The last two decades has seen an increase in climate change protests worldwide. Individuals like Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion movement have dominated the headlines in recent times with mixed responses from politicians and the general public.
The core reason behind these large-scale protests are so governments can declare that we are in a state of climate and ecological emergency and desperate changes need to be made by humans to slow the effects of global warming.
This would include solutions to preserve various biomes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Although humans have been the largest contributors to climate change in the last 60 years, there are a few natural factors that can lead to catastrophic changes should temperatures increase.
The University of Oxford estimates that the thawing of permafrost could release around 4.35bn metric tonnes of carbon emissions per year throughout the 21st century.
This means that as Permafrost melts and creates new sources of water and soil, a ridiculous amount of Methane and Carbon Dioxide will be released into the atmosphere, accelerating the process of climate.
A study from the University suggests that rewilding the Artic with large Herbivores such as horses and bison can help engineer the ecosystem to store the rich carbon levels deep in the ground.
Grazing animals such as these are known to change the landscape around them. This, for example is achieved by the suppression of tree growth through trampling or eating saplings.
Referred to as megafaunal ecosystem change, these large herbivores can change an ecosystem into a different, more desirable one. In the case of the Arctic, restoring Tundra into a grassland ecosystem reminiscent of the ‘Mammoth Steppe’.
By removing the existing woody vegetation with grass growth and trampling snow in search of winter forage, large mammals could increase the albedo effect. This is where the amount of incoming solar energy bounces back into space.
Overall this would create a cooling effect which would capture the levels of carbon and bury it deep in the soil.
A family in the Sakha Republic, Russia have already tested this out on some land they’ve turned into a nature reserve called Pleistocene Park.
It’s an enclosed area of 20 square km with eight large herbivore species including reindeer, Yakutian horse, moose, bison, musk ox, yak, Kalmykian cow and sheep.
Started almost 32 years ago, the results show a restoration of a grassland ecosystem that has managed to preserve carbon successfully.
Perhaps it’s time that we make a global effort to invest in rewilding the rest of the Arctic along with changing our own lifestyles.
Creating budgets for projects like these could be life changing.
Photo by Valdemaras D. on Unsplash
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