We often talk about plants and trees because they are simply that important! They provide shade, are home to many of the world’s species, they look beautiful, they crank out oxygen, soak in CO2, and serve many more functions. Clearly scientists have many reasons to keep an eye on our trees, especially when they notice they are in danger. They all matter, the small ones to the big ones and right now scientists are really looking at the biggest one. What's going on with the largest living organism? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to learn more.
Utah is known for its big open spaces, big sky, and also the biggest organism on Earth! Weighing in at an estimated 12 million pounds, occupying about 106 acres, and comprised of 47,000 identical above ground stems originating from one underground parent, I’m talking about the Pando Quaking Aspen in south central Utah.
This iconic American plant is not only one of the most unique living things on Earth, but scientists are worried about its future! Using a 72 year aerial photo sequence and the first comprehensive study of forest conditions, scientists are disappointed to see this giant forest drastically shrinking in size.
Clear cut regions that still remain bare in addition to continual human encroachment through development has put a strain on this entire ecosystem. This impacts not only this one species, but the myriad of other animals that rely on this trembling giant for their life needs as well. Human impacts to our natural areas have caused other issues in the past too, including wiping out entire species before they’re even discovered! As human development continues to expand without proper concern for the other living things in various ecosystems, the more stress these regions will feel and could lead to drastically hurting an area’s total biodiversity. After all it’s all connected. Each species has a role that it plays and thus brings some consequence to the entire area.
Situations like this give concerned scientists more and more reason to further argue for Mega-Conservation which takes care of large environments instead of the traditional “individual species” approach which only takes care of one species. The issue here is that while protecting one species is great, protecting the larger environment will be beneficial for the many species in that region.
Providing more resources for ecosystem protection, broad range conservation efforts, and continued funding for studies like these would be a great way to help ensure a safe large ecosystem for all the species living there. Don’t forget, it’s all connected!
Big problems, require big ideas especially when they make big impacts on big things like big ecosystems...and remember, if we lose those then WE have big problems.