Assessing contemporary Arctic habitat availability for a woolly mammoth proxy

Jessie Poquérusse, Casey Lance Brown, Camille Gaillard, Chris Doughty, Love Dalén, Austin J. Gallagher, Matthew Wooller, Nikita Zimov, George M. Church, Ben Lamm, Eriona Hysolli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Interest continues to grow in Arctic megafaunal ecological engineering, but, since the mass extinction of megafauna ~ 12–15 ka, key physiographic variables and available forage continue to change. Here we sought to assess the extent to which contemporary Arctic ecosystems are conducive to the rewilding of megaherbivores, using a woolly mammoth (M. primigenius) proxy as a model species. We first perform a literature review on woolly mammoth dietary habits. We then leverage Oak Ridge National Laboratories Distributive Active Archive Center Global Aboveground and Belowground Biomass Carbon Density Maps to generate aboveground biomass carbon density estimates in plant functional types consumed by the woolly mammoth at 300 m resolution on Alaska’s North Slope. We supplement these analyses with a NASA Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment dataset to downgrade overall biomass estimates to digestible levels. We further downgrade available forage by using a conversion factor representing the relationship between total biomass and net primary productivity (NPP) for arctic vegetation types. Integrating these estimates with the forage needs of woolly mammoths, we conservatively estimate Alaska’s North Slope could support densities of 0.0–0.38 woolly mammoth km−2 (mean 0.13) across a variety of habitats. These results may inform innovative rewilding strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9804
JournalScientific Reports
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2024

Keywords

  • Biomass
  • Carrying capacity
  • Ecological engineering
  • Remote sensing
  • Woolly mammoth proxy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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