The last mammoth died about 4,000 years ago. This put an end to the world’s largest ecosystem, which played an important role in maintaining global warming. Scientists are now considering returning the mammoth.
Decreased number of animals
The largest ecosystem on Earth has been called the Giant Steppe, according to a video from BBC News. Large herbivores such as mammoths, horses, reindeer, bison, and woolly rhinoceros have been grazing there for about 15,000 years. The ecosystem stretched from France to Canada and from the Arctic Islands to China. This ecosystem was so large and powerful that it even affected the Earth’s temperature.
The modern Arctic ecosystem is much less productive than it was then. There are far fewer animals – at least a hundred times fewer – so the beneficial grasslands have been replaced by mossy forests and wetlands. This hinders the ecosystem from efficiently absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and helps slow global warming.
In Siberia, Russian scientists Nikita and his father Sergey Zimov are working on an Ice Age park to release more animals into nature in order to restore the grasslands. They artificially increase the numbers of bison, cattle, reindeer and horses.
Meadow, pasture, grassland
Could you do it on a larger scale, it could contribute to combating climate change in four ways. First, it can protect the permafrost so that it does not thaw further and that greenhouse gases are not released. Grazing animals also trample the insulation layer of snow, causing the ground underneath to freeze more forcefully in winter.
Grasslands are also lighter than forests or algae, which means more sunlight is reflected back into the atmosphere. Snow white also stays there longer, which also has a reflexive effect. Moreover, a lawn with its long roots can absorb more greenhouse gases and help dry up excessively wet swamp soil, which leads to the release of less methane.
And why are mammoths still needed? “Bison can knock on young trees and eat branches,” Zimov said. “The mammoths are much stronger. They walk on bulldozers.” They can ensure a faster grassland establishment.
This sounds less strange than it is. At Harvard, the Woolly Mammoth Revival team is using CRISPR technology to insert DNA from the mammoth genome into live elephant cells. The goal is not to create a new mammoth, but to create an Asian elephant that can withstand cold and thus survive in cooler ecosystems in Russia or Canada.
It’s far from that yet. There are also quite a few ethical dilemmas associated with this type of DNA grafting, but it is an interesting project that could use smart technology for humans to restore nature.
Under the whole story:Bron (nene): BBC