The Mammoth Steppe was Similar to the African Savannah
During the Last Glacial Maximum, the mammoth steppe was the Earth’s most extensive biome. The mammoth steppe was similar to today’s African Savannah. Unfortunately there is no existing comparison to it today. It spanned from Spain eastwards across Eurasia to Canada and from the arctic islands southwards to China. This cold arid climate was dominated by abundant grasses, herbs and willow shrubs. The animal biomass that roamed this vast steppe was monopolized by bison, horse, and the woolly mammoth. This ecosystem covered wide areas of the northern part of the globe that thrived for about 100,000 years without major changes. Suddenly about 12,000 years ago the mega-fauna became all but extinct. See more here.
The Over Hunting of Our Ancestors
The leading theory that lead to the demise of the majority of the mega-fauna is the over hunting of our ancestors. It is believed that the vast mammoth ecosystem that extended over a range of many regional climates and was not affected by climate fluctuations. It’s highly productive grasslands were maintained by animals trampling any mosses and shrubs, and actively transpiring grasses and herbs dominated. At the beginning of the Holocene the rise in precipitation was accompanied by increased temperature, and so its climatic aridity did not change substantially. The theory believes that because of the over hunting by humans, the decreasing density of the animals was not enough to support the grasslands. This lead to an increase in forests, shrubs and mosses which furthered the loss of the mega-fauna due to the loss of grasses and other plant species that they fed on. See more here.
Righting Two Wrongs
By Nikita Zimov, director of Pleistocene Park.
Featured in: The Siberian Times
Here in Siberia we are reviving the vanished ice age Mammoth Steppe ecosystem. This is the payback to the wild nature which our ancestors destroyed 10,000 years ago. However, most importantly, today it is a tool to mitigate climate change. Grasslands with numerous grazing animals have a capacity to slow the climate warming and prevent permafrost from melting. If permafrost in the Arctic melts, it will trigger a catastrophic global warming feedback loop.
Rational Co-existence Between Humans and Nature
Pleistocene Park is a proof of concept, a public demonstration, a landscape scale art project and a philosophy of rational co-existence between humans and nature. For the past 20 years my family has spent a big part of our time and all available finances to create Pleistocene Park. We have fenced 20 square kilometers of land, built infrastructure and installed monitoring equipment.
Reintroducing Large Herbivores To Mammoth Steppe
To bring animals to the Park we have mounted extreme expeditions ourselves. We traveled by small boat through the Arctic Ocean to Wrangell Island and from the Mongolian border with a 4×4 military transport truck, driving thousands of kilometers on frozen rivers through road-less wilderness. Currently we have over 70 large herbivores in the Park, including cold adapted Yakutian horses, moose, musk ox, reindeer, and European bison. These animals have shown that it is possible to transform ecosystems and reestablish high productivity grasslands by reintroducing large herbivores.
Campaign to Re-Establish Mammoth Steppe
However, for the purposes of mitigating global warming, the size of the park is not nearly enough. This crowdfunding campaign is our first attempt to invite other people to participate in our project and an important step towards turning the modern arctic into a northern Serengeti. With this campaign, we plan to establish populations of bison, yaks and elk within the park, and support animals during the adaptation period. Future plans are to extend populations of these animals far beyond the borders of the Park.
To read entire article see here.