Siberian horses help slow down the loss of Arctic permafrost

This article originally featured in The Skylark’s newsletter and was written as a condensed news in brief.

Thawing permafrost in the Arctic is a huge risk to the environment, not only through the release of unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gasses but the loss of a natural way to reflect the suns energy back into space.

Surprisingly, Siberian horses and other roaming animals could hold a solution. Their presence can actually slow down the thawing of soils that were once frozen and even reverse the damage done by a heating climate.

Currently, due to the loss of wildlife, forests and grasslands, heavy snowfall is able to completely blanket the ground, which insulates the soil from the cold air causing it to thaw.

However, grazing animals such as horses kick up the snow, stopping the insulation process and allowing the cold air into the ground. Researchers modelled what effect this simple, natural process could have against the growing threat of climate change in the Arctic overall.

They found that with no intervention, permafrost temperatures would rise by 3.8 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

However, with the animal herds in play, that rise could be slowed to just 2.1 degrees Celsius. Such a change is still catastrophic for the region and shows that climate change needs to be dealt with on a global scale. But such a slowdown would at least help preserve up to 80% of soils.

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