Skeiðarársandur has been shaped by the glacial rivers and occasional flooding coming from eruption underneath Europe’s biggest glacier, Vatnajökull. This wast sand that Skeiðarársandur is, is usually thought of as a huge wasteland but small birch trees have started to spread in this hostile environment with an incredible speed. Svarmi in collaboration with Landgræðsla Ríkisins and the University of Iceland have studied this area were Svarmi’s task was to map this wast area in high resolution, classify the imagery and estimate the number of birch trees as well as the overall area the birch has distributed. The super high resolution images also provide a great way to better understand how the birch distributes and also could be use to predict flooding with unprecedented accuracy.


Birch distribution


Landgræðsla Ríkisins and the University of Iceland


Fixed wing drone and a high resolution RGB camera

Over 16.000 high resolution RGB images

Due to the size of the area more than 16.000 images were gathered with a ground sampling distance of 5cm/px

Colonization modelling

The vast amount of data provided by this project will be used for generating a colonization predictive model, in order to understand where and why birch is colonizing the plain. Correlations will be established both from surrounding vegetation and topography, which will be represented by orthomosaic images and elevation models provided by this project.

Diverse landscape

The area was not only wast but also provided a great variety of topography and vegetation providing stunning images. The main road of Iceland route 1 passes through this sand providing a high contrast between nature and the built environment.