a brief summary of its nature history,
revealed through scientific research
by universities and government agencies.
10'000 years ago Norway was still
covered by an ice sheet, a remnant
of the last major ice age, which
culminated 18'000 years ago. Then
the climate improved, and deglaciation
started. The glacial retreat left
much evidence of the development
of landscape, vegetation and animal
life. Reconstruction of glacial
and post glacial history has been
carried out during the last century.
Several kinds of scientists, both
national and international, come
to Jostedalen, strongly attracted
by this magnificent eldorado of
well developed, well shaped and
so far mostly well preserved landscape
The valley of Jostedalen offers spectacular
scenery, mainly shaped by glacial
erosion. Glacial faults and fractures
underneath the glacier have favoured
erosional forces, garving out valleys,
hanging valleys, cirques and mountain
passes from the old mountainous plain.
The largest glacier in Northern
Europe, Jostedalsbreen, 487 km2
, covers the high mountain
plateau northwest of Jostedalen.
22 named outlets - "glacial arms
or tongues" - flow from the plateau
glacier, 11 of these into the hanging
valleys running more or less vertically
to the main valley, Jostedalen.
Hanging valleys are found on both
sides and can be seen as bowl-shaped
openings high up on the hillsides.
The most famous glacial outlets
are Nigardsbreen, Bergsetbreen and
Austdalsbreen. More than 30'000
tourists come to see Nigardsbreen
each year. The well preserved moraine
landscape in front of the glaciers,
especially Nigardsbreen, tells us
much about deglaciation history.
At Nigard there are many moraines
which can be traces across the valley
and up the hills on both sides.
These have been dated by biochemical
dating and found to be from the
period called "the Little Ice Age"
that culminated about 250 years
ago. A detoriation in climatic conditions
made the Jostedalen glacier grow,
and the outlets surged forward or
flowed down the valleys, damaging
farms and vegetation, and people's
livelihood. Although this was a
natural disaster at the time, the
event has been extremely useful
to the scientists of today when
studying the invasion of plants
and animals onto virgin land.
The deglaciation history is also
better understood thanks to these
more recent forms. Very clear moraine
landscapes were left, forming a
very valuable documentation for
scientists. The outmost moraine
ridge is called the 1750 moraine,
and tells us when "the Little Ice
Age" culminated. Today, the Nigard
valley, the Nigard glacier and some
other special areas such as the
are highly regarded, both as scientifically
interesting areas as well as objects
for environmental protection.
is a most iteresting area, composed
of material from subglacial erosion,
transported by the glacial rivers
coming from Lodalsbreen and Stegholbreen
glaciers, and spread out like a
wide sandy fan as the river often
alternates between several river
channels. The phenomenon of the
sandy fan is known as a "sandur"-
an Icelandic expression. Fåbergstølsgrandane
is the largest remaining active
sandur on the European mainland.
The Sandur provides very instructive
documentation as to how several
landscape features are formed, and
how plants and other kinds of life
become established and survive under
such extreme conditions.
is a strongly dynamic area with
major ecological gradients. Pioneer
plants and a primitive fauna live
at the edge of the glacier, while
more developed and diversified life
has been established further down
the sandur and throughout the main
valley to the Sognefjorden.
Although Jostedalen and the Jostedal
glacier offer rugged conditions,
an interesting variety of vegetation
and animals have become established
and developed during the last 8'000
- 9'000 years.
The present wildlife consists of
many species, ranging from large
animals such as the brown bear,
elk, red deer, fox, hare and squirrel
down to fresh water animals such
as fish, mostly trout, as well as
several kinds of insects and plankton.
Former species, both animals and
vegetation, can be traced through
some of the local varieties which
have adjusted to harsh conditions
in close vicinity to the glacial
outlets. One of the insect genera,
Vivacricotopus, has never
been found anywhere else before,
although a similar species has subsequently
been found in northern Alaska.
In the mountainous areas around
the reservoirs, and unusual vegetation
community occurs. However, over
the last 8'000 - 9'000 years, the
main valley Jostedalen has been
successfully forested by alder,
birch and pine. Also several kinds
of bushes, heathers, other flowering
plants, ferns and mosses, have invaded
the area as the glaciers retreated.
The birds of Jostedalen have also
been studied. Some stay all winter,
while others return from Africa
and other warm, exotic places when
Norway offers nordic summertime
conditions, not too hot and with
long hours of daylight. The highest
density of bird species in western
Norway has been recorded in certain
parts of the Jostedalen area.