HOW CAN YOU RESTORE THE MAMMOTH-STEPPE ECOSYSTEM WITHOUT THE WOOLLY MAMMOTH?
Even in the mammoth steppe, mammoths were not the dominant specie, but only one of them, and we believe and have evidences that high productive steppe ecosystem which keep permafrost frozen and absorb carbon can be sustainable even without mammoth. And additionally we don’t have mammoths YET. To our knowledge creation of mammoth or at least wooly elephant resistant to living in the Arctic is just a matter of time. We are not directly involved in the cloning process, but we follow the progress. Work of genetics is to clone the mammoth, our work is to secure that once animal is alive it has a place to live in. Not a zoo, or a laboratory, but an actual homeland ecosystem.
HOW BIG OF A DEAL IS MELTING PERMAFROST?
Big. In the north Siberian planes in permafrost are preserved as much carbon as in all above ground vegetation of the planet. Once its melted it will release greenhouse gases. Exact rates are hard to predict, but estimates give emissions comparable with annual human greenhouse gas emissions. Question is in the rates of permafrost degradation. In case of slow process carbon will be released in small portions, but process will take centuries. In case of rapid permafrost degradation, same amount will be released in a few decades.
ANIMALS PREVENTING PERMAFROST FROM DEGRADATION IS A COOL THEORY BUT DOES IT REALLY WORK?
We have data to support this theory. We placed temperature sensors at 0.5 meters depth in the most heavily grazed portion of Pleistocene Park and more sensors in an otherwise similar location but outside the fence, where the snow is undisturbed (control). In March, the control registered -7C while the treatment, inside the park, registered -24C . To gather more data we need to place more sensors over a larger area inhabited by more animals of a more diverse range of species.
IS THE PLEISTOCENE PARK FOUNDATION JUST ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?
No, it’s about much more than that. It’s about changing scientific paradigms and changing societal paradigms. Combating climate change is the most urgent and concrete manifestation of this but the issues we are adressing go much much deeper – we are presenting an alternate vision of future relationships between humans and the rest of the natural world.