recreating ancient grasslands to save the planet


I’m a geophysicist and founding director of the Northeast Science Station in Cherskii, Russia — a settlement of about 2,500 folks in the delta of the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, past the Arctic Circle. Annual temperatures right here common round −10 °C. For the previous 30 years, my staff has been attempting to recreate the grassland ecosystem that existed right here tens of hundreds of years in the past by repopulating the space with massive herbivores, comparable to this camel. The space we’re rewilding covers 20 sq. kilometres, and we name it Pleistocene Park.

Our goal is to examine how we are able to have an effect on the local weather via ecosystem reconstruction. The venture requires us to cope with plenty of societal and political points. Our civilization just isn’t in a position or keen to share dwelling house with wild ecosystems: we have a tendency to destroy them after which declare their pitiful stays ‘natural reserves’. If you deal with nature this manner, it’s exhausting to get it to assist us save the local weather.

We work with groups at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the United States and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, to observe fuel fluxes and different local weather knowledge from the ecosystem. In that means, we are able to see simply how a lot the planet is warming. The winter right here in Cherskii has already warmed by 6 or 7 levels on common; we’ve even had winter rains.

This winter I’m spending my time writing papers and popular-science articles, in addition to doing weekly visits to the park. The lengthy polar night time is upon us, and proper now, so far as the eye can see — and that’s about 40 kilometres — there are not any lights.

I took this {photograph} in hotter instances, in September final yr. We need the animals right here to be wild, not buddy-buddy with people, and we don’t usually title them. But this camel may be very tame as a result of my son, Nikita, fed the herd on the lengthy journey right here. We run one other park, 300 kilometres south of Moscow, and I wouldn’t dare get this shut to the camels we’ve there.