Pleistocene Park

BBC has the story about Pleistocene Park, the recreation of an Ice Age ecosystem complete with megafauna, including horses, reindeer, bison, musk oxen, elk, wolves, Siberian tigers and possibly mammoths.

Here is an article in Science from 2005,

In the mammoth ecosystem, the collective behavior of millions of competitive herbivores maintained the grasslands. In the winter, the animals ate the grasses that grew the previous summer. All the while they fueled plant productivity by fertilizing the soil with their manure, and they trampled down moss and shrubs, preventing these plants from gaining a foothold. It is my contention that the northern grasslands would have remained viable in the Holocene had the great herds of Pleistocene animals remained in place to maintain the landscape.

So restocking the land with herbivores may allow grasslands to expand and be maintained, and create a Serengeti in Siberia. It is an interesting experiment. We wish them the best of luck!

Sahara provides nutrients for the Amazon

Absolutely fascinating paper, but what does it mean?

Abstract. About 40 million tons of dust are transported annually from the Sahara to the Amazon basin. Saharan dust has been proposed to be the main mineral source that fertilizes the Amazon basin, generating a dependence of the health and productivity of the rain forest on dust supply from the Sahara. Here we show that about half of the annual dust supply to the Amazon basin is emitted from a single source: the Bodélé depression located northeast of Lake Chad, approximately 0.5% of the size of the Amazon or 0.2% of the Sahara. Placed in a narrow path between two mountain chains that direct and accelerate the surface winds over the depression, the Bodélé emits dust on 40% of the winter days, averaging more than 0.7 million tons of dust per day…

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Lovelock on Global Warming: We Will Burn

The Washington Post had an interview with James Lovelock of Gaia fame. That book explained how the Earth works as a self-regulating negative feedback system. He now thinks that Earth is trapped in a number of positive feedback loops, with everything getter warmer at once.

“The nature of Earth’s biosphere is that, under pressure form industrialization, it resists such heating, and then it resists some more.

Then, he says, it adjusts.

Within the next decade or two, Mr. Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will boost her thermostat.

“It is going too fast,” he says softly. “We will burn.”

Why is that?

“Our global furnace is out of control. By 2020, 2050, you will be able to sail a sailboat to the North Pole. The Amazon will be a desert, and the forests of Siberia will burn and release more methane and plagues will return.”

…Today the environmentally conscious seek salvation in solar sells, recycling and tend thousand wind turbines. “It won’t matter a damn,” Mr. Lovelock says. “They make the mistake of thinking we have decades. We don’t.”…

Mr. Lovelock favors genetically modified crops, which require less water, and nuclear energy. Only the atom can produce enough electricity to persuade industrialized nations to abandon fossil fuels…

What of Three Mile Island? Chernobyl? Mr. Lovelock is shaking his head. How many died, he asks. A few hundred? The radiation exclusion zone around Chernobyl is the lushest and most diverse zone of flora and fauna in Eurasia…

“We desperately need a Moses to take us to the Arctic and preserve civilization.”

James Lovelock is currently promoting his new book, The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity.

Update: There is a review of the book here, Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Gaia! (with thanks to Muck & Mystery).