Pando, the Most Massive Organism on Earth, Is Shrinking

  • Pando, the Most Massive Organism on Earth, Is Shrinking

Pando, the Most Massive Organism on Earth, Is Shrinking

And the approaches that work to protect Pando could be extended to aspens around the world, he said.

"People are at the center of that failure", co-author Paul Rogers, who serves as director of the Western Aspen Alliance at Utah State University and authored a similar study previous year on a smaller version of Pando, told Earther.

Quick, what's the most massive living organism on the planet?

In the Fishlake National Forest, this is exactly what Pando has done over the course of thousands of years.

Scientists suspected that elk, cattle, and mule deer were eating the new shoots that emerge from Pando's enormous root system, preventing it from sprouting new clones. Their results the researchers published in the journal "Plos One". Their voracious grazing has resulted in fewer saplings and a whole lot of old, dying trees.

In this new study, a group of researchers measured the health of various parts of the forest, such as by counting the number of living versus dead trees, counting the number of new stems and tracking the feces of animals that dropped in for a bite. On top of that, people have removed animals like wolves, which previously preyed on the mule deer. Then, there are ranchers who don't stop their cattle from grazing on the trees. "Because of human presence, deer are more safe, which causes a localized overabundance of the animals". For more than 80,000 years, long before any Homo sapiens laid foot on Utah, the tree has perpetuated its genetic material - but now, it is in danger.

Together with his colleagues McAvoy Darren looked at Rogers for the first time, the entire colony of American aspen. Back in 1939, the tree crowns all touched, but starting in the 1970s, "you see a lot of spaces between the trees", he said.

What the tree system needs is time free of grazers in order to regrow.

The botanist Stefan Dressler from the Senckenberg research Institute in Frankfurt am Main, is also sceptical as to whether it is in the case of Pando, in fact, a clone, so that all of the trees. And without young trees to replace old individuals, the forest might one day disappear entirely. That's its survival mechanism. The study, consisting of recent ground surveys and an analysis of 72 years of aerial photographs, revealed that this unrealized natural treasure and keystone species - with hundreds of dependents - is shrinking.

You might assume that climate change is responsible for Pando's decline but that's not the full story. He thinks the mule deer (not the cattle) are jumping it.

To mitigate Pando's destruction, the researchers recommend more fencing and deer management.