Land use in Norway and Scotland

Land use in Norway and Scotland

Two places in SW Norway near Stavanger. In the early 20th century the region was almost completely deforested and had been since the Bronze Age. It is now well wooded, mainly due to natural regeneration. Climate and geology are closely similar to the NW Scottish Highlands. The ‘X’ in the 2015 Oslibakken photograph indicates the point of shot of the 1911 photograph.

South West Norway and Highland Scotland are very similar in climate, geology and landforms; but very different in modern land use patterns and resulting landscapes. In this project we compare landscape history and land use practices in Highland Scotland and SW Norway as an aid to landscape management.

On this page you will find highlights and updates from the project, and links to related material

Update May 2019:

On 10th May Duncan Halley gave a talk in Scotland to the Crofting Woodlands Conference on “Land Use, Value Creation, and Woodlands in SW Norway”, which explored how greater biological productivity leads to greater economic productivity in more wooded landscapes. The conference launched the (downloadable) “Highlands and Islands Woodlands Handbook”, ‘a comprehensive guide to establishing, managing and utilising woodland in the varied and often challenging conditions … of Scotland’. It includes a chapter by Duncan Halley describing the mainly natural reforestation of SW Norway in the last century, which continues today, from a state similar to that of present-day Highland Scotland. 

Update April 2019:

The Scottish Parliament’s working group on deer management will soon report its findings. In connection with this a presentation on the history and harvesting of red deer and other deer species in Norway, comparative to Scotland, can be downloaded here

Update June 2018:

In late May 2018 a group of nature managers and crofters visited SW Norway to compare land cover and land use with Highland Scotland, with Duncan Halley of NINA as their host. The study tour was supported by the Erasmus + programme. A record of their tour and of their thoughts is presented in this short video. 


Update May 2018: 

BBC Scotland’s ‘Scotland Outdoors’ programme has produced an excellent podcast on “Land ownership and management in Norway".

Update October 2017:

A short illustrated article on the comparative landscape history of SW Norway and the Scottish Highlands, and the insights it provides for landscape management and biodiversity conservation, has recently been published in the proceedings of the Scottish Woodland History Conference Vol. 20. Downloaded "Woodland history in south west Norway - Comparative insights from a parallell universe" here.

Update June 2017:

Kate Holl, botanist with Scottish Natural Heritage, visited SW Norway on a Churchill Fellowship to compare plant biodiversity with Scotland’s. You can read her blog posts from the visit here.

Update December 2015:

The future of land management in Scotland is a subject of political debate in Scotland. Dr. Duncan Halley, who was born and raised in Scotland but has worked for NINA since 1993, was in 2015 invited to give a talk at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on landscape history and landuse in South West Norway, and how this might inform discussion in Scotland. The region is closely similar in landforms and climate to the Scottish Highlands, but for historical reasons very different in landuse patterns and modern land cover.

The event was hosted by Rob Gibson MSP, and Nordic Horizons, an “informal group of Scottish professionals who want to raise the standard of knowledge and debate about life and policy in the Nordic nations”. The presentation "Landscape history and land use in SW Norway" can be downloaded here.

In this short interview Dr Duncan Halley of the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research outlines the history of deforestation and reforestation of SW Norway. Source:

Nurturing Nature from Nordic Horizons on Vimeo.

You can also watch the full presentation in the video below.