In the News
Phys.org Monday, Sep. 19, 2022
It's ancient, it's massive, and it is faltering. The gargantuan aspen stand dubbed "Pando," located in south-central Utah, is more than 100 acres of quivering, genetically identical plant life, thought to be the largest living organism on earth (based on dry weight mass, 13 million pounds). What looks like a shimmering panorama of individual trees is actually a group of genetically identical stems with an immense shared root system.
Now, after a lifetime that may have stretched across millennia, the 'trembling giant' is beginning to break up, according to new research.
Paul Rogers, adjunct professor of ecology in the Quinney College of Natural Resources and director of the Western Aspen Alliance, completed the first comprehensive evaluation of Pando five years ago. It showed that browsing deer (and to a lesser degree cattle) were harming the stand—limiting growth of new aspen suckers and putting an effective expiration date on the colossal plant. As older trees aged-out, new aspen sprouts weren't surviving voracious browsers to replace them. Pando was slowly dying.