A forest of 47,000 nearly identical quaking aspens makes up the world’s largest organism but recent studies show nature’s golden-leaved treasure is dying, scientists said Thursday.
Nestled in Utah's Fishlake National Forest, the Pando grove, standing roughly 30 meters high and spanning over 100 acres, has survived for at least 80,000 years.
However, a report published in Plos One from Utah State University revealed that the stand of aspens has been steadily shrinking over the last few decades.
Despite the coniferous tree’s remarkable ability to reproduce asexually and quickly to create nearly identical offspring, human encroachment and, consequently, an increase in pests and disease have stunted forest growth and caused thinning since the 1960s’.
“People are at the center of that failure,” said Utah State University ecologist and co-author, Paul Rogers.
Analyses show that the human impact has driven wildlife into the forest floor, therefore damaging grazing areas of the conservation.
Hiking trails, power lines, campgrounds, cabins, and disease are among the other host of obstacles preventing root regrowth over the last 40 years.
“It is now collapsing on our watch. One clear lesson emerges here: we cannot independently manage wildlife and forests," said Rogers.
Researchers say that recovering the disappearing Pando is feasible, but only with “mega conservation.”
"It would be a shame to witness the significant reduction of this iconic forest when reversing this decline is realizable, should we demonstrate the will to do so," Roger said.