The large gabbro massifs in Lyngsalpan generally have sparse flora. The flora is largely dominated by a few common and widespread species. Generally, the mountain vegetation is more developed on the southern end of the peninsula than on the northern. There are large sections even on relatively low altitudes that are completely without vascular plants to the north of Kjosen.
Some smaller sections in Lyngsalpen diverge by having somewhat richer mountain flora. These are areas linked to the sedimentary rocks along the east side of the peninsula, Cáhca at Kjeldalen, Riidavárri at Elvevolldalen and Fasdalstind north of Lyngseidet. There are also more lush mountain areas at Stálloborri, Kvalvikfjellet and Rottenvikfjellet. Here are a number of lime-demanding, and at times rare mountain plants.
purple mountain heather. Photo: Oddrun Skjemstad
red Alpine catchfly. Photo Oddrun Skjemstad.
There are two particular locality types that can be described as distinctive for the area, in that Lyngsalpan has particularly beautiful and valuable specimens. These are areas with ultrabasic bedrock/serpentine and areas in front of the glaciers that have recently been revealed, where the plants are “conquering new land”. The areas by serpentine fields have a clear botanical value, because among other things, there is a documented development in the direction of separate serpentine species and vascular plant sub-species.
The Lyngen peninsula is part of the Caledonian mountain range. It was formed by two large land masses moving towards each other, resulting in a collision 380-430 million years ago. Rock masses were pushed into large folds, and sheets of stone were pushed inwards. Volcanoes helped form a mountain range that stretched across most of modern Norway.
Glacial striations in Faueldalen. Photo: Oddrun Skjemstad
Fornesbreen. Photo: Frode Abrahamsen
About 65 million years ago, the landscape that would become Lyngsalpan was worn down to a wavy, but quite flat landscape after millions of years of erosion. At the time, what would become Norway and what would become Greenland sat practically welded together as one supercontinent. This continent split, forming the North American continent and the Eurasian continent. Greenland moved east, Norway moved west and the Atlantic Ocean was formed. At the same time, the landscape rose to a height of 2000 metres. Lyngsalpan consists mainly of gabbro, a rock that is resistant to external forces. This has been of great importance to Lyngsalpan retaining its alpine appearance. The flat top of Jiehkkevarri and the surrounding mountain areas may still be the remains of this flat landscape.
Over the past 2.6 million years, we have had a climate that has been in more or less constant change. During this period, climate fluctuations have created more than 40 periods of freezing and melting, often called ice ages. These have had a great importance to how the landscape looks today. The glaciers have excavated and hastened the work of digging out weak sections of the mountain to larger and smaller canyons, valleys and fjords. The thickness and extent of the ice has varied, many areas in the mountain have not necessarily been affect by all the freezing, and some peaks have even sat above the ice.
Steindalsbreen. Photo: Frode Abrahamsen
Lyngseidet Kjosen. Photo: John Ivar Larsen
The maximum thickness of the ice, about 20,000 years ago, the Lyngen peninsula was likely covered by glaciers up to a height of 1000-1200 m. At that time, the highest mountains were nunataks that towered above the ice layer. During the period of 13,000 – 9000 years ago, the fjords and glaciers melted down. Most of the loose deposits on the Lyngen peninsula are moraine and materials transported by glacial rivers from the melting of the inland ice. After the ice age, the mountain areas have had varying glacial activity, that has shaped the landscape to a lesser degree. Frost weathering, in which ice breaks loose parts of the mountain, has taken place on steep canyon walls and mountainsides. The rivers in the valleys have led loose deposits out to the ocean, the waves have washed and sorted sediments in a constantly lowering beach area, leaving clay at the bottom of the sea.
Lyngsalpan, with its rock formations and glaciers, is a unique landscape in both a national and a Nordic context. About 140 glaciers have been registered on the peninsula. Gamvikblåisen and Strupenbreen are the two largest in the outer area, while Fornesbreen and the glacier complex at Jiehkkevárre are the largest in the inner area.