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Pleistocene Park: Return of the Mammoth's Ecosystem

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Science  06 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5723, pp. 796-798
DOI: 10.1126/science.1113442


  • Sergey A. Zimov


    Sergey A. Zimov, director of the Northeast Science Station in Cherskii in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), received his academic training in geophysics at the Far East State University in Vladivostok, Russia. He subsequently did fieldwork in northern Siberia for the Pacific Institute for Geography, part of the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1980, he organized the science station that he now directs. Research at the center includes studies of global carbon and methane budgets and animal extinctions that occurred in Siberia when the Pleistocene epoch gave way to the ongoing Holocene about 10,000 years ago. In 1989, Zimov initiated a long-term project known as “Pleistocene Park,” which he now is pursuing with a number of partners. The goal of the project is to reconstitute the long-gone ecosystem of the Pleistocene epoch that supported vast populations of large animals including mammoths, horses, reindeer, bison, wolves, and other large predators. If the effort succeeds in the park, Zimov and his co-workers would like to see the ecosystem restored over much larger areas in an effort to stave off what otherwise could be a massive release of carbon that now is sequestered in the permafrost but that could be released into the atmosphere as global temperatures rise. His hunting of mammoth remains in the tundra and his bold vision of controlling and restoring ecosystems have earned him coverage in books, documentaries, and other media.

  • Horse sense.

    Grazing on a snow-covered tundra meadow in northern Siberia, rugged Yakutian horses like these could help reduce the effects of global warming by stabilizing vast expanses of grassland.

  • Pleistocene Park.

    This territory in the Republic of Yakutia is roughly an even split of meadow, larch forest, and willow shrubland. This Siberian region could become the venue for a reconstituted ecosystem that vanished 10,000 years ago.


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