Biodiversity

Birds in the fjord landscape

The species that are typical for the west Norwegian fjord landscape are registered as breeding in the World Heritage area.

The varied topography with fjords, steep mountains by the fjord, naked rocks and steinskvettThe Ring ouzel. Photo: Vegard Lødøen
thermophilous forests, undisturbed water courses with many waterfalls, and mountain areas
without tree cover, but with heather and marsh, provide for a richly diverse natural habitat and hence a varied birdlife. About 100 species nest in the area. Among these are species typical of the coast and species that are common in the Norwegian mountains. Fifteen of the species registered here are on the Norwegian red list, and eight are species that Norway takes special responsibility for since a large part of the population stay in Norway for parts of the year.

Water birds and wetland birds

The topography in the Geiranger- and Nærøyfjord area is gråhegreGrey Heron. Photo: Marek Sczcepanek/Creative Commons
dramatic and not especially suitable for waders, seabirds and water birds. The most common water bird is the Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator). The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) who find good nesting grounds along the fjord. Along the many rivers there is a denser population of the Norwegian national bird, the White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus). Most of the marshland is situated in the mountains or in the high mountains, and one can find waders such as Common Snipes (Gallinago gallinago), Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), Common Redshank (Tringa totanus), Dunlin (Calidris alpina), Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima) and Dotterell (Charadrius morinellus).

TheLapwing (Vanellus vanellus) has nests in the wetlands further down. Water birds such as the Wigeon (Anas penelope), Teal (Anas crecca), Common Golden eye (Bucephala clangula) and Scaup (Aythya marila) are nesting by a few mountain lakes. Grånosmyrane wetland reserve in the Nærøyfjord has numerous waders and sparrows, and several of these are rare for the region. Large areas with wetlands like these are not usual for the mountains in the West of Norway. The Lapland Bunting (Calcarius lapponicus) and the Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) are among the species that have nesting grounds here. The population of the Lapland Bunting is one of the most south-westerly on the European continent.

Birds on the mountain sides by the fjord

The noble deciduous forest and other well-developed types of forestry land have a rich bird life. This is especially true of forests with Grey Alder and Bird Cherry, which are known for their large diversity in sparrow species. Patches of earlier agricultural land gives variation in the forestry land, and the transition zone is extremely valuable to the birds. Among birds that are common in the forests by the fjord are the Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), several thrushes, song birds such as Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and Icterine Warbler (hippolais icterina). The woodpeckers are represented by the Green woodpecker (Picus viridis), Black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), Wryneck (Jynx torquilla), Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus major) and White-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopus leucotos).

The article continues below.

The Eurasian Nuthatch (Photo: Adrian Grande)

The many precipitous and partially overhanging rocks are great nesting places for the predatory birds. Both the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) are nesting in the World Heritage area. The Golden Eagle is after a period with very few individuals now well established in both areas. Other predatory birds in the fjord landscape are the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus), Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).

Birds in the mountains

A representative selection of the bird life in the Norwegian mountains can be found in the forest free mountain areas where snow and ice is constantly present. Common species are amongst others Willow grouse (Lagopus lagopus), Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), Raven (corvus corax), Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis), Ring ouzel (Turdus torquatus), Ring ouzel (Oenanthe oenanthe), Twite (Carduelis flavirostris), Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) and several of the other waders previously referred to.

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Registered discoveries of botanical red list species in the World Heritage area.

* Status: EN = Endangered, VU = vulnerable, NT = Near Threatened, DD = Data Deficient, but it is very likely that the species will end up on the red species list.

** Area: G = Geirangerfjord. N = Nærøyfjord

Sopp

Scientific name English name Red List Status* Area**
Antrodia pulvinascens A bracket fungus NT N
Camarophyllopsis schulzeri - DC G
Clavaria zollingeri A club fungus NT G
Clavulinopsis cinereoides A finger fungus NT G
Cortinarius cinnabarinus A cortina fungus VU G
Cortinarius fulmineus A cortina fungus VU G
Entoloma atrocoeruleum
NT G
Entoloma corvinum - NT G
Entoloma griseocyaneum - NT G
Entoloma porphyrophaeum - NT G
Hygrocybe fornicata A wax fungus NT G
Hygrocybe ingrata A wax fungus NT G
Hygrocybe phaeococcinea A wax fungus NT G
Hygrocybe quieta A wax fungus NT G
Hygrocybe splendidissima A wax fungus NT G
Hygrocybe turunda A wax fungus NT G
Lactarius citriolens A milk cap fungus NT G
Porphyrellus porphyrosporus - NT G
Porpoloma metapodium - VU G
Russula anthracina A russula fungus NT G
Tricholoma atrosquamosum - NT G

A wax fungus(Hygrocybe quieta) . (Photo: biopix.dk/J.C. Schou)

Lav

Scientific name Norwegian name Red list status* Area**
Neofuscelia verruculifera Stiftskjergardslav NT G
Stereocaulon delisei Kystsaltlav VU G

Mosses

Scientific name Norwegian name Red list status* Area**
Brachydontium trichodes Skoddemose DD G
Bryum riparium Kantknollvrangmose VU G
Buxbaumia viridis Grønsko VU N
Encalypta microstoma Alpeklokkemose VU G

Vascular plants

Scientific name English name Red list status* Area**
Alchemilla semidivisa “Norddal lady’s mantle” VU G
Asplenium adulterinum Brown spleenwort NT G
Bromopsis ramosa Hairy brome NT G
Cephalanthera longifolia Narrow-leaved helleborine NT G
Pseudorchis albida Small-white orchid (ssp.) VU G

Narrow-leaved helleborine. (Photo: Bernd Haynold/Creative Commons)

Registered observations of species in the world heritage area that Norway has a special responsibility for:

Lichens

Scientific name Norwegian name Red List Status* Area**
Pannaria conoplea Grynfiltlav - G, N
Peltigera britannica Kystgrønnever - G
Sticta fuliginosa Rund porelav - G, N
Lobaria amplissima Sølvnever - G, N
Degelia plumbea Vanleg blåfiltlav - G, N

Vascular plants

Scientific name English name Red List Status* Area**
Alchemilla semidivisa “Norddal lady’s mantle” VU G

Varied vegetation

The four most important types of vegetation in the World Heritage area are: forest, scree and rock, alpines, and cultural vegetation.

Forest vegetationBroad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) (Photo:BenrdH/Creative Commons).

There are 18 botanically vulnerable forest localities identified, and these come under the categories old deciduous forest, olivine pine forest, thermophilous (heat-loving) noble deciduous forests and pastures.

In the forest covered areas the mountain birch dominates. On the forest floor blueberries and ferns are common, e.g. Dear fern (Blechnum spicant) and Lemon scented fern (Oreopteris limbosperma). The thermophilous noble deciduous forest on south facing fjord sides covers a smaller area, but has a large diversity of species. Thermophilous trees such as elm (Alnus glabra) and hazel (Corylus avellana) which grow together with weeping birch (Betula pendula), or pine, provide for a rich plant life, and approximately 200 species of vascular plants are registered at two such localities.

Hyskjet nature reserve in Geiranger is one of the richest localities with such vegetation. Typical species found on the forest floor here are:

  • Broad leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine)
  • Braun’s holly fern (Polystichum braunii) Liquorice milk vetch (Astragalus glycyphyllos). (Photo: Fornax/Creative Commons)
  • Wonder violet (Viola mirabilis)
  • Wild liquorice (Astragalus glycyphyllos)
  • Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
  • Royal helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens)
  • Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale)

We find the largest areas with noble deciduous forest along the Sunnylvsfjorden between Tindbjørgane and Åkerneset, and along the north side of the Geirangerfjord. Other types of forest vegetation are old pine forests and old deciduous forests which are found in only a few places along the fjord.

Scree and rock vegetation

The scree is the most important tree free mineral soil habitat Dark Red Helleborine (Epipactis astrorubens). (Photo: Bernd Haynold/Creative Commons).
for plant communities below the tree border in this area. The enormous screes innermost in the Geirangerfjorden and uppermost in the valley south of Geiranger have an interesting vegetation and flora. For example, the red list species small white orchid (Leuchorchis albida ssp. albida) can be found in many places here. The occurrence of some vascular plants here might be a result of having survived in the area since the warm sub-Atlantic period that occurred 2000 years ago.

The flora is richest where the bedrock contains carbonate. Here one can often find southerly and south-easterly vascular plants, and also other species which are otherwise unusual for this region. Under such circumstances it is not unusual to find more than 100 species of vascular plants a thousand metres over the sea.

Hawkweed-leaved saxifrage (Saxifraga hieracifolia) which grows on limestone rocks in Geiranger, preferably the north facing ones, is another important species that has its westerly and south westerly locality here.

Alpine vegetation

The most interesting and species-rich alpine flora is found in the east and south-east of Geiranger, from StavbrekkaHorsetail (Equisetum hyemale). (Photo: Creative Commons).
and Dalsnibba in the South to Gråsteindalen in the North. Another place is Geitfjellet north-west of Geiranger. Compared to the rest of Norway, the alpine flora here is not especially rich, but it still stands out in the north-westerly part of West Norway. The snow cover is vital, and one can find alpine plant communities on edges, sheltered sides and close to snow areas that are late to thaw. The edges are exposed to wind, and are terrain moulds with a thin snow covering. The sheltered hills have steady snow cowering and thaw early in spring. The snow areas melt late in summer, and the vegetation here ranges from Polar willow (Salix polaris) to more grassy, herbal rich vegetation.

Cultural vegetation

The most important biological value of the cultural landscape is connected to the area where the vegetation is shaped by haymaking, grazing, removal of thicket or lopping of trees. Over time the occurrence of specialised species has developed on non-fertilized natural pastures and meadows. Most of these are various types of mushrooms which belong to families such as Clavaria (Clavaria), Pinkgills (Entoloma) and Wax mushrooms (Hygrocybe). The most important areas with rare and exposed species can be found close to the open and well-kept cultural landscape around Herdalssetra and Botnen in Norddal.

Other cultural vegetation of botanical interest can be found in the patchwork of natural pastures and forests, preferably with lopped or cut birches or elms. The old elms are central and often attract more rare species such as lichen and mushroom that otherwise live in old thermophilous trees that for some reason are hardly ever seen in other places in the West of Norway.

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Botanic diversity and rare species

The Geirangerfjord area and Nærøyfjord area contained many typical characteristics and qualities about plant life in the West-Norwegian fjords. Here are several rare, threatened or vulnerable species and there are also many species that have a northernmost or westerly border right in this area.

The difference between the coast and inland, north raudsildreThe purple saxifrage. Photo: Michael Haferkamp,Creative Commons
and south and the large altitude differences mean that one finds many natural growth places within a small geographical area. The steep fjord sides, the screes, the waterfalls, river canyons, the steep terrain and the well-kept mountain dairy farms create variation and bio-diversity. Major local climate changes mean that plant species from more southerly latitudes can bear fruit just a few kilometres from places where Alpine plants from the more Arctic areas grow.

Specialised flora

There is a great diversity of species in the fjord landscape, particularly when considering the barren gneiss that dominates the bedrock. But the mountain is geologically active, it’s “alive”. Crevices are formed, there are rockslides and snow avalanches, and fine-grained debris that are dissolved by precipitation and become available as nutrition for plants.

Pockets of nutritious stone in the predominantly nutrient-poor area have given us a richer flora with greater biodiversity and more specialised plants. The occurrence of peridotite and serpentinite in the Geiranger area and the phyllite belt in the Nærøyfjord area are examples of such pockets.

Nature and cultureThe yellow poppy. Photo: Johannes Anonby

Active geological erosion has created large screes and alluvial fans that have given us pioneering communities and species that are adapted to unstable and changing conditions. The rarest species is the yellow poppy (Papaver radicatum ssp. relictum) which grows at Bleia in the Nærøyfjord area.

As a result of hundreds of years of grazing and hay harvest several semi-natural plant communities have appeared in parts throughout the fjord landscape, including several red-listed species and species that are important for biological diversity (insects, birds and animals).

Thermophilous/heat-loving species in the Geirangerfjord areaThe clouded apollo butterfly. Photo: Dag Holtan

Some plants that usually grow by the coast also occur naturally here in the fjord area, but since we are so far inland, these members of the flora are not quite as developed. But there are several thermophilous species, species that come from more southern and south-eastern areas. Probably there is no other place in Sunnmøre that is home to so many thermophilous species in this many localities.

Pockets of peridotite and serpentinite in the bedrock provide excellent conditions for some “pure specialists”. Corrupt spleenwort (Asplenium adulterinum) only grows on this type of soil. Other plants that are associated with these areas are Alpine Catchfly (Lychnis alpina), a subspecies of Bering chickweed (Cerastium alpinum ssp. glabratum), and purple mountain saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia).

Norddal Lady’s mantle

A very rare species that takes its Norwegian name from this area grows in damp places near waterfalls. This is the Norddal lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla semidivisa, Rosaceae), which is only known from a handful of locations in inner Sunnmøre, four of them within the world heritage area.

In total there are 41 red listed species of mushroom, lichen, moss and vascular plants in the area (see table).

Marine species in the world heritage area

**Area: G = Geirangerfjord. N = Nærøyfjord

Marine species in the world heritage area

Latin name Norwegian name English name Area**
Anarhichas lupus Gråsteinbit Catfish G
Anguilla anguilla Ål Eel G/N
Argentina silus Vassild Greater argentine G/N
Argentina sphyraena Strømsild Lesser argentine N
Benthosema glaciale Nordlig lysprikkfisk Glacier lantern fish N
Brosmius brosme Brosme Torsk G
Callionymus maculatus Flekket fløyfisk Spotted dragonet N
Clupea harengus Sild Herring G/N
Clupea sprattus Brisling Sprat G/N
Cyclopterus lumpus Rognkjeks Lumpsucker G/N
Diplecogaster bimaculatus Dobbeltsuger Two-spotted clingfish N
Gadiculus argenteus Sølvtorsk Silvery pout N
Gadus merlangus Kviting Whiting G
Gadus morhua Torsk Cod G/N
Gasterosteus aculeatus Stingsild Three-spined stickleback N
Gobiidae Kutlingar Gobies N
Hippoglossus hippoglossus Kveite Halibut G
Labrus berggylta Bergylte Ballan Wrasse G
Limanda limanda Sandflyndre Dab N
Lophius piscatorius Breiflabb Angler G
Melanogrammus aeglefinus Hyse Haddock G/N
Merluccius merluccius Lysing European hake G
Micromesistius potassou Kolmule Blue whiting N
Microstomus kitt Lomre Lemon sole N
Molva byrkelange Blålange Blue ling G
Molva molva Lange Ling G/N
Myoxocephalus scorpius Vanleg ulke Short-horned sculpin N
Pleuronectes platessa Raudspette Plaice G
Pollachius pollachius Lyr Pollack G
Pollachius virenes Sei Saithe G/N
Salmo salar Laks Atlantic salmon G/N
Salmo trutta trutta Sjøaure Brown trout G
Scomber scombrus Makrell Mackerel G/N
Sebastus marinus Uer Redfish G/N
Somniosus microcephalus Håkjerring Greenland shark G/N
Squalus acanthias Pigghå Spiny dogfish N
Trisopterus minutus Sypike Poor cod N

Gråsteinbit er ein av mange fiskeartar ein kan finne i dei djupe verdsarvfjordane.

Raudlisteartar og artar som Noreg har spesielt ansvar for i verdsarvområdet

Latinsk namn Norsk namn Engelsk namn Raudlistestatus* Område
Phocoena phocoena Nise Common porpoise MO G, N
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