Largest living organism on the planet dies as a result of human activities

(ORDO NEWS) — American scientists say that the unique Pando aspen forest in the United States is rapidly degrading. This process is the fault of people, but it can still be stopped and even reversed.

This aspen forest is very ancient and massive. It is located in Utah and occupies more than 40 hectares and weighs about six thousand tons.

What looks like a panorama of hundreds of individual trees is actually a group of genetically identical trunks with a huge common root system. Thus, this is just one living organism, and not many independent ones.

What’s Happening to the Pando Forest

Scientists say that this giant, whose life lasted for millennia, is beginning to decay. Ecology professor Paul Rogers, who completed a comprehensive assessment of Pando five years ago, found that animals are harming this forest by limiting the growth of new trees and shortening the lifespan of this colossal plant.

Large trees grow old and die, and new aspen sprouts do not withstand the onslaught of voracious deer.

The blame for this is placed on the people, since it was they who came here several centuries ago and significantly reduced the population of wolves and bears, allowing the deer to multiply and look for more and more food.

To a lesser extent, the forest kills human grazing of cattle, which also eat young shoots.

In response to the threat, environmentalists installed a fence around one site to prevent animals from grazing and to see if the life of the forest could be saved in this way.

Not too long ago, Rogers returned to evaluate this strategy and check on Pando’s overall health. He published his findings in the journal Conservation Science and Practice.

What the experiment showed

According to the study, Pando follows several different ecological paths, depending on how its segments are managed.

  • About 16 percent of the fenced trees were actually saved. Young shoots are going through their first stages of life and continue to grow. However, the negative influence of the past is still felt: old and drying trees still prevail over young ones.
  • In areas that remain unfenced (approximately 50 percent), deer and cattle continue to concentrate, consuming most of the young shoots.
  • At the same time, it is not clear from the description of the study what happened to the other 34 percent of the forest.
  • Unprotected zones are undergoing ecological changes in various directions. Mature aspen stems die without replacement, exposing the top storey and allowing more sunlight to reach the ground at all times. This changes the plant composition on the surface.
  • At the same time, the life of countless other species dependent on the presence of trees is changing. Aspen forests support a high level of biodiversity, from thrushes to digitalis. A long absence of new recruitment in aspen ecosystems can have a cascading effect on hundreds of species.
  • This actually cuts through the previously homogeneous forest.

What’s next

The arguments of scientists about the prospects for fencing look very strange.

On the one hand, they claim that they were able to save one piece of forest, but on the other hand, they do not want to expand the fence over a larger area, citing “aesthetic and philosophical problems.”

I think that if we try to save the organism with fences alone, we will find ourselves trying to create something like a zoo in the wild.

While the fencing strategy is well-intentioned, we will eventually have to deal with the major problems associated with the large number of roaming deer and cattle in this landscape, Rogers says.

It is not yet clear how scientists and authorities are going to proceed. It is likely that this unique forest will not be saved.

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