This is interesting, thanks.IvanV wrote: ↑Fri Jun 18, 2021 2:33 pmI read about this Russian "rewilding" project a while ago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleistocene_Park I wondered what you thought about it. Is it bonkers? If it's not bonkers, is it being unfortunately limited by being underfunded? Or what?
To me, 16 sq km seems like a very small area given the vast land areas up there, and the typical large range needs, and often migratory habits, of large animals in such habitats. I was entertained to learn that some of the released creatures escaped from the reserve pretty quickly and are presumably populating the wider area, if they were able to survive.
It's a bit outside my area of (relative) expertise, but I think it's not totally bonkers. It's certainly plausible that large herbivores would have quite pronounced effects on habitat, and it's nice to see an experimental approach being taken in ecology. Trying to recreate ancient ecosystems is pretty tricky.
It is a small area. I'd expect there are issues with permissions to "release" herbivores, and adequate fencing is expensive. As you note, ungulates in North America, say, typically migrate over vast distances, so this early project won't be able to fully recreate that behaviour. But it'll certainly be interesting to see what happens
I think the idea of recreating mammoths is probably a bit bonkers, though. I'm no developmental biologist but mammoths don't have any particularly close living relatives, and I understand that things like in-utero environment are important for development (and learning in early life is very important for developing behaviours). Maybe it's a serious aspiration, maybe it was tacked on to get a bit more attention and/or funding.
For me, the idea of using domestic breeds (or breeds with specific conservation purposes) is pretty intriguing. Anthropogenic influence on the environment has been sufficiently huge that even areas that are largely depopulated now are not close to a "pristine wilderness" (i.e., what they'd look like under a counterfactual history where humans never existed). The herbivores and predators that create habitats are missing, the climate is changing rapidly, etc. So the choice is really between active management versus accepting the consequences of ancestral actions.
If we decide we'd like the tundra to look more like it did in the Pleistocene, using a mix of ancient and modern species with roughly the right phenotypes seems sensible enough. Given that the Arctic is experiencing the fastest rates of climate change, and will continue to do so, if there's something about these Pleistocene-style ecosystems that helps with ecological adaptation to change - for instance, by promoting nutrient cycling or habitat diversity - than crack on, I say.