Richard Elton Walton, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at the University of Newcastle (England), has warned that the largest organism on Earth is slowly being eaten by deer and elk. Is about Pando a wooded environment of aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) in the Wasatch Range of the western United States (Utah).
Pando is not a forest of individual trees, as these are interconnected by 47,000 genetically identical stems. The organism weighs almost 6,000 million metric tons and protects 68 species of plants, as well as different animals that survive thanks to the shadows of the ecosystem. The full analysis can be read on The Conversation.
Aspen, according to the United States Forest Service, does not typically live more than 150 years, and grows best where the soil is moist and sunlight is abundant. Its height ranges between 20 and 80 feet. Pando is estimated to have existed for approximately 14,000 years, as inferred in a Scientific Reports article published in July 2017.
As a result of the gradual disappearance of wolves and pumas, the main predators of that ecosystem deer and elk have claimed the kingship of those parts by eating the youngest vegetation, that is, the tops of the newly formed stems. Not facing off against other animals relieves his protective instincts, even if Pando suffers the consequences for this: he grows little again, overall.
However, “the exception is an area that was fenced off a few decades ago to remove dying trees. This fenced area has excluded elk and deer and has seen successful regeneration of new clonal stems, with dense growth known as the bamboo garden, ”the researcher writes.
Another problem is that Pando is no stranger to effects of climate change —Well beyond the ever-threatening soot bark canker diseases, leaf spot and fungal disease conk—: reduced water supply and warmth at the beginning of the year hinders leaf growth.
Pando, despite the aforementioned, subsists and has faced adversity, even when European settlers invaded the area in the 19th century.
An environmental group called Amigos de Pando, a voluntary organization, has been firmly involved in bringing together people interested in “helping to understand, document and celebrate” the scenic beauty of the largest organism on Earth.
Among the main programs listed on its website, the one called ‘Pando: the world tree’ stands out, in which the main photographer of the Pando Photographic Survey, Lance Oditt, and the senior photographers J. Brunner and Janis Connell, in addition to the scientific advisor Ryan Thalman, are working to create an exhibition of virtual-terrestrial art.
“It is these moments that remind us that we have plants animals and ecosystems worth protecting. In Pando, we have the rare opportunity to protect all three, ”Dr. Walton underlined at the end of his article.