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Good Fence for Future Mammoth Steppes
January 21, 2007 21:05

Twenty kilometers – this is the length of the fence surrounding “Pleistocene Park” located in the north of Yakutia – part of Russian Federation. Building the fence around the reserve park allows moving the rest (in addition to horses, mooses, deers and bears) of the mammoth fauna – buffalos, musk buffalos, camels, great felines and other animals, which inhabited vast expanses of Eurasia and North America 10 thousand years ago and were the basis of the largest terrestrial ecosystem of that times. The head of the project Sergey Zimov plans to recover mammoth steppe ecosystem, which had productivity hundreds of times exceeding that of existing taiga and tundra, by reaching high density of large plant-eating animals.

The ecosystem of the mammoth steppes, providing food for numerous herds of large plant-eating animals, has collapsed in the end of Pleistocene (about 10-12 thousand years ago). Today rich northern steppes are replaced by nearly desert bogs, tundra and taiga. Some scientists consider mammoth steppes to be motherland of modern human beings – this ecosystem has given birth to late Paleolithic culture, and this is the very place, where our ancestors made their first steps towards civilization. Ecologists and paleontologists have two possible reasons for mammoth fauna extinction – global warming and hunting activities of primal people.


 Unfortunately, neither Internet, nor other mass-media provide sufficient and true information about the “Pleistocene park”. The head of described project Sergey Zimov, world famous ecologist, whose research results are published in Nature and Science magazines, gladly agreed to reveal some facts about the reserve park copying environment of mammoth steppes. The scientist said that after building a fence around the reserve park its further development would be fast and steady. Building a fence, which is impenetrable for large animals, on permafrost is not a simple task. High density of plant-eating animals is required for recovery of steppe vegetation, thus a fence is necessary to prevent animals from running away, until pastures function properly.

Scientists plan to replenish park fauna with new species of great plant-eaters next year. Possible future park dwellers are musk buffalos, which are being actively acclimatized in various regions of the Russian North, and Canadian buffalos, which were recently brought to Yakutia and are now slowly getting used to severe environment of their new Motherland in the south of the republic. The next thing to think about is finding effective predators – numerous plant-eaters are too vulnerable for epidemics without them. Zimov thinks that tiger would be a perfect candidate for chief predator of the “Pleistocene park”. Tigers are perfectly equipped for surviving frosts, which is the most important aspect. Other components of the ecosystem – small, but no less important, such as dors, for instance – should also be considered.


We should mention the fact that many environment-oriented organizations do not support described initiative, because traditional point of view is that we should protect existing ecosystems, which are in danger, not construct new environments, no matter whether they are similar to ancient prototypes, which disappeared long time go, or not. Project enthusiasts have two main objections to said opinion: first one is that majority of existing ecosystems wouldn’t be able to resist growing anthropogenic pressure – they are doomed anyway. Willing or not, human beings would deal with ecological construction in order to create stable communities, able to live under conditions of total submission of biosphere to human needs. The second objection is that those northern ecosystems, which can be replaced with recovered mammoth steppe, are not genuine ecosystems. They are a tragic turn of history – vast, almost lifeless territory, which has recently (according to the evolution time scale) replaced generous northern steppe, which was hundreds of thousand years old.


Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian Scientists     

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