Iceland's geographical and agricultural history.