We have a rich flora and fauna with over 500 plant species registered, as well as 100 species of birds and 21 different mammals, including the arctic fox and snow owl. A waste majority of the area is protected to preserve this.
The mountain villages by the foot of the Hardangervidda have several interesting natural phenomenon, and a history dating back to the Stone Age.
From the ocean floor to mountain plateaus:
Even though the furrowed face of the plateau dominates, there are extremes of mountain topography. The western part of the plateau has more of an alpine character that plunges into narrow valleys and the Sørfjord, and in the northwest lies one of Norway's largest glaciers, Hardangerjøkulen. Hårteigen peak in the centre of the plateau is the signpost. With its 1,690 metre summit elevation and characteristic hat shape, it can be seen from almost everywhere on the plateau.
The vast mountain plateau of Hardangervidda is Norways largest National Park and Europe's largest mountain plateau. It is home to Northern Europe’s largest stock of reindeer and the largest stocks of many bird species almost extinct.
Kvenna waterway system is one of 24 protected waterways in Telemark. Telemark has developed approximately 90% of its water power potential through regulation. In order to preserve a section of the country's natural waterways, Parliament has set aside a number of rivers from hydroelectric development. Besides preserving the landscape, flora and fauna, it is emphasized to include waterways enjoyed for outdoor activities, or that contain valuable cultural heritage / cultural landscape.
Møsvatn-Austfjell Special Landscape Area
This area was protected together with the Hardangervidda National Park, and can natural geographic be seen as a part of this.
Sandviki Nature Reserve
Sandviki Nature Reserve is located between the villages Vå and Arabygdi along the shores of Lake Totak, you can find this Temperate broadleaf and mixed forest of 180 acres. Nutritious landslide soil and favorable local climate forms the basis for this unusual forest in the elevation ranging from 725-830 meters above sea level. The population is a sparse and grazing form of Wych Elm or Scots Elm. The under shrub has great grass coverage, and contains several thermophilic and demanding species such as nettle and great rock mint. Large elements of alpine plants and one of the highest growing Scots Elm forests in Scandinavia, all of this makes this forest worth reserving.
Møsvasstangen Special Landscape Area
This conservation area is located on a peninsula between Varland and Skinnarbu. The purpose of the conservation of such areas and avifauna preservation is to care of a beautiful, distinctive and almost untouched natural landscape with interesting Quaternary geology , interestingly formed string fens, rich and rare plant species and abundance of cultural relics from the Iron Age.
Møsvasstangen, a Spit in Lake Møsvatn, is the only area in Telemark to receive status as a Ramsar site, or conserved wetlands. Limited traffic between May 15th-July 15th.
Bjortjønn Bird Reserve
This bird preservation area is situated in Rauland, on the right hand side of the road to Kråmviki. The area consists of relatively flat and marshy terrain about 900 meters above sea level. There are lots of ponds, and the solid ground is covered by birch and scattered pine. It is observed 42 bird species in the area, where 22 of these are typical wetland birds. Several of these are rare in the region.
Brattefjell-Vindeggen Special Landscape Area
This conservation area is located east of Rv 37 between Rauland and Rjukan and is now a conservation area. This is a larger continuous area between Hjartdal, Seljord, Vinje and Tinn municipalities. Diverse natural and cultural landscapes where rocky mountains, mountain forests and old farm sites are part of an ecological interaction. There is a herd of reindeer of approx. 500 wild tundra reindeer. The bird life is rich with many locally rare and vulnerable species. Flottin Bird Reserve and Temperate coniferous forest reserve in Gausdalen is located in this area.
The largest wild reindeer herds in Europe
Hardangervidda was free of ice about 9000 years ago. Lichen started to grow on the bare ground and gave the wild reindeer herds its basic nutritional needs. From winter grazing east on the mountain plateau, the herds migrate west every spring, where much rainfall and nutrient rich soil provides good pasture with juicy grass for both deer and cattle. In early May the pregnant females arrive at the calving areas on the southern and western parts of the plateau. If disturbed here, it can have serious consequences. Males and youngsters migrated further down and graze in the birch forest. Through the summer, trying to escape from the mosquitoes and flies, thousands of animals can be gathered on snowdrifts in higher terrain. After the mating season in the autumn, the herds migrate east to the windswept moors. It is the access to winter grazing which limits the herd populations on Hardangervidda. The objective of reindeer management is to stabilize the winter herd to ensure grazing resources are sufficient.
The Arctic fox is so rare that you are privileged if you ever see it. The Arctic fox is very vulnerable and if disturbed, can cause it to be pushed away from its established areas. If you come across an Arctic fox, you can enjoy the view while continuing your journey out of the area. The Arctic fox is protected, but still threatened. Too much hunting resulted in deterioration of the stocks. The Arctic fox was therefore protected in 1930, but the stock has still not increased. A reminder to humanity, what happens when a predator population is decreased too much. The Arctic fox is mostly suffering due to separation into several small populations, particularly in South and Central Norway.
The Red fox has taken over parts of the foxholes, this because the Red fox have increased in number since the beginning of the 1900s. The Red fox may therefore also have contributed to the small numbers of the Arctic fox. Warmer climates and more food may also be causes of growth in the Red fox population.
Compared to other mountain areas in southern Norway, it is the flat formulation with numerous lakes and wetlands that characterize Hardangervidda. For this reason, we find the largest and most important populations of different duck species and other wetland species in the region, particularly important are the breeding populations of the Black-throated Loon, Greater Scaup, White winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Dotterel, Temminck's Stint, Great Snipe and Horned Lark.
The mountain plateau offers a wide variety of plants in the intersection between the eastern and western species (coastal/hinterland species). As a result of bedrock and climate, vegetation switches from the western to the eastern part of the plateau. The western part has more rain and more even temperature and therefore a great production of plants. The eastern part is much less fertile. In areas with little snow and poor bedrock windblown plains are more the usual habitat.