The Pando Decline: The World's Largest Living Organism Is Dying

There’s a creature named Pando, and it is considered to be one of the planet’s oldest organisms, believed to be at least 80,000-years-old. The organism is actually a forest that has about 47,000 genetically identical quaking aspen trees, which all stem from the exact same root system. And the total weight of the organism is 13 million pounds, which makes it the greatest in the world, at least according to mass. Furthermore, it’s been able to reach this size and age, all because it reproduces asexually, which leads to groves of identical trees.

Unfortunately, according to a recent study that was conducted by a few researchers from the Utah State University, and was published in PLOS ONE, Pando has been slowing down in growth and regeneration. The research team conducted their survey by studying aerial pictures of the aspen grove from a period of 72 years, so they could easily make a time-lapse of how Pando has been changing in that time.

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And what these researchers found was that the dwindling of Pando is being caused by a combination of human encroachment as well as hungry grazing animals. The latter being done by cattle and mule deer that are allowed to eat in this forest during the summer, and are specifically eating new shoots and leaves, which have then limited the new growth of the aspen.

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The team of researchers revealed that the grove hasn’t been able to replace the aging and dying trees properly lately, and yet, the 47,000 trees so far have remained alive for so long because this single organism was able to supply all of the trees in each stage of an aspen’s life, which helped all of them to be able to resist any external threats.

And as for the human encroachment, it has been brought on by a combination of hiking trails and cabins, campgrounds as well as power lines. But all of these things were avoided and protected Pando with fences that were put in certain areas, where the organism was able to grow and reproduce quickly. And thanks to this study, Pando is going to be able to be saved with conservation efforts and cast a light on the slow death of the planet’s biggest organism.

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