Mammoth steppe: a high-productivity phenomenon

TitleMammoth steppe: a high-productivity phenomenon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsZimov S.A, Zimov N.S, Tikhonov A.N, Chapin F.S
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Date PublishedDec 4
ISBN Number0277-3791
Accession NumberISI:000312355900003
Keywordscarbon storage, climate, ecosystem, end, environment, extinction, global change, last glacial maximum, mammoth ecosystem, permafrost, pleistocene, productivity, tundra

At the last deglaciation Earth's largest biome, mammoth-steppe, vanished. Without knowledge of the productivity of this ecosystem, the evolution of man and the glacial interglacial dynamics of carbon storage in Earth's main carbon reservoirs cannot be fully understood. Analyzes of fossils C-14 dates and reconstruction of mammoth steppe climatic envelope indicated that changing climate wasn't a reason for extinction of this ecosystem. We calculate, based on animal skeleton density in frozen soils of northern Siberia, that mammoth-steppe animal biomass and plant productivity, even in these coldest and driest of the planet's grasslands were close to those of an African savanna. Numerous herbivores maintained ecosystem productivity. By reducing soil moisture and permafrost temperature, accumulating carbon in soils, and increasing the regional albedo, mammoth-steppe amplified glacial interglacial climate variations. The re-establishment of grassland ecosystems would slow permafrost thawing and reduce the current warming rate. Proposed methods can be used to estimate animal density in other ecosystems. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Short TitleQuaternary Sci Rev
Alternate JournalQuaternary Sci Rev