In an article published in The Conversation, Richard Elton Walton, a postdoctoral research associate at Newcastle University (UK), cautioned that the world’s largest organism, a clonal colony that emerged from a poplar in the state of Utah (USA), is in danger of extinction.
The colony, known as Pando, is made up of an interconnected system of 47,000 “genetically identical” logs that weighs roughly 6 million tonnes, making it the “biggest single organism on Earth” in terms of weight, according to Walton.
Despite the fact that the massive clonal colony is not threatened by people, according to Walton, it is currently facing additional problems that put it in jeopardy of extinction. Overgrazing of deer and elk, which have grown due to a fall in the number of their natural predators, such as wolves and cougars, is one of the most concerning issues, according to the author. The cervids, according to the scientist, devour the upper parts of the logs as they form, resulting in their demise. As a result, the system’s normal rejuvenation is hindered.
Despite the fact that most stems only live for about 130 years, Pando has been around for thousands of years, possibly up to 14,000 years. Because of its length and isolation, it has sustained a diverse ecology of 68 plant species and several animals. The aspen’s health and uprightness are critical to the ecosystem’s survival. Despite the fact that Pando is protected by the US National Forest Service and is not in danger of being cut down, it is endangered owing to a number of other issues.
The absence of fresh trunk growth raises concerns about its long-term impact on the poplar colony’s environment, which is further damaged by fungal infections and leaf spot. Meanwhile, climate change is a reality. It also has an impact on the organism’s growth because it jeopardizes its size and life cycle.
Despite the overwhelming threats, the scientist is confident about Pando’s future, as it has already withstood prior rapid environmental shifts.