Russian Scientist Creating a Backyard Ice Age Ecosystem to Slow Global Warming


Photo via debbie_sonberg

Some people put up bird feeders to expand their backyard wildlife, while others add native plants and flowers to attract insects and animals. But Sergey Zimov has decided to recreate a habitat from 10,000 years ago. Over the last 20 years, he's added wild horses, musk oxen, reindeer, and is even planning to add Siberian tigers and wolves to create an ecosystem lost after the last ice age. Huffington Post writes that the Russian scientist wants to prove that reintroducing the animals that once roamed across Siberia could help slow global warming.

"Some people have a small garden. I have an ice age park. It's my hobby," says Zimov, who is a quantum physicist by day, and runs the Pleistocene Park as a side project. Zimov believes that grazers like horses and musk oxen can turn the tundra back into grasslands, which in turn will stabilize the frozen soil that is currently thawing.

HuffPo reports, "Herbivores keep wild grass short and healthy, sending up fresh shoots through the summer and autumn. Their manure gives crucial nourishment. In winter, the animals trample and flatten the snow that otherwise would insulate the ground from the cold air. That helps prevent the frozen ground, or permafrost, from thawing and releasing powerful greenhouse gases. Grass also reflects more sunlight than forests, a further damper to global warming."

While Zimov's experiment is a tiny, tiny start to what would need to exist to make a difference, it's a start nonetheless. And it's drawn the attention of scientists everywhere, many of whom come to visit his small reserve of 70 animals and growing. It will take a lot more than 70 animals to recreate the ecosystem that would help slow global warming, but the experiment has to start somewhere.

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More on Ecology Experiments
Ecologist Josh Donlan on Bringing Sexy Animals Back via "Rewilding"
Caroline Fraser on Rewilding the World (Podcast)
British Experiments Feel Out Ecology of 2100 With Live Simulations

Tags: Animals | Conservation

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