The mammoths were suffering from the rising temperatures anyway, say the scientists, but hunting by Stone Age Man made things much worse. As they became scarcer, birch saplings – which the giant beasts used to graze down – grew to maturity, turning grassland into forest in Siberia, Alaska and Northern Canada. This darkened the landscape, enabling the earth to absorb more heat.
Ancient pollen preserved in lake sediments throughout the far north show a rapid rise in the number of birch trees 15,000 years ago, when hunters arrived in the area and mammoth populations crashed.
Climate sceptics are already dismissing the idea as evidence that their adversaries will say any warming is man-made. But Carnegie\’s Dr Chris Doughty sticks to his guns: \”A lot of people still think we are unable to affect the climate, even when there are more than six billion of us,\” he says. \”This shows that, even when we had populations of magnitudes smaller than we do now, we still had a big impact.\”
The amusement comes from the way in which other environmentalists (some/many, to taste) insist that Stone Age man did no such thing. The logic seems to be that as the hunter gatherer is truly the Noble Savage, the only type of human truly in touch with the environment, it of course cannot be true that such were responsible for hunting out the larger animals.
The disappearance of the megafauna, the mammoths, the North American horse when the Clovis culture turned up, the largest of the marsupials and birds when the Aborigines arrived, the larger birds when the Maori arrived….no, no, these are just coincidence you see? It\’s the climate change which enabled the people to turn up which caused the extinctions, not primitive man.
We\’re only allowed to get to man really wiping out animals when we get to the dodo: that was European, white, capitalist and industrial, man and we all know they\’re evil.