MYBIT is an ongoing research programme concerning sustainability and the interactions between humans and the natural world in the Lake Mývatn district. A focal point of the research involves questions regarding the success and failure of vital resources. During the four years that the research has been ongoing it has challenged many of the traditionally-held views of the interaction between people and the environment. A paradox has emerged. This paradox consists in that, although this district is the highest in elevation of all continuous settlements in Iceland, at 300 meters above sea level in the northeast of the country, and close to the Arctic Circle, its inhabitants showed surprising resilience during frequent famines that ravaged other parts of Iceland.

Framengjar wetlands – crucial for the community of Mývatn. Photo by Viðar Hreinsson
Framengjar wetlands – crucial for the community of Mývatn. Photo by Viðar Hreinsson
The Mývatn district appears to have had the most advanced trade of any Icelandic communities during the 18th century, the age of the trade monopoly of Denmark. It was clearly a relatively prosperous peasant farming community, and it became the earliest community of freeholders in the new age of freeholding that began around 1800 through the initiative of the Danish central state power that was selling off state farms. It also reinvented itself as an agricultural area by intensifying an age-old technique of haymaking, the irrigation of the Framengjar wetlands south of Lake Mývatn as well as advances in sheep-breeding. Through these developments the district experienced continued economic growth. This growth culminated in the people of the district taking the lead in revolutionizing trade by organizing innovative co-operative societies. This was a part of a general revolution in the Icelandic countryside around 1900.
Framengjar wetlands. Photo by Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir

The following grants have supported the project:
2014. National Science Foundation (USA). Award 1446308. Investigations of the Long- Term Sustainability of Human Ecodynamic Systems in Northern Iceland (MYCHANGE). PI: A.E.J. Ogilvie. Co-PIs: Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir, Árni Daníel Júlíusson, Viðar Hreinsson, Megan Hicks. 1 August 2014-31 July 2016.

2016. RANNÍS. Award. 163133-051 (The Icelandic Centre for Research.) The Mývatn District of Iceland: Sustainability, Environment and Change ca. AD 1700 to 1950 (MYSEAC). PI: Árni Daníel Júlíusson. Co-PIs: Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir; Viðar Hreinsson; Megan Hicks and A.E.J. Ogilvie. 1 June 2016-31 May 2019.

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