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recreating historical grasslands to avoid wasting the planet


I’m a geophysicist and founding director of the Northeast Science Station in Cherskii, Russia — a settlement of about 2,500 individuals within 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 workforce has been attempting to recreate the grassland ecosystem that existed right here tens of 1000’s of years in the past by repopulating the realm with massive herbivores, resembling this camel. The realm we’re rewilding covers 20 sq. kilometres, and we name it Pleistocene Park.

Our purpose is to analyze how we are able to have an effect on the local weather by ecosystem reconstruction. The mission requires us to cope with plenty of societal and political points. Our civilization isn’t ready or prepared to share residing area with wild ecosystems: we are likely to destroy them after which declare their pitiful stays ‘pure reserves’. Should you deal with nature this fashion, it’s laborious to get it to assist us save the local weather.

We work with groups on the College of Alaska Fairbanks in the USA and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, to trace fuel fluxes and different local weather information from the ecosystem. In that method, 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 attention 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 would like the animals right here to be wild, not buddy-buddy with people, and we don’t usually identify them. However 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 near the camels we have now there.

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