Earth's Largest Organism is Deteriorating

Mindy Sparks
October 21, 2018

Now, a new study claims that mankind is also responsible for the slow decline of the world's largest living organism that's still here, a massive aspen tree network located in Utah called Pando. As new trees sprout they are quickly munched on, and the older aspen clones continue to die off without young plants to take their place. Also an adjunct faculty member with the Utah State Wildland Resources Department, he advises "One clear lesson emerges here: we can not independently manage wildlife and forests".

Pando contains roughly 47,000 genetically identical trees - all cloned from one original - and is likely thousands of years old.

Indeed, Western Aspen Alliance Director Paul Rogers comments that the area is essentially collapsing under our watch.

"Aspen forests in general, including the Pando forest, support high levels of biodiversity", says Rogers. Globally, aspens are being threatened by several man-made phenomena, including warming climates and fire suppression. According to the study published in PLOS One, Pando is gradually withering away due to grazing from mule deer, elk, and cattle.

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.

Rogers blames humans rather than animals, saying that state and federal officials could stop it.


Years ago, grizzly bears and wolves were the natural predators of mule deer, according to Live Science. And without young trees to replace old individuals, the forest might one day disappear entirely.

Rogers and McAvoy predict that the 106-acre Pando colony will keep getting smaller if better management systems are not implemented.

The researchers also looked at two areas of the forest where the trees were protected by fencing and found fences weren't always all that effective in keeping out wildlife.

Rogers told The Times that saving Pando could help people figure out how to saves as many as thousands of species around the world. And the plan isn't hopeless - already, the Times reported, trees have grown significantly in one part of Pando where fences were properly installed. "We don't want to go to nature to see a bunch of fences", he told Science. "After a significant investment in the protection of the iconic Pando clone we are very disappointed with the result", says Rogers.

"Humans decide on how many animals are there and how they move around", Rogers told Earther.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER