Horses slow permafrost thawing

Grazing animals, including horses, have been shown to drastically slow the thawing of permafrost in the Arctic.

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing at a faster rate each year. As it melts, carbon that’s been trapped inside it for millions of years is being released in large amounts – a phenomenon that’s significantly harmful to the environment. According to a recent paper published by Scientific Reports, grazing animals in the Arctic can drastically slow this process, keeping 80% of the world’s permafrost intact until 2100.

Ongoing experiments in Pleistocene Park, Siberia, show that grazers such as bison, reindeer and horses decrease the rate of permafrost warming. The Scientific Report paper expanded on these findings, discovering that results would improve if more of these large herbivores were released into the area. Without them, snow insulates the permafrost even once the ambient temperature drops below freezing. The animals’ hooves interrupt this snowy layer, ensuring the permafrost stays cool.