Turning Back The Clock: Pleistocene Park

By | August 10, 2019

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The state museum for natural sciences in Karlsruhe, Germany, 3 April 2017. It is part of an exhibition called American after the Ice - Humans and Megafaune in the new world. Source: (alamy.com)

In a remote corner of eastern Siberia along the Kolyma River, a grand experiment has been underway since the 1990s. Its short term objective is to turn back the historic clock and restore a slice of the ice age. The project’s ultimate goal is to stave off the worst of the seemingly inevitable results of climate change.

The project’s name: Pleistocene Park.

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The mammoth steppe. Source: (Wikipedia.org)

During the last ice age which ended some 12,000 years ago, a northern grassland dominated the continents from Spain to Canada. This historic grassland often referred to as the “mammoth steppe,” was the equivalent of the modern-day tropical savannas of Africa. But where today’s savannas are occupied by elephant, rhinoceros, and herds of ungulates, the mammoth steppe was dominated by a wooly mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, and other cold-weather megafauna. These large species kept forests in check and grasslands to thrive.

These megafaunas died out at the end of the last ice age with several hypotheses as to why such as climate change or overhunting by humans. Regardless of the reasons, the outcome was that the vast biome of the northern grasslands died with those animals which were replaced by forest and more primitive species of plant.