Some organisms are are small and have short life spans like a common house fly or an amoeba. other organisms are relatively large and have long life spans whales and ocean turtles. The quaking aspen, Pando, is the world’s largest tree. Covering over 107 acres and weighing 6,615 tons, this massive organism is an entire forest. Technically, it is a clonal colony where the trees are genetically identical to each other. A clone of itself, the trees all were asexually reproduced from one tree about 80,000 years ago. Now, there are about 47,000 tree clones. Pando resides in the middle of Fishlake National Forest in Utah.
All quaking aspens are in groups of one large organisms and can normally take up one to twenty acres of space. The aspen trees are all interconnected as one life form underground in their roots. Because they have asexual reproduction, there growth in numbers is quick and lasts for a long time. Even though sickness can spread in individual trees, the aspen’s roots are unaffected and quickly grow back new saplings. Fires also do not affect the aspen; in fact, they help the aspen spread seeds in the most serious fires. In such a scale, immunity, and long life span, it would be assumed that aspen would have no problems. However, due to certain environmental unbalances, the massive quaking aspen can slightly weaken.
Deer and elk roam the wilderness in Utah. Because they are herbivores, they eat grasses, shrubs, and weeds. Naturally, the more grasses there are, the more the deer and elk multiply. It is blamed upon the growing population of the mammals that the forest is not growing new trees. They over graze on the little saplings of Pando. While at the end of their life span, saplings are supposed to replace older aspen trees; however, because the sapling population is depleting, the older forest trees are withering and diminishing in size. Spruce and fir trees can also be a problem for the aspen. Without forest fires, the competition for nutrients is fought between the three trees types.
Overall, the quaking aspen is an amazing organism. It can live for a long period of time as evident by the Pando and is mainly self reliant. The aspens can build entire forests and be considered a singular organism. Although deer, elk, spruce, and firs can threaten the aspen trees, they cannot be easily destroyed.
Photo by: psuadio at https://pixabay.com/en/aspen-fall-autumn-mountains-669294/
Photo by: calharkins at https://pixabay.com/en/colorado-aspen-trees-fall-color-561553/