Recreating an Ice Age

Photo courtesy of Inhabitat

From out in the south of Chersky in the Sakha Republic in northeastern Siberia a Russian geo-physicist by the name of Sergei Zimovis is attempting to recreate the last ice age across 160 sq km of Siberian “desert”, a project he calls the Pleistocene Park.  Permafrost has heretofore trapped hundreds of thousands of tons of methane below its surface.  As the industrial revolution, the automobile, and all of our other favorite carbon releasing baubles march on in more and more countries, the Earth's climate, as we all have heard is warming...check that..."changing".  This "change" is causing the permafrost to melt thus releasing methane like so many Taco Bell restaurant patrons.

Photo courtesy of Inhabitat

But wait, Zimovis disagrees.  His theory is that the herbivores grazing on that land kept it in its tundra-steppe, a cold, dry grassland state and that over hunting of these large animals, not climate change, led to their extinction.  He attributes the following ecological reasons for the warming of the land with regard to herbivore extinction:
  1. Herbivores were no longer present to maintain the grassland ecology
  2. "Grasses and their root systems stabilize the soil." 
  3. "The albedo—or ability to reflect incoming sunlight skyward—of such ecosystems (grasslands) is high, so warming from solar radiation also is reduced"
  4. "With lots of herbivores present, much of the wintertime snow would be trampled, exposing the ground to colder temperatures that prevent ice from melting."
According to Zimovis, all of this suggests that reconstructed grassland ecosystems, such as the ones we are working on in Pleistocene Park, "could prevent permafrost from thawing and thereby mitigate some negative consequences of climate warming.”

“The ecosystem that used to be here many years ago cooled the climate substantially. And the present-day situation – I mean climate warming and the melting of permafrost – is a separate problem which we are seriously engaged in. We came to realize that the revival of a rich ecosystem on a vast territory will considerably affect the climate and help us control the process of global warming. Scientists find hundreds of kilograms of mammoth-epoch bones on every hectare of northern Yakutia, which testifies to the bygone abundance of herbivores and a different landscape. Our objective is to find out why the situation varied so much after all.”

Zimovis has applied his theory to  Pleistocene Park  where he knocked down the trees and introduced grazing animals to feed on the grass.  Oddly enough, the research on the Park indicates that Zimovis may be correct. He has garnered attention from as far off as Princeton University.  He is looking to, with proper funding, scale up the research. 

Photo courtesy of Inhabitat

Read more: Geo-physicist Tries to Recreate an Ice Age Ecosystem in Siberia to Prevent the Release of 500 Billion Tons of CO2 | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World 


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