Pando, which is considered the largest living organism in the world, is now being eaten by deer, researchers found. Pando is the densest organism ever found at nearly 13 million pounds. The clone spreads over 106 acres, consisting of over 40,000 individual trees. The exact age of the clone and its root system is difficult to calculate, but it is estimated to have started at the end of the last ice age. Found in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah’s Fishlake National Forest, Pando has lived for thousands upon thousands of years
Over-grazing of deer and elk are one of the biggest concerns about the disappearance of this giant organism. Biologists are now finding Pando is under severe threat. Pando isn’t in danger of being cut down as it is being protected by the US National Forest service. But due to some factors, the number of giant organisms is going low.
This single genetic individual weighs around 6,000 tons. By mass, it is the largest single organism on Earth. Deer and elk congregate in the Pando as the protection of the forest area do not mean that it is in danger of being hunted there.
The animals like deer and elk are eating the youngest stems of the tree. Additionally, several trees suffer from diseases like sooty bark canker, leaf spot, and conk fungal disease. Right now, it’s unknown what kind of long-term effects these diseases might have on the older aspens in the woodland.
Additionally, the changing climate is also one of the reasons for the decline of these mass organisms. At the ice age time, Pando has had a largely stable climate until now. The alpine region it’s located in is also no stranger to warmer temperatures or even drought. However, climate change could make those factors worse. That could reduce the overall lifespan of the tree, as well as the entire ecosystem it supports.
As the body of Pando is made of multiple rods, the older ones die and fall timely. This allows light into the woods, which helps to stimulate new growth. Deer and elk are often used to eat the newly grown leaves of the organism thus limiting its growth. To overcome this, volunteers have been using fences to curb the entry of enough deer.
However, Pando was resilient and survived the rapid environmental change, especially after the rise of European settlers in the area in the 19th or early 20th century. It has dealt with disease, wildfire, and grazing before and remains the world’s largest scientifically documented organism.
Despite all the cause for concern, it is hoped that scientists will help us unlock the secrets to Pando’s resilience.