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Mammoth steppe from Yakutia presented in Washington

  • Published in Nature
Mammoth steppe
The project of the Pleistocene Park, which can help fight global warming and not only preserve, but also recreate the fragile Arctic ecosystem as it was before man appeared, was presented in Washington at the AGU Fall Meeting, told Nikita Zimov, a scientist and active participant of this project.

The park is located 25 kilometers south of the Northeast Research Station in the village of Chersky, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). The total area of its territory is 145 square kilometers, but so far only about 20 square kilometers are fenced. The project was launched by Nikita's father, Sergey Zimov, back in 1996.

The idea of the project is simple - to recreate a highly productive pasture ecosystem in the Arctic, similar to the “mammoth steppe” ecosystem, which was common in most of Eurasia during the last ice age. Large herbivores, such as mammoths, bison, horses, deer and woolly rhinos, inhabited the northern latitudes at that time.

“Their life vital sustenance in the ecosystem maintained a high rate of bio-rotation. Vegetation accumulated organic carbon in the soil and permafrost,” explained Nikita Zimov to RIA Novosti.

As the climate warmed, thousands of billions of tons of carbon were released back into the atmosphere. The high albedo of the steppes helped reflect much of the solar heat. The high productivity and transpiration of the steppes made it possible to keep the soils dry and prevent the formation of wetlands, therefore the global emission of such an important greenhouse gas as methane into the atmosphere was low.

However, about 15 thousand years ago, a global extinction of large herbivorous animals occurred, comparable in scale only to the extinction of dinosaurs. "The glaciation cycle was disrupted, and the climate, instead of gradually returning to glacial conditions, remained unchanged," he explains.

If the previous highly productive ecosystems have disappeared due to the fact that the proportion of (herbivores) animals was low, then we can interpret by contraries - artificially raising this level for a sufficient period of time that would change the vegetation in the Arctic from low productive to highly productive," noted Zimov at the presentation on Wednesday.

When forest, moss and shrub vegetation disappears, the amount of fertilizer increases, highly productive grass will dominate and there will be a sufficient set of herbivores and predators, the steppe ecosystem will become sustainable and able to expand.

Local animals such as moose, Yakut horses and reindeer were the first animals to inhabit the park. Now animals are brought from all over Russia and from abroad. In total, the park is now about 100 animals, and their number is growing. A project is underway to bring American bison into the park.

The report showed that in the territory of the smallest and oldest paddock in the park (40 hectares) over the past 20 years, it was possible to accumulate about 1,500 tons of carbon. Thus, the development of steppe ecosystems in the north of Russia can be a significant contribution to fight against climate warming.

RIA Novosti РИА Новости