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Shrinking Giant

LIVING LARGE Pando is also known as the Trembling Giant. J. ZAPELL—USDA FOREST SERVICE

A new study shows that Pando, one of the largest organisms on Earth, is shrinking. Pando lives in Fishlake National Forest, in Richfield, Utah. Its name is Latin for “I spread.” The group of 47,000 aspen trees has a single root system. Usually, such a root system would sprout new trees. Pando didn’t seem to be doing this.

But the study found that mule deer, cattle, and lack of fencing are causing the shrinkage. Animals enter the grove and munch on aspen shoots and leaves. This destroys the young trees.

“[Pando’s] been thriving for thousands of years, and now it’s coming apart,” ecologist Paul Rogers told the New York Times. He coauthored the study. But Rogers is hopeful. He says more fencing might save the 13 millon–pound giant.