Environment: National magazine features Utah’s Pando

The magazine Popular Mechanics recently published a feature story on Utah’s gigantic stand of quaking aspen in Fishlake National Forest. Here’s an excerpt:

The world’s largest living organism, not to mention one of the oldest, lives in the Fishlake National Forest in central Utah. Sometimes called the Trembling Giant, sometimes called Pando (Latin for “I spread”), it is a grove of 40,000 individual trees that function as a single organism through the connection of their roots. A new study from Utah State University shows that failed conservation efforts are leaving the magnificent organism “collapsing on our watch.”

Formally called an “Aspen clone,” the Pando sits on more than 106 acres and weighs a collective 13 million pounds. Scientists only have the roughest of estimates on its age, with the end of the last ice age, around 2.6 million years ago, as their best guess.

Problems with regeneration go back at least 30 or 40 years. According to the National Forest Service, “it is thought that the lack of regeneration is due to over-browsing from deer and other ungulates [hoofed animals].” The study from Utah State confirms that deer are a major problem.