Soil studies in low-arctic South Greenland often reveal polysequence soil profiles. The study of these soils, dating of fossil surface horizons, study of land use, and use of paleoclimatic information from studies of ice cores show a complex interplay between climatic change, soil erosion and agricultural land use. Two periods of agricultural land use are known in Greenland. From A.D. 985 to about 1450 Norsemen settled in Greenland, and about 1915 modern sheep breeding started in southern Greenland. The Norsemen deserted the area in late 1400, and no exact knowledge exists about their fate. But soil profiles and large erosion areas of desolation tell us about their problems. Climatic fluctuations, soil erodibility factors and insufficient management response on environmental feedbacks probably caused the termination of the Norse era. The expanding modern sheep breeding industry is facing the same problems as the Norsemen did. In spite of agricultural research and large investments in winter fodder production, stables and infrastructure, it seems difficult to practice a balanced land use as regards carry capacity. Soil erosion accelerates, and the devastation of a unique landscape will be the consequence, if the really limiting factors for agricultural land use are not recognized.
This article is from 'Proceedings of the International Conference on the Role of the Polar Regions in Global Change Held in Fairbanks, Alaska on 11-15 June 990. Volume 2', AD-A253 028, 406-410. See also Volume 1, AD-A253 027.