According to Pulitizer Center, “Earth’s average temperature has risen approximately one degree Fahrenheit in the last fifty years. By the end of this century, it will be several degrees higher, according to the latest climate research. But global warming is doing more than simply making things a little warmer. It’s changing rainfall, causing heat waves, and making sea level rise, all of which create human suffering.” This is climate change.
Permafrost and Carbon Dioxide
One cause of climate change is the increased carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Permafrost (frozen soil) holds more than a trillion tons of carbon. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth which means carbon dioxide will be released faster from the tundra than elsewhere as the permafrost thaws.
Animals and Grasslands
Russian scientist Sergey Zimov and his son, Nikita, are conducting a lifelong experiment to prove the interconnectiveness between animals and a healthy ecosystem in the Arctic. With the goal of slowing climate change by reintroducing large herbivores to the scrublands and small forests of the Mammoth Steppe, they have restored a portion of the Steppe to a grassland.
By eating the dark trees and shrubs of the tundra, the large herbivores are creating grasslands in their place. Research shows that grasslands reflect more sunlight than the forests and scrub which means the Arctic should absorb less heat as this transition occurs.
But that’s not the only Benefit
Winter’s snow acts as an insulator, warming the surface of the permafrost and causing it to thaw. Because the animals seeking food disrupt the snow cover, the surface temperature of the permafrost is decreased 2 degrees, thus slowing the thawing of the permafrost.
This experiment is being conducted in the Pleistocene Park which is located in the Eastern Siberia, just north of the Arctic Circle. Good news! As this experiment succeeds, these permafrost grasslands will spread into North America. Looks like the buffalo that roamed America more than a hundred years ago knew what they were doing to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
Welcome to Pleistocene Park by The Atlantic.