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A warning signal to save the heaviest organism on Earth

The heaviest organism on Earth is Pando, a 13 million pound organism in central Utah, a system of over 40,000 clonal trees, all connected by their roots.

It  is believed to have sprouted toward the end of the last Ice Age. But an actual study concluded that Pando isn’t more growing, the forest has been failing to self-reproduce since at least 30 to 40 years ago. “People are at the center of that failure,” said Paul Rogers, the director of the Western Aspen Alliance at Utah State University, because the humans have allowed the local deer and cattle population to thrive. During the study, the team couldn’t find any sapling-size trees that didn’t have the tops eaten off.

deer-in-Pando-forest
Deer in Pando forest

State and federal officials are the ones who can help remedy this issue, so Rogers blames humans, not animals. “Because there are people there recreating and having homes in the area and roads in the area, you’re not allowed to hunt. Because of human presence, deer are more safe, which causes a localized overabundance of the animals.” What the tree system needs is time free of grazers in order to regrow. “They [the trees]  send a hormonal signal whenever one of them dies to spread from the roots, not from seed. That’s its survival mechanism. When trees are dying and you don’t see any regrowth, that’s a red flag,” Roger detailed. There are also many questions about how climate change might further impact the Pando. What the Pando needs is coordinated action to protect it at the state and federal level.

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