…and It’s Our Fault:
’The heaviest organism on Earth isn’t a whale or an elephant. It’s a tree—or rather, a system of over 40,000 clonal trees, all connected by their roots. Pando, a 13 million pound organism in central Utah, is believed to have sprouted toward the end of the last Ice Age.
But after thousands of years of thriving, Pando has run into trouble. A study published in PLOS One Wednesday features the first comprehensive examination of the entire 106 acres of clonal aspen forest, and it concludes that Pando isn’t growing. In fact, the forest has been failing to self-reproduce since at least 30 to 40 years ago.
“People are at the center of that failure,” said co-author Paul Rogers, the director of the Western Aspen Alliance at Utah State University who authored a similar study last year on a smaller portion of the Pando.
People have allowed the local deer and cattle population to thrive, Rogers said. Their voracious grazing has resulted in fewer saplings and a whole lot of old, dying trees. During its analysis, the team couldn’t find any sapling-size trees that didn’t have the tops eaten off.…’