Pasturing of animals in the Arctic will help preserve permafrost
15:24 22 апреля 2020
Категории: News in English
Permafrost is beginning to thaw because of rapid warming of the climate in arctic regions. As a result, greenhouse gases that were buried in frozen soil for tens of thousands of years are returned to the atmosphere. Scientists are concerned that this mechanism will act as the feedback loop, perpetuating the dangerous cycle.
The last year data from the Woods Hole Research Center confirm these concerns: the Arctic no longer stores as much carbon as it releases back into the atmosphere. According to the scientists, pasturing of herbivorous animals in tundra — horses, bison and reindeer — will help slow down the rate of permafrost thawing and global warming on the planet. A senior researcher of the Pacific Geographical Institute, the Far-Eastern Branch, the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergey Zimov held such experiment near the settlement Chersky in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) for the first time more than 20 years ago. The idea was to populate a part of tundra containing permafrost soils with herbivorous animals, which dig up and compact the snow cover with their hooves in search of food in winter, thereby cooling the soil. The experiment was a success: about 100 relocated animals reduced the average height of the snow cover by half on the area in one square kilometer. The insulating effect sharply decreased and freezing of permafrost increased, as it informed on the website ru.arctic.ru.
To understand what influence this method can have in the larger scale, Christian Beer from the University of Hamburg conducted a computer simulation experiment. His team used a special climate model to repeat the similar effect on the entire permafrost area in the Northern hemisphere during a year. The results of the study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports show that with enough number of animals 80% of all frozen soils in the world can be preserved until 2100, while without them up to 50% can thaw by the same time.
According to the scientist, this is one of types of natural manipulation of ecosystems, which is still almost unexplored, but has huge potential.
Some potential side effects of the approach were also considered. For example, in summer animals will destroy the layer of cooling moss on the ground, what will contribute to soil warming. The data were taken into account in the simulation, but it is confirmed that the cooling effect of compressed snow in winter is several times bigger.