The greatest living organism in the world is dying and it is our fault


Western Aspen Alliance

The tremulous colony of Pando in Utah (USA) is also known as "trembling giant". It has been standing for thousands of years, but now, about 80% is at risk: its 47,000 genetically identical trees, which make up one of the largest living organisms in the world, are slowly devoured by deer, according to new research Posted in PLOS One.

The Utah State University group of scientists has measured the health of various parts of the forest by counting the number of living trees versus the dead; or the number of new stems and the monitoring of the feces of the animals that have fallen into sting. They discovered that the biggest obstacle to the survival of the Fishlake National Forest was the mule deer.

That the old stems die, it is natural, however, that the new plants do not grow is what the researchers worry. During the last two decades, the mule deer and cattle have devoured the new stalks that emerge from the poplar underground: in most areas, there are no young or middle-aged trees.

Comparing the photographs of 72 years ago with the current state of the forest, an evident thinning is observed. In 1939, all tree tops were touched, but since the 70s, there are empty spaces between them, which means that old trees are dying and new ones do not come to fill the gaps.

Part of the problem is that games like the mule deer no longer have natural predators in the area. In the early 1900s, humans killed most of the natural predators, such as wolves and grizzly bears, Rogers said. Now, most of Pando's land is reserved for recreational uses such as camping, where surfers are protected from hunting. The proposals for the protection of the colony, they say, could be extended to poplars all over the world.

"Without a generation later to support them, I think we are clearly on the road to collapse," says Paul Rogers, a professor at Utah State University who has studied extensively at Pando. "I would say that within 10 years or 20 years at most, there will be very little left of the colony", he concludes.

Beatriz de Vera

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