“A father and son’s quixotic quest to bring back a lost ecosystem—and save the world.'" -Science Magazine
“If Nikita has his way, Pleistocene Park will spread across Arctic Siberia and into North America, helping to slow the thawing of the Arctic permafrost.” - The Atlantic
“Zimov wants to answer some fundamental questions about the impact early modern humans had on the environment, and in the meantime he might just help to save the planet.” - New Scientist
From Nikita Zimov, director of the Pleistocene Park.
Arctic permafrost is melting. It will trigger catastrophic global warming. We’re creating a northern Serengeti to stop that from happening.
Pleistocene Park is a proof of concept, a public demonstration, a landscape scale art project and a philosophy of rational co-existence between humans and nature.
Here in the most remote corner of Siberia my father, Sergey Zimov, and I are reviving the ice age “Mammoth Steppe” ecosystem. Re-wilding this vast area of the Arctic will not only create a northern Serengeti, but most importantly, today, is a vital tool to mitigate global climate change. As climate warms, permafrost here in the Arctic is starting to melt. It will soon unlock huge carbon stocks and trigger a catastrophic global warming feedback loop. Natural grasslands, maintained by numerous grazing animals, have the capacity to both slow climate warming and prevent permafrost from melting.
We’ve already starting transforming the land, with our real world prototype.
For the past 20 years my family has spent a big portion of our time and all available finances to create Pleistocene Park. Currently we have over 70 large herbivores in the Park, including cold adapted Yakutian horses, moose, musk ox, reindeer, and European bison. These animals have shown that it is possible to transform ecosystems and reestablish high productivity grasslands by reintroducing large herbivores.
We have fenced 20 square kilometers of land, built infrastructure and installed monitoring equipment. To bring animals to the Park we have mounted extreme expeditions ourselves. We traveled by small boat through the Arctic Ocean to Wrangel Island and from the Mongolian border with a 4x4 military transport truck, driving thousands of kilometers on frozen rivers through roadless wilderness.
To stand a chance of mitigating global warming on a much bigger scale we need your help to take the park to the next level!
However, for mitigating global warming, the size of the Park is not enough. This crowdfunding campaign is our first attempt to invite other people to participate in our project and an important step towards turning the modern Arctic into a northern Serengeti and stop permafrost degradation on a big scale.
Join us in creating a world where we harness nature to protect the planet we live on.
With this campaign, we plan to establish populations of bison and yaks in the Arctic. We will transport them from their current home near the city of Perm in European Russia to the farthest point a road reaches on the Eurasian continent. From there they will travel by barge down the Kolyma river to the Pleistocene Park. Future plans are to extend populations of these animals far beyond the borders of Pleistocene Park.
Even with growing alarm about global warming, the problem only gets worse. At best, governments of the world are taking symbolic actions while global emissions of greenhouse gasses continue to increase. Here at my home in the Arctic, changes are coming so fast, it’s obvious to everybody. We are rapidly approaching a tipping point when continued warming will become unstoppable. It is too late to wait for others to deal with this. Even if restoring the Mammoth Steppe will not solve all of our climate change problems, it will prevent a worst-case scenario of runaway warming for the next generation and beyond. That is our goal, and we are working to achieve it! If you want to join our efforts, please support this Kickstarter campaign!
Selected Media reports about Pleistocene Park:
Here is a list of media which wrote or filmed about Pleistocene Park. The list is not complete, so please excuse if something is missing.
- The Atlantic Magazine/Vice on HBO (to be released March 10 2017) (Preview)/National Geographic/BBC Radio/BBC News/New Yorker/New York Times/Science Magazine 1/Science Magazine 2/Science Magazine 3/NBC/ARD (1st German Television)/WDR/Scientific American/New Scientist/Business Insider/The Telegraph/Wired/Independent/Geocurrents/Live Science/How It Works/Der Spiegel/Siberian Times/Mysterious Universe/Daily Galaxy/Aljazeera/La Republica/24Heures/Ottawa Life/ABC/Stanford Magazine/TED Talk 1/TED Talk 2
What is Pleistocene Park reviving?
During the last Ice Age, steppes with millions of mammoths, bison, horses, reindeers, tigers, wolves and numerous other animals occupied vast landscapes, spanning from Spain to Canada and from the Arctic islands to China.
These vast herds maintained their pastures by cycling nutrients, promoting grass and herb growth, and dramatically increasing the productivity of the pastures. Looking at the modern low productive vegetation and few animals in the Arctic, it is hardly possible for people to imagine such animal densities could exist in this place in the past. With the end the last Ice Age, the first humans came to this place and quickly killed most animals, driving many species extinct, and destroying the fragile symbiosis between plants and animals. Without herbivores, grasses could not compete with moss or shrubs. A few centuries later this ecosystem was gone forever. Now, for the first time in 10,000 years, we are bringing together animals which once roamed this place. Unfortunately not all the species made it to modern times, but we are trying to collect an animal assemblage which would restore the ecological function of the Mammoth Steppe.
The Arctic is rapidly getting warmer and permafrost is starting to thaw. On a local scale it means destruction of houses, roads and power lines. In addition, it means death to all modern Arctic ecosystems – the ground collapses, trees topple, canyons and depressions form, and Arctic rivers turn into mud flows with the destruction of fish populations.
However, the global impact of permafrost degradation is even greater. Permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws microbes transform this organic material into carbon dioxide and methane, creating a massive source of greenhouse gases, thus amplifying global warming to an even greater extent.
How can restoring a lost Ice Age ecosystem mitigate global warming?
There are several mechanisms by which great herds of herbivores, once again roaming the Arctic, can cool the climate and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- Herds of herbivores will prevent permafrost from melting. To make permafrost colder, all that is needed is to remove heat insulating snow cover, and expose the ground to the extreme negative temperatures of the Arctic. In the steppe ecosystems, animal density is so high that animals looking for forage trample all the snow in the pastures several times per winter. This compacts the snow, massively reducing its heat insulating abilities.
- Grasses through the process of photosynthesis absorb carbon dioxide (strong greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and preserve it in the form of roots. Cold Arctic soils assure that decomposition is low and roots do not decay for decades, centuries, or millennia. This creates a small but sustainable mechanism to partially absorb human emissions of greenhouse gases. The size of this is of course much smaller than our current human impact, but it is at least a step in the right direction.
- Vast steppes allow direct cooling of the climate by increasing albedo. Grasslands are much lighter in color than shrublands and forests. Therefore, they reflect a greater portion of direct sunlight energy back into space without transforming it into heat (albedo effect). This effect is especially pronounced in the early spring, when the sun is already active in the Arctic – dark forests absorb heat, while steppes are covered with snow and remain white. This is also why the Arctic Ocean is warming as the Polar ice caps melt.
These animated slides showing ecological effects of promoting steppes, was kindly provided by Revive & Restore, designed by Ben J. Novak
Why is Pleistocene Park asking for crowdfunding help?
Up to this date, Pleistocene Park was an experiment created solely from the labor and funds of my father, my family and me, which we obtained from running the remote Arctic research station.
However, if we want to create a tool that will help us mitigate global warming, we have to take the Park to a totally different level. For that we need other people to participate in our project. For this purpose we have established the Pleistocene Park Foundation, Inc, which is a non-profit based in Pennsylvania, USA, to facilitate the development and implementation the Pleistocene Park ideas across the world. The Foundation is also charged with the goal to raise funds to the science and logistics behind this promising idea.
What we will do:
The specific scope of this campaign is to bring herds of bison and yaks to Pleistocene Park in the spring and summer of 2017. We will buy several American plains bison from a little reserve near the city of Perm, in the central part of Russia. Yaks will be bought in the republic of Tuva, on the border with Mongolia in southern Siberia. Using heavy duty trucks we will drive animals to one of the farthest parts of Siberia reachable by road, the village of Seimchan, 500 km west of Magadan. This distance is similar to driving round trip from San Francisco to New York. In Seimchan we will load animals on the first barge to navigate the Kolyma River after the winter ice recedes. After a few days on the river we will arrive in Pleistocene Park near the town of Cherskii, close to the point where the Kolyma empties into the Arctic Ocean.
How will the Kickstarter money be spent?
Our goal is to raise 106,000 dollars. This is the minimum we need to:
- Purchase animals;
- Purchase and preparation of containers for animal transport;
- Rent 2 big trucks for transportation to Seimchan;
- River ship transportation fee from Seimchan to Cherskii;
- Small barge rental for 40km transportation from the port in Cherskii to the Pleistocene Park pier.
- Purchasing food for the animals for the duration of the trip;
- Miscellaneous trip expenses, including 2-3 people travelling with the animals,
- Expense of manufacturing and delivery of Kickstarter rewards
- Taxes, bank and legal fees
Push goals and long-term development plans
Creation of the ecosystem is a complicated task, which would require lots of work and investments. Below we created a list of funding goals for Pleistocene Park to develop in the future. We are in hope that some of them would be possible within this campaign.
- $200,000 We will also bring elk from Tuva to Pleistocene Park. This will involve another truck, driver, and more animal food.
- $300,000 We will also purchase 20 Yakutian horses. We will purchase at least 40 reindeer. We will bring additional forage and improve fencing and other infrastructure to support these animals.
- $600,000 We will launch an expedition to bring a herd of at least 20 musk ox. We will explore other options of Arctic adapted animals and bring them. We will improve infrastructure to support the additional animals.
- $1,000,000 We will extend the Pleistocene Park in every direction. There will be more land, more animals introduced, more people participating in our project.
- $3,000,000 We will complete the ecosystem by introducing enough animal to maintain predators in the Park. Once there sustainable populations of herbivores in the Park are established, we will introduce predators: wolves and potentially Amur tigers.
- $10,000,000 + We will transport 1000+ bison by ship to the Pleistocene Park region. This is the scale that will be necessary to begin fully implementing restoration of the high productive steppes and stabilize melting permafrost on a large scale.
- $1 billion is the rough estimate of the total price for our civilization to restore real wild nature on a continental scale and have actual impact on climate. While not a small amount of money it is one of the largest environmental impacts possible for a sum well within the budget of a wealthy individual or a corporation. Large infrastructure projects like bridges, dams or clean energy programs are in this range or larger.
Risks and challenges
Transportation of Animals to the Pleistocene Park:
We have prepared a logistical plan which will allow safe and comfortable trip for the animals. This is our 6th expedition to bring animals to Pleistocene Park. Some of these trips have been longer and more complicated and all have been successful.
All animals in this trip will be transported in individual stalls within big containers. They will have enough space to stand up and lay down for rest. The design of the containers will allow animals to have access to enough fresh air, water and forage. The route and timing of the expedition will be planned to avoid extra hot temperatures. Trucks would drive for 5 hours in the morning, then animals will get rest for 2 hours, with 5 more hours drive in the afternoon. We will hire a veterinarian to drive with me in the "support car" all the way from Perm to Pleistocene Park to assure in-time care for all the animals.
Adaptation of Animals in the Pleistocene Park.
In order to keep our kickstarter budget reasonable we did not include any of the expenses for the adaptation of the animals in their first year in the Park. However I have already committed to invest my personal resources in proper animal care. This will include:
- Full time salary for the ranger with veterinary education;
- Transportation of forage to the Park to supply animals in the winter period;
-- Construction of shelter/shelters to allow animals to adapt to the cold in the autumn/winter period.
We are working with reputable and well established manufactures to produce our rewards so risk is minimal.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)