This is an article from Turning Points, a magazine that explores what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead.
As our climate changes, human creativity has been turning to solutions to problems ranging from restoring water supplies to rebuilding failing ecosystems. In interviews, six scientists discussed their efforts to slow or even reverse changes brought by warming. Their comments have been edited and condensed.
TURNING BACK TIME ON THE SIBERIAN STEPPE
Nikita Zimov and his father, Sergei, two scientists at the Northeast Science Station of Chersky, Russia, are trying to revive the Ice Age steppe ecosystem in today’s Siberian Arctic. As they brave harsh environments and long journeys to bring animals and vegetation back to their Pleistocene Park, they hope to provide the planet with a sustainable template for climate change mitigation.
Nikita Zimov, director of Pleistocene Park, shared his ambitious plans:
During the Pleistocene geological era, the Siberian Arctic was an extremely productive ecosystem, with high animal density. Human intervention has affected that mostly badly.
Reviving the steppe ecosystem could help reduce global temperatures by preventing its permafrost from melting; if it thaws, the microbes in the soil will start producing high levels of greenhouse gases. Our ecosystem could help slow this process, since large numbers of animals can trample down the snow, making the cold travel downward and keeping the deep layers of permafrost cool. The revived environment would also increase the albedo effect, lower methane output and increase the soil’s potential for carbon sequestration.
Increasing the density of animal populations in the park is our main focus right now. We are hoping to bring in more bison and musk ox soon; next, we would like to introduce predators. It will prove very challenging. The park is very remote, and we have no government support and only limited financial resources.
Pleistocene Park is a starting point. If you want to create an ecosystem big enough to have an impact on the climate, you need people to understand that they have a role to play.
LADAKH’S NEW ICE CONES
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