Ungulates help maintain permanent ice

The presence of horses, bison or reindeer in the polar regions can slow down the rate of permanent melting, helping to combat climate change.

The permafrost permafrost is melting fast. As a result, bacteria begin to break down organic carbon trapped inside and release large amounts of methane and CO2 into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. A new study, published in Scientific Reports on March 17, shows large colonies of hoofed animals may help slow this effect.

Picture 1 of Ungulates help maintain permanent ice
Ungulate helps slow down climate change.(Photo. IFL Science)

Experts from the University of Hamburg in Germany conducted experiments on herds of bulls, horses and reindeer at Pleistocene Park in the city of Chersky, northeastern Russia. These ungulates were resettled in the area more than 20 years ago with the purpose of tracking their impact on the permafrost below.

In the winter, the eternal permafrost in Chersky is only maintained at -10 ° C, "warmer" than the upper air temperature (possibly down to -40 ° C). This is because heavy snowfall forms a layer that separates the ground from the air, causing the permafrost at the bottom to have higher temperatures.

The team found that the presence of ungulates will compress and scatter the surface snow. Specifically, for every 100 animals living in an area of ​​1 km2, the average height of the snow layer will be halved. This significantly reduces its insulation effect and thereby, enhances the permafrost of the permafrost.

Scientists have used a special climate model to simulate processes of temperature change on the ground. The results showed that: if greenhouse gas emissions were not controlled, the ground temperature could rise by 3.8 ° C by 2100, causing half of its permanent ice to melt. However, with the resettlement of ungulates, the ground only heats up an additional 2.1 ° C (less than 44%), helping to maintain 80% of the permafrost.

The team is looking into the potential side effects of the method, for example in the summer, whether these herbivores will destroy the moss and insulation vegetation, leading to increased ground temperatures. or not. In the next phase, they want to work with biologists to find a way to expand the range of Arctic ungulates.

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